“Don’t fraternize with inkers; they’ll always get you in trouble.”
Cartooning, illustration and animation legend Arnie Levin joins the show to recount his epic career and life. We talk about Beatnik-era New York, his mother’s decades-long plot to turn him into a New Yorker cartoonist, the value of a good art director, telling the Marines he wanted to be a photographer, his two-minute education in directing animation, what it was like to see his style copied by an artist who was previously copying another artist’s style, the time Allen Ginsberg tried to give him an iguana, and more! Give it a listen! And go check out his work at Art.com!
About our Guest
This is adapted from Richard Gehr‘s wonderful book, I Only Read It for the Cartoons: The New Yorker’s Most Brilliantly Twisted Artists:
Born in 1938, the diminutive Levin sports the shaved head, handlebar mustache, and slightly rolling gait of a badass biker. Much of his upper body is tattooed with ornate Japanese imagery by a renowned yakuza body illustrator. And the more you learn about his life, the wider the gap between creator and creations seems to spread.
Levin served in the Marines before winding up as an aspiring painter amid New York City’s late-fifties beatnik heyday. “Swept up in the glamour of the beatnik era,” as he puts it, Levin co-operated an espresso house that hosted readings by the likes of Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. He worked parties as a rent-a-beatnik, encountering Bob Dylan, another new kid in town, during one such event.
At Push Pin Studio, then at the height of its influence upon the design world, he was plucked out of the messenger pool by Milton Glaser, who recommended him to Lee Savage’s Electra Studio, famous for its forward-looking movie trailers and commercials. After leaving Electra, Levin was recruited for The New Yorker by art director Lee Lorenz in 1974.
After taking up motorcycling at age of fifty-nine, Levin celebrated his new hobby with the aforementioned flurry of tattoos. He’s given up biking in the interests of personal safety, however, and now resides more or less quietly on Long Island in New York with his wife.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Arnie’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 me and Arnie by me. It’s on my instagram. Photo of Arnie’s ink by Nate Ndosi.
“Frank Modell told me, ‘For the New Yorker, you have to draw better than you know how to.'”
Liza Donnelly joins the show to talk about her careers as a New Yorker cartoonist, women’s rights activist and live-drawing legend! We get into the weird overlap of respectability, responsibility and cartooning, as well as her work for Cartooning for Peace, the joys of drawing on the subway, how she benefited from Tina Brown’s love of snarky women, why she’s considering (but is daunted by) making a long-form comic, the evolution of her feminist consciousness, her trouble drawing George Clooney, and more! BONUS: my interminable intro takes up the first 13 minutes! Give it a listen!
“Social media is an extension of what drew me to cartooning initially; I was shy and I didn’t like to talk, and I was drawing to make my mother laugh. Drawing was communication, and sharing.”
We also get into the significance of The New Yorker (and New York), her book on the magazine’s women cartoonists, the TED swag that changed her life, the mentor/mentee relationship, the contradictions of meticulously developing a carefree style, how the internet has given her a platform, and more. Now go listen to the show!
“It becomes a matter of paring back your style, learning how to let go of detail, learning how to draw simply, making it look like you just whipped this drawing off, even if it took 25 attempts.”
About our Guest
Liza Donnelly is a writer and cartoonist with The New Yorker magazine. She is also a sought after public speaker and also does live drawings of events, covering the 2016 Democratic National Convention for CBS News and the presidential debates. She recently joined CBS This Morning as contributing cartoonist. She is a columnist and cartoonist for Forbes.com, specializing in politics and women’s rights. Donnelly draws a political cartoon for Politico and Medium, and she is a contributor to many other national publications. Donnelly was a finalist for the 2014 Thurber Prize, the only award for written humor in the United States.
Donnelly is a Cultural Envoy for the US State Department, traveling around the world speaking about freedom of speech, cartoons and women’s rights. As a public speaker, Donnelly has also spoken at TED (Technology Entertainment and Design), the United Nations, and The New Yorker Festival, as well as colleges, universities and corporate venues, among other places.
Donnelly was profiled on CBS Sunday Morning, NBC and BetterTV, and has been interviewed on radio and in numerous magazines, newspapers and online. Donnelly’s cartoons and commentary can be seen on various websites: the NewYorker.com; Politico.com, CNN.com; HuffingtonPost.com; Salon.com; DailyBeast.com; NarrativeMagazine.com. Her work has appeared in print publications, including The New York Times, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, The Nation and The Harvard Business Review.
