Seaton Carew, Hartlepool
Olympus E1 with Zuiko 14-54mm f2.8 lens
Olympus E1 with Carl Zeiss 180mm f2.8 lens
Also various constables, barmaids, barmen, referees, footballers, pub locals and door-to-door salesmen.
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, a perfect phonetic rendition of that region’s pronunciation of the word “handicap”, as well as a reference to the main character’s trademark flat cloth cap.
His 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), occasionally 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), fishing (and not catching anything bigger than a goldfish), womanising, loafing on the sofa, and fighting with his long-suffering wife, Florrie (also known as “Flo”).
Andy’s iconic plaid cap is always pulled down over his eyes, even when he is seen 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). He was often seen with a cigarette dangling from his lip until the 1980s. 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). Instead, they 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 Percy Ritson the rent collector 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. Jackie the pub barman is regularly seen as well. Almost all the characters occasionally “break the fourth wall” by delivering asides directly to the reader, usually in reference to Andy’s low character.
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 almost exclusively takes place in one of three locations: the pub, the street, or inside the Capps’ residence at No. 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 (in one memorable cartoon, a panoramic shot is given of the counselling office, with several file cabinets dedicated entirely to the Capps), 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 (short for Ruby) White. Chalkie is like Andy, a hard-drinking, hardscrabble, working-class type who can often be seen sharing a pint with Andy at the corner pub. However, Chalkie seems to be mellower than Andy, and more tolerant of his wife. Also unlike Andy, Chalkie was known to be employed, if intermittently, during much of the strip’s run. 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.
Flo’s mother, an unseen character only indicated by offstage speech balloons, often chimes into the conversation, mostly with sarcastic criticism of her son-in-law. Flo’s “mum”, 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 unseen, 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, who is also never seen. Andy had a pet whippet named Nancy.