Andy Capp is a British comic strip created by cartoonist Reg Smythe (1917–1998), seen in The Daily Mirror and The Sunday Mirror newspapers since 5 August 1957. Originally a single-panel cartoon, it was later expanded to four panels.
The strip is syndicated internationally by Creators Syndicate. The character is also licensed as the mascot for a line of snack foods (Andy Capp’s fries) and a defunct chain of miniature golf courses in Brevard County, Florida. The character is also a popular mascot since the 1980s for the North Carolina Outerbanks convenience store chain Brew-Thru.
Characters and story
Andy (short for “Andrew”) Capp
Florrie “Flo” Capp (named after Florence Nightingale)
Ruby “Rube” White
Percy the rent collector
Jackie the barman
Minor characters include various constables, barmaids, barmen, referees, footballers, pub locals, door-to-door salesmen, and Guitar Bob.
Andy is a working-class figure who never actually works, living in Hartlepool, a harbour town in northeast England. The title of the strip is a pun on the local pronunciation of “handicap”; and the surname “Capp” signifies how Andy’s cap always covered his eyes.
Andy’s hobbies include pigeon racing, darts, snooker (his cue’s name is “Delilah”), football (which always involves fights with the other players, and frequently ends with Andy being sent off), occasional cricket and rugby, betting on horses, getting drunk in the local pub (often falling into the canal and being fished out by a constable, and always, seven nights a week, arriving home late as a result), ending up in the local jail, fishing (and not catching anything bigger than a goldfish), unsuccessfully mooching money from everyone for beer, unsuccessfully flirting with barmaids, picking up other bargirls, loafing on the sofa, and fighting with his long-suffering wife, Florrie (also known as “Flo”).
Andy’s iconic checked cap is always pulled down over his eyes, even when he is napping or bathing. He is often unshaven, frequently intoxicated (indicated by a prominent red nose and dishevelled clothing), lazy, freeloading, belligerent and confrontational—but just as frequently lovable (he always refers to Flo as “pet”, and will instantly “bop” anyone who dares to be rude to her). Until the 1980s he was often seen with a cigarette dangling from his lip. Similarly, Andy no longer beats his wife, because of concerns about the depiction of domestic violence (which was usually portrayed in a highly stylised manner, as an iconic cartoon smoke cloud with fists and feet protruding), although Florrie gave to him as good as she got. Instead, Andy and Florrie now attend marriage counselling.
Andy and Florrie are always on the verge of poverty. Although Flo works regularly as a charwoman, Andy is unemployed and lacks motivation. Rent on their flat and its contents is constantly in arrears, and the rent collector, Percy Ritson, despairs of ever being paid. Their furniture has been repossessed on several occasions. Somehow, they always manage to recover it, and Andy is always able to afford beer and gambling money, usually by borrowing from Florrie. The Rose and Crown barman, Jackie, is regularly seen as well. (Among other pubs Andy frequents are “The Pig and Whistle” and “The Jolly Riveters”.) Almost all the characters occasionally “break the fourth wall” by delivering asides directly to the reader, usually in reference to Andy’s low character. One 1976 strip revealed that Andy once worked as a sign painter, but had not worked at that trade (or any other, for that matter) for many years. On more than one occasion, it was mentioned that Andy served in the Royal Air Force. According to Don Markstein,
Early on, the Andy Capp strip was accused of perpetuating stereotypes about Britain’s Northerners, who are seen in other parts of England as chronically unemployed, dividing their time between the living room couch and the neighbourhood pub, with a few hours set aside for fistfights at football games … But Smythe, himself a native of that region, had nothing but affection for his good-for-nothing protagonist, a fact which showed in his work. Since the very beginning, Andy has been immensely popular among the people he supposedly skewers.
The strip takes place almost exclusively in one of three locations: the pub, the street, or inside the Capps’ residence at 37 Durham Street (generally with Andy on the couch and Florrie yelling from the next room). Less frequently visited places include the race track (although Andy frequently bets by listening to the radio, thus saving him the trip), the marriage counsellor, and the football pitch (where Andy is either being sent off, or carried off on a stretcher).
Andy’s and Flo’s best friends are their neighbours Chalkie and Rube White. Chalkie is, like Andy, a hard-drinking working-class type who can often be seen sharing a pint with Andy at the corner pub, but Chalkie seems mellower than Andy, and more tolerant of his wife. Rube is Flo’s confidante, and the two often trade gossip over the clothesline about their husbands’ latest escapades. The local vicar is also often seen. Andy despairs of his holier-than-thou attitude, as he is constantly criticising Andy for his many bad habits and vice-ridden lifestyle. He often lets his opinion be known to Flo, who agrees with his low assessment of Andy’s character.
At times, Flo will forcibly remove Andy from the pub, when she feels he has been there for far too long. When he does come home, especially in the earlier strips, Flo would usually confront him on his doings, and sometimes would hit him. However, Flo is not without her vices either. She (along with Rube) goes to Bingo, as often and with as much frequency as Andy goes to the pub. Whenever this happened (again mainly in the earlier strips), the roles are reversed, with Andy usually confronting and hitting Flo for being late.
Flo’s mother, a character not shown whose dialogue appears from offstage, often chimes into the conversation, mostly with sarcastic criticism of her son-in-law. Flo’s “mam”, whom Andy addresses only as “Missus”, is often the subject of Andy’s pointed barbs about her weight and less-than-sunny disposition, but she has been known to give as good as she gets. Andy’s mother was similarly mentioned and also delivered dialogue from offstage, but her “appearances” were cut back significantly as the years went on. Andy’s father has also been mentioned. Flo has an older sister named Polly and a brother, who are never seen. Andy had a pet whippet named Nancy.
Reg Smythe died on 13 June 1998 but the original strip has continued. For some time, the writer and artist were uncredited, but in November 2004 the strip began to carry a credit for Roger Mahoney (artist) and Roger Kettle (writer). Currently, the credited creators are a trio named Mahoney, Goldsmith, and Garnett. The appearance of the characters has not changed perceptibly since Smythe’s death.
In May 2012, Andy Capp (as well as Flo, Chalkie White, the Vicar and Jackie the Barman) appeared as an animated series for the first time in promotional material for The Trinity Mirror-owned MirrorBingo.com website. The animation was created by Teesside-born Chris Hunneysett, who drew from his own background to place Andy Capp in Middlesbrough. Andy Capp had previously appeared in animated form in television adverts for the Post Office (1986) and Kit Kat (1991).
Smythe received the National Cartoonists Society’s Humor Comic Strip Award for the strip in 1974.
A statue of Andy Capp was erected in Hartlepool in 2007.
Andy Capp The World of Andy Capp
Life with Andy
Meet Andy Capp
Very Sneaky Andy Capp
and 76 various strips