Donnelly is the author/editor of sixteen books. Her most recent book is titled Women on Men, published by Narrative Magazine. Some of her other books are When Do They Serve the Wine?: The Folly, Flexibility, and Fun of Being a Woman, Funny Ladies: The New Yorker’s Greatest Women Cartoonists And Their Cartoons, a history of the women who drew cartoons for the magazine, Sex and Sensibility: Ten Women Examine the Lunacy of Modern Love…in 200 Cartoons and Cartoon Marriage: Adventures in Love and Matrimony by The New Yorker’s Cartooning Couple (with Michael Maslin). Donnelly’s book, When Do they Serve the Wine? was optioned by Mark Gordon Studios for an hour long comedy for television; and the book she wrote with her husband, Cartoon Marriage, has been optioned by Jennifer Garner for ABC Studios. Donnelly has written and illustrated numerous children’s books for Scholastic and Holiday House.
She is the New York Director of the international project, Cartooning for Peace, helping to promote understanding through humor; and is president and co-founder of USA FECO, the US chapter of the international cartoonists’ organization. Her work has been in numerous exhibitions globally, and she has curated exhibits of international cartoonists, here and abroad. Donnelly taught at Vassar College and the School of Visual Arts and is a member of PEN and the Authors Guild. She is the recipient of an honorary degree from the University of Connecticut, and received a Ruben Award, the Salon St. Just International Prize, AAUW Women of Distinction Award. Liza was a member the jury of the World Press Cartoon Prize in Lisbon, the Cartooning for Peace Prize in Geneva and the Aydin Dogan Cartoon Competition in Turkey.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded in Ms. Donnelly’s kitchen 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 Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. Blurry photo of Ms. Donnelly by ???.
“Arno is as close to the founder of The New Yorker cartoon as you can get.”
Michael Maslin joins the show to talk about his new book, Peter Arno: The Mad, Mad World of The New Yorker’s Greatest Cartoonist (Regan Arts). We talk about his own career at The New Yorker, marrying a fellow cartoonist, becoming a cartoon detective, the allure of Arno and the days when cartoonists were cited in gossip mags, why it took him 15 years to write this biography, and more! Give it a listen! And go buy his book on Peter Arno!
“There have been all kinds of changes, but it’s still The New Yorker.”
We also get into Michael’s cartooning influences & anxieties, the website he built to chronicle the doings of New Yorker cartoonists, the time Robert Gottlieb had to shield William Shawn from paparazzi outside the Algonquin Club, the recent Sam Gross gag that made him bust a gut, the incredible apartment building he lived in in on West 11th St. (and why so many New Yorker cartoonists wind up leaving New York). BONUS: I have a two-minute catch-up with one of my favorite cartoonists, Roger Langridge, at last weekend’s Small Press Expo! (pictured below) Now go listen to the show!
“It took 15 years because I’d never done it before. I think I wrote a paper in high school that was a page and a half, so I had to learn how to do all this.”
About our Guest
Born in New Jersey, Michael Maslin was raised in Bloomfield, a bedroom community a half hour due west of Manhattan. In high school, he drew a short-lived comic strip “Our Table” which followed the imaginary exploits of fellow students. Readership was limited to those sitting around him in the lunchroom. About this time, he first submitted work to The New Yorker, and soon received his first rejection.
In August of 1977 the magazine purchased one of his ideas. It was given to and executed by veteran cartoonist Whitney Darrow Jr. (the drawing, of a fortune teller saying to a customer, “Nothing will ever happen to you” appeared in the issue of December 26, 1977). He began contributing regularly to The New Yorker in 1978 – his first drawing appeared in the April 17th issue. In 1988 he married fellow New Yorker cartoonist, Liza Donnelly. They have two children. Simon & Schuster published four collections of his work, including The More the Merrier, and The Crowd Goes Wild. With Ms. Donnelly he co-authored Cartoon Marriage: Adventures in Love and Matrimony by The New Yorker’s Cartooning Couple, Husbands and Wives and Call Me When You Reach Nirvana. They also co-edited several cartoon anthologies. Maslin’s work has appeared in numerous magazines and cartoon anthologies.
