Episode 462 – Edward Sorel

Virtual Memories Show 462:
Ed Sorel

“My wife convinced me that when someone compliments your work, you say, ‘Thank you,’ and don’t explain to them why the drawing is actually lousy.”

Legendary artist, illustrator, cartoonist, & author Ed Sorel joins the show to celebrate the publication of his memoir, Profusely Illustrated (Knopf). We get into his remarkable career (and “unremarkable life”), the rage that drove his political cartooning for more than a half-century, the illustrations that made him realize he had come into his own as an artist, the origins of Push Pin Studios & his stories of working with Seymour Chwast and Milton Glaser, the terrible lessons in abstractionism that beat figurative drawing out of him for years, and his need to look at his past work to remind himself that he does know how to draw. We talk about whether political cartooning is intended to change minds or provide comfort, how writing is like a pastel drawing, how he balanced art, commentary, and commerce over his career, why he refused to sell his drawings to certain hated people, how he learned to harness the nervous energy of his line to create a unique style (and why he hates tracing), why this (secular) patron saint of late starters got around to a memoir at 92, and more! Give it a listen! And go read Profusely Illustrated!

“The thing I wanted to get off my chest in this book — much more than my life story — was the terrible, terrible Presidents I’ve lived through over the course of my life.”

“Writers are almost as crazy as composers. In comparison to writers and composers, artists are relatively sane.”

“I only got to meet Richard Thompson once, and I kissed his hand. His stuff made you smile, just to look at the drawing.”

“If you have to label something in a political cartoon, you’ve failed.”


“Comic art is my art form. I like doing funny stuff, and every once in a while they turn out well, and they make me happy.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

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About our Guest

Ed Sorel‘s work has appeared in many, many places, among them Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, The Nation, and The New Yorker, for which he has done numerous covers. He lives in New York in the apartment that he shared with his wife and sometime writing partner, Nancy Caldwell Sorel. He is the author of Mary Astor’s Purple Diary. His new book is Profusely Illustrated: A Memoir.

Follow Ed on Instagram.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Ed’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Ed by me. It’s on my instagram.

2 Replies to “Episode 462 – Edward Sorel”

  1. I love the story of Milton sleeping in the kitchen …..I love stories of peoples lives …particularly childhood …my maternal grandparents were Swedish immigrants and the whole family slept in the kitchen in Sweden ….the only room heated with wood burning stove

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