My Mother In Law

My Mother In Law is a video project that came about in a rather fortuitous way. I had been making Victorian Cut-out Theatre for about two years and during a bout of research ran across a project called The Victorian Meme Machine, a digital device that randomly pairs Victorian illustration with jokes from the 1800s. When I first found the site, it wasn't yet completed but laid out plans for the project in the blog of Dr. Bob Nicholson. I contacted Dr. Nicholson about our shared sensibilities, and after a few emails, he told me about his idea to open up the "can Victorian jokes still be funny today?" concept to other artists to see what they might come up with. He asked if I would be interested in making a VCoT episode for the project and I gratefully accepted the challenge.

Then my son was born. Just a few weeks after his birth saw my wife and I pulling all-nighters while I was still working a full time day job. You get no sense of it from the video, but it was made in the hours when my son slept in between screaming fits and feedings. In that time I poured over reams of digital files containing Victorian jokes to find the right grouping that I could wrap a narrative around. Not wanting to do a regular VCoT concept, I opted for the idea that this was one episode in a BBC/PBS schedule, sort of like Are you Being Served or Fawlty Towers; An old TV show from the 70s or 80s that you might wiz by while channel surfing. This concept was also partly the reason for the colorization, which I think adds a visual zing that makes the whole video different that my usual work.

I really like how it turned out, I am also grateful that Dr. Nicholson offered up the opportunity and would love to collaborate with him again on something. If you happen to be near the British Library today, you might be able to see Dr. Nicholson's presentation on his project as a part of the Crossroads of Curiosity Festival. It really is an honor to be a part of something wonderful.

Be sure to follow the Victorian Meme Machine on Twitter and well as Dr. Bob Nicholson.

Take care,


Below are the jokes and publications used in this video.


Speed the Parting Guest Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper (London, England), Sunday, August 30, 1891

"Angelina: Edwin, dear, mama’s going. Do say something to her pleasantly. Edwin, my darling, you know i say goodbye to your mother most pleasantly."

Beware of the Dog (Mother In Law Joke) Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper (London, England), Sunday, December 6, 1891

"Wife: That dog of Smith’s, across the way, bit mother again this morning, and I want to know what you propose doing about it?

Husband: I think I shall buy the dog."

A Thumping Reply Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper (London, England), Sunday, December 20, 1891

"He: I think it’s outrageous to pamper a dog like that. It makes me sick to look at it. Haven’t you anything better to do?

Relatative: Well I haven’t a husband and must have a brute of some sort to look after."

Very, Very Ambiguous (Mother In-Law Joke) Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper (London, England), Sunday, April 12, 1891

"Mother in Law: Only think that this is the last night we all shall be together. Tomorrow I shall be far from here. Sixty miles away isn’t it, Jane?

Adolphus (Son in Law): Oh, Sixty miles is quite near enough."

A Good Excuse Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper (London, England), Sunday, June 14, 1891

"Husband: I shall never go to the Vandegrifts’ again-never.

Wife: Why, what reason have you for being so bitter against them?

Husband: Reason enough. They actually insulted me in their own house.

Wife: But, Jack, that’s impossible. They live in a rented house."

Wisdom Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper (London, England), Sunday, December 6, 1891

"Woman: My son, never love a girl for money. It’s wrong. But never love a girl without money. That’s stupid."