In August of 2007 he began Ink Spill, a website dedicated to news of New Yorker Cartoonists, past and present. Ink Spill is comprised of six sections: News & Events, The New Yorker Cartoonists A-Z (a listing of bare bone bios of all cartoonists who have contributed to the magazine), Links, Posted Notes (essays on New Yorker cartoonists), From the Attic (artifacts related to New Yorker cartoons/cartoonists) and The New Yorker Cartoonists Library. Maslin’s biography of Peter Arno, Peter Arno: The Mad, Mad World of The New Yorker’s Greatest Cartoonist was published by Regan Arts in April of 2016
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Maslin’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 Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. The segment with Mr. Langridge was recorded on a Zoom H2n digital recorder. Photos of Mr. Maslin and Mr. Langridge by me. Live-drawing of me and Mr. Maslin by Liza Donnelly.
“I’ve read enough Roland Barthes and Foucault to know it’s all fiction, man.”
Richard Gehr’s new book, I Only Read It for the Cartoons: The New Yorker’s Most Brilliantly Twisted Artists (Amazon/New Harvest), profiles a dozen New Yorker cartoonists. We talk about the genesis of that project, lament the dearth of cartooning in print and online, bond over Abe Vigoda, and ponder why it is that so many New Yorker cartoonists had teachers or educators for parents. We also get into Richard’s history in the arts-journalism racket, the joys of Robert Walser, his time in the Boy Scouts with Matt Groening, how he built a career out of his oddball enthusiasms, and the most mind-blowing “Which celebrity did you totally melt down around?” story in the history of this podcast. (Seriously.) Give it a listen!
“I love New Yorker cartoons, but they might be the whitest form of art ever conceived.”
About our Guest
Richard Gehr has been writing about music, culture, and travel for quite a while. He has been an editor for the Los Angeles Reader, Spin, and Sonicnet/MTV Interactive. He currently writes for Rolling Stone, Spin, The Village Voice, Relix, AARP: The Magazine, and other publications. He was a senior writer for the book Alt. Culture: An A-To-Z Guide to the ’90S – Underground, Online, and Over-The-Counter and co-authored The Phish Book with the Vermont quartet. His new book is I Only Read It for the Cartoons: The New Yorker’s Most Brilliantly Twisted Artists. He resides in the Brooklyn arrondissement.
Credits: This episode’s music is Homesickness by Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou (because I’m on the road for a week). The conversation was recorded at Mr. Gehr’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. The intro and outro were recorded on the same setup in a hotel room in San Diego, when my voice was shot from a three-day podcast-athon in Los Angeles. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Mr. Gehr by me.
“Starting out at The New Yorker at 23, I thought, ‘If I draw really small, this won’t bother people too much.’ My editor told me it wasn’t just readers, but some of the older cartoonists really hated my stuff. One of them asked him if he owed my family money.”
Roz Chast is one of the best-known cartoonists around, famed for her New Yorker gag panels and comic strips about anxiety, neurosis, phobia, parental insanity, and a ton of other symptoms of our worried age. This year, she published her first long-form book, a 240-page graphic memoir about her parents’ final years called Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir (Bloomsbury). We talk about her parents, the joy of doing a book-length project, whether her folks ever got her humor, how her shrink enabled her to structure the book, and her two biggest pieces of advice for people with elderly parents. Along, the way, we try to answer the question, “Why do old people hold onto decades-old checkbooks?”
“My mother didn’t read books about child-rearing. She was an educator, so it was sort of surprising. Maybe she felt she knew it all. And she did . . . as an assistant principal. But being an assistant principal is not the same as being a parent. It’s really, REALLY different. They almost have nothing in common.”
We also talk about her history in cartooning, why drawing chops aren’t the be-all and end-all, what makes her laugh, the best advice she ever got (from Sam Gross), and her love of Disco, the talking parakeet. Bonus: We bond over our neuroses and I talk a lot! Maybe that’s more like a minus than a bonus. Whatever.
About our Guest
Roz Chast has loved to draw cartoons since she was a child growing up in Brooklyn. She attended Rhode Island School of Design, majoring in Painting because it seemed more artistic. However, soon after graduating, she reverted to type and began drawing cartoons once again.
She’s best known for her work in The New Yorker, but her cartoons have also been published in many other magazines, including Scientific American, the Harvard Business Review, Redbook, and Mother Jones. Her most recent books are Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir and the comprehensive compilation of her favorite cartoons, called Theories of Everything: Selected, Collected, and Health-Inspected Cartoons, 1978-2006.
Credits: This episode’s music is Mother’s Love by Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou. The conversation was recorded at Ms. Chast’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H4N digital recorder. The intro and outro were recorded on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Ms. Chast by me.