How Basil and Dustin Became a Double Act

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I hadn't drawn them in a while and felt like I was missing out. Then I got to thinking about them and realized I never wrote a post about this.

I think Basil's hair has undergone about ten changes over the past year. I should chronicle this at some point.

Basil and Dustin didn't start out as a double act. They weren't meant to even know each other that well at all originally. Notes I have dating back to 12/13/04, the date the project officially began, state that "the point of the story is to get across how important it is to simply enjoy life and have fun, something Basil learns throughout the course of the tale from various people, including Dustin." They quickly started to get along as my notes expanded, and within a day or two of the story's genesis it was clear that the two were going to go on adventures together with little Charlie Jenkins in tow.

A brief timeline of what happened, complete with mentally scarring links to my old deviantART account:

  • 12/10/04: I did two doodles (one | two) of Charlie in anthropology class. He got colored images on a horrible character sheet later.
  • 12/12/04: Horrible character sheets for Dustin and Basil appeared.
  • 12/13/04: I decided that I was onto something and started to take notes on 'the Christmastime Victorian London Story,' which eventually got the much better title of 'Londinium.' 
In those early notes, Dustin and Charlie tend to stick together and pop in to help main character Basil out when needed. However, Dustin and Basil turned out to have on-page chemistry early on and so I juxtaposed them a lot. They got along, but were often at odds, with Dustin generally teaching the somewhat boring and naive Basil about life. This was a very boring story.

To make it less boring, villains were introduced and proper adventures began to emerge as the characters showed themselves more to me, and Basil revealed to me that he actually wasn't boring and naive at all and just had an insanely good deadpan. I sifted through a ton of bad ideas because when you're in high school you often think you're being clever and meaningful when you're really just being stupid, but there was something missing still.

I found it in January of 2007. It was only a few days after the new year had started, and I somehow made my way on Wikipedia to the 'double acts' page. At this point, Basil and Dustin were starting to act a lot more like one, but I can't actually remember how I ended up on the page. What I do know, however, is that it was fate.

It was fate because I discovered Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, who reminded me so much of Basil and Dustin that  it actually freaked me out a bit at first. They had way too many things in common, including the height disparity, Basil and Peter both being former prefects, Dustin and Dudley both being piano players, and a ton of other weird things. But the bit that really caught my eye was the whole corpsing thing. Basil and Dustin were developing their friendly 'let's make each other laugh at bad times' rivalry at this time, and the fact that it happened between two real-life people who were eerily similar to my own characters was striking. So I threw it in and let their stupid game blossom because it was entertaining me.

Basil and Dustin ran away with it and ended up revealing to me that both had once had comedic aspirations as younger men. I told them that they should keep going and I would write about it. They agreed to become a double act and Londinium finally started going in a proper direction.

The double act itself has its origins in the 19th century in music hall and vaudeville - a straight man would stand up with a comedian and repeat the comic's lines so that the audience would know a joke was coming up, i.e.:

First Performer: So I went to the races last week, and...
Second Performer: Oh, you went to the races last week?
Audience: (shuts up)
First Performer: (tells joke)
Audience: (laughs)
And so forth.

By the end of the 19th century, though, double acts evolved into what we know them as today, and whilst I'm not going to do a giant lecture on them here (that would be a post better suited for one of my other blogs) it's important to note here that Basil and Dustin don't actually perform as a double act because that would be anachronistic in the 1860s. They do, however, write as one. In the Londinium universe, they simply consider each other a comedy writing team who occasionally do sight gags that require them to hold poses for about three minutes whenever they're photographed. Outside of the universe, they'd probably be labeled as a double act pretty much instantly due to the way they banter well and cross-talk all the time.

So in summary, whilst Basil and Dustin don't have an adorable leg of lamb story, the fact that they managed to come this far despite the fact that my initial characterizations of them were awful is somewhat heartwarming in a 'Steph's writing used to suck and now it sucks less' sort of way.