LA People 2009: Angus Oblong This Clown's Life
Angus Oblong knows everyone, the middle-aged women with bleached hair and short-shorts; the young Hollywood dudes in baggy, grungy gym clothes; the neighborhood homeless who occasionally ask for change as we sit on the patio of the Sunset and Vine Borders. Even those who don’t know Oblong, creator of the cult favorite cartoon The Oblongs and author of the book Creepy Susie and 13 Other Tragic Tales for Troubled Children, can’t help but look twice. It’s hard to miss the guy sporting thick clown makeup and a bulbous, red plastic nose.
“She was wearing more makeup than me!” Oblong exclaimed as an older woman cocked her head into an obvious stare.
In the beginning, as his work began garnering press attention Oblong’s clown face was a means of maintaining a sense of privacy. “Right after the show came out, people wanted to know more about me, who I am, where I’m from, my real name, my age, my marital status,” he says. “It kind of freaked me out.”
Oblong began dressing up for interviews, while also concocting fantastical background stories. The fake biographies didn’t stick, but the face did, becoming Oblong’s signature for interviews, public appearances and bar-hopping with his friends across Hollywood. His public persona has become, in many ways, an extension of his writing and art: funny with the potential to make small children cry.
Oblong’s best-loved characters — like Creepy Susie, Helga and Milo (a young, disturbed boy whom Oblong says is based on himself) — began life in a collection of Edward Gorey–like short stories he self-published while working as a waiter in San Francisco. Creepy Susie caught the attention of an agency, earning a publication deal and resulting in The Oblongs, which featured many of the same characters as the book. The television show focused on Milo and a coterie of deformed residents of a toxic dump the Valley, in constant battle with the perfect Hills crowd (no, it’s not based on Los Angeles). While the show was tamer than its source material, it was still too hysterically strange to last more than a season on the WB network. However, like a handful of other too-good-for-mainstream animated series, The Oblongs found a home on the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, where repeats have been rotated in and out of the late-night lineup for several years, enabling the show to “gain a new cult following.” Now, eight years after it originally aired, the series may be getting a second life; Oblong is in talks to create new episodes, perhaps without the voices of the origianl cast, Will Ferrell and Jean Smart, but still “10 times funnier than it was before.”
In the meantime, Oblong has been working on a handful of new TV pilots, two new books (The Helga Chronicles and The Creepy Susie Chronicles) and illustrations for an annotated Alice’sAdventures in Wonderland. He has also launched the clothing line Milo NO., which brands T-shirts with his illustrations (“Evil Baby.”), and his characters have been popping up across L.A.’s gallery landscape, most recently in group shows at Corey Helford Gallery (Bruce Helford was a producer of The Oblongs) and World of Wonder. Not a bad legacy for a show that was canceled in 2002.
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