“Ever since I was a kid, if I’m holding a drawing implement in my hand and I’m touching a blank page, I get a feeling of peace.”
With his brand-new book What’s So Funny?: A Cartoonist’s Memoir (Mariner Books), New Yorker staff cartoonist David Sipress explores the family dynamics and antic sense of humor that shaped his life and career. We get into what it’s like to process much of one’s life through cartoons, what he’s learned about himself and his parents and sister through the process of writing (and drawing) a memoir, and the instant gratification of cartooning vs. the joy of writing a great piece of prose. We also talk about the slide shows and essays that led him into prose, the notion of giving himself permission to tell his story, the community & camaraderie of cartoonists and how different it is than the fine art world, his key influences in cartooning, the importance of John Le Carré’s memoir, the technical challenges of doing cartoons about the pandemic, his abandoned graduate work in Russian history and how it’s helping him parse the present, the joy of meeting some of his cartooning idols, and more! Plus, I celebrate the 10th anniversary (!) of the Virtual Memories Show! Give it a listen! And go read What’s So Funny?: A Cartoonist’s Memoir!
“The first time I felt a connection to writing that felt organic was when I turned to real stuff, not things I was trying to make up.”
“Growing up in NYC, I always felt this sense of possibility, that I could someday be an artist. And The New Yorker was part of that, because it painted a picture of the city and the world that I wanted to enter.”
“Even at my age, there’s a part of me that’s guilty I chose this profession and not something more ‘important’.”
About our Guest
David Sipress has been staff cartoonist since 1998 for The New Yorker, where he has published nearly 700 cartoons. He lectures widely on cartooning, and his autobiographical writing has appeared frequently on newyorker.com.
Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zoom. I used 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 David by Nina Subin. It’s on my instagram.