Philippe Geluck, or simply Geluck as he is known in France and Belgium, is a one-man band of creativity and humour – illustrator, writer, actor, comic, man of stage, (small) screen and radio, and the French-speaking world’s most popular and successful cartoonist. But we’ll come back to that … .
Radio, TV & the Theatre
Philippe has spent much of his career on radio and television in France and Belgium. Since 1987, he has been a key cast member in some of both countries’ most popular radio shows. And since 1979, Philippe has hosted or co-hosted more than 1,500 TV programmes, all carrying his particular brand of humour. From 1978-83, the Belgian children’s show ‘Lollipop’ left an indelible mark on a generation of kids and parents, who still haven’t recovered. In 1991 his show ‘Un peu de tout’ won the Montreux Rose d’Or for a comedy programme. From 1999 to 2006, he co-hosted the prime-time Sunday talk show ‘Vivement Dimanche Prochain’ on France’s most popular channel, France 2, with veteran French host Michel Drucker.
And so on … .
Born in Brussels in 1954, Philippe Geluck graduated from the National Institute of Performing Arts (INSAS) in 1975 and for the next 10 years pursued a successful career as an actor in Belgium’s leading theatres, in both classical and contemporary roles. But during this time he was also drawing highly personal and off-the-wall illustrations and water-colours, and exhibiting them in galleries in Brussels, Paris, London, Milan, Copenhagen … and Dallas.
The Birth of Le Cat
And all this leads us to the beast for which Philippe is best known … Le Cat, a deceptively simple and deadpan commentator, who reveals life’s underlying surrealism and absurdity with magnificently understated humour.
Le Cat (or ‘Le Chat’ as it says on his birth certificate) was born on 22nd March 1983. The leading Belgian French-language daily, ‘Le Soir’, asked Philippe to come up with a cartoon character. Le Cat was literally born overnight, appearing the next day in the daily supplement, and quickly became the paper’s mascot. Since then, there have been more than 8,000 CatCartoons in the paper, and they have been syndicated in many French dailies and magazines, as well as appearing in Spain, Portugal, Germany, Iran, Switzerland, The Netherlands and Italy. The last cartoon appeared in ‘Le Soir’ on Le Cat’s 30th birthday.
From 1986 Philippe began collecting his CatCartoons and other wacko illustrations into albums; to date 20 have been published, all by Casterman, Europe’s leading comics publisher. There have also been 5 CatBest-ofs, 3 volumes of Philippe’s ‘Universal Encyclopedia’, 3 ‘Docteur G’s’, 9 ‘Sons of The Cat’ for children, and the edgy, in-your-face ‘Geluck lets loose – bad writings and disrespectful drawings’. Since he was born, Le Cat has sold over 9 million albums. And CatMerchandising has gone viral over the years – CatFans can buy postcards, chocolates, clothes, fluffy toys, statues, iPhone covers, and much more – not Made in China, but by local family businesses. (Despite being big and corpulent, Le Cat thinks that small is indeed beautiful).
Some of Le Cat’s albums have been translated into Dutch, Italian, Arabic, Portuguese and English (of course …): ‘Le Cat’, ‘Le Cat Strikes Back’, ‘Le Cat’s Revenge’, and ‘The Bible according to Le Cat’.
Le Cat in Exhibitions and on TV
In 2003, for The Cat’s 20th birthday, Philippe Geluck curated an outstanding exhibition, ‘Le Cat – Exhibitionist’, at the National School of Fine Arts in Paris, and this then travelled to Brussels, Bordeaux and Rennes, attracting more than 350.000 visitors in all.
Approaching the present day, in this over-concise summary of a life and career which in its long version takes over seven pages … we come to ‘A Minute with The Cat’, a series of one-minute animated sketches produced by Philippe’s The Cat Studios in Brussels. These were broadcast every evening in 2011 by France 2 and RTBF in the prime-time TV slot just before the main news. They have since been collated into a series of 6-minute films, ‘A Week with Le Cat’, available on DVD.
Then we have Le Cat’s 18th album, the 196-page ‘The Bible according to Le Cat’, published in October 2013, the first ever CatStory (i.e. it actually has a story, rather than being a collection of cartoons …), which created a certain amount of controversy as well as lots of laughs.
And then, on Le Cat’s 30th birthday in 2013, Philippe decided to stop publishing him in the press. But this hasn’t stopped the feline appearing in even more albums.
Geluck – just as much Cat but more art
Since then Philippe has also been spending more time on his original passion – art – creating paintings, drawing and sculptures and exhibiting them not only in Belgium but around Europe. All of which has gradually led to the present day, and a major exhibition of 20 2-metre high, 1-tonne bronze sculptures of Le Cat which will be exhibited on the Champs-Elysées in Paris for three months from end-March to mid-June 2021. The exhibition, ‘Le Chat Déambule’ (‘Le Cat Walks’) had to be postponed for a year from its original date in 2020, due to the Covid pandemic. After Paris, the exhibition will move on to more cities in France and Switzerland.
Philippe Geluck wears Size 9 shoes and glasses, but not necessarily in that order. Jeans and t-shirts are by Ferrugamiano™. Oh, almost forgot … in 2003 he was made Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters by France’s Minister of Culture, and in 2009 Commander of the Order of the Crown by Belgium’s King Albert II … for services to laughter, fun and happiness … (and to think that some people get that kind of honour for going to war …).