Podcast: The Guy Who Drew the Liver Spots

Drew Friedman & Brisket on The Virtual Memories Show

Virtual Memories – season 3 episode 21 –
The Guy Who Drew the Liver Spots

“I don’t like drawing young people, attractive people. I used to get assigned drawings of the cast of ‘Friends’ for Entertainment Weekly, and it was painful. I would finish a drawing of Jennifer Aniston, and to reward myself, I’d draw Shecky Greene.”

It’s the Vermeer of the Borscht Belt! Drew Friedman, the great painter, cartoonist, chronicler of modern fame (and infamy), and Howard Stern’s favorite artist, invited me out to 2nd Ave. Deli in NYC one Saturday morning to record a conversation about art, leaving New York, show biz, R. Crumb, Joe Franklin, Tor Johnson, the Friars Club, Howard Stern, Abe Vigoda, the gallery show commemorating his books on Old Jewish Comedians, and his upcoming book of portraits on comic-book legends (as in ‘artists, writers and publishers’). We also talk about how Harry Einstein died during a roast for Lucy and Desi, trade Gilbert Gottfried stories, discuss the state of the illustration market, explore why he used stippling effects and why he stopped, and more. This one’s a lot of fun. Go listen!

“There’s a theory about why there were so many Jewish comedians: the smile behind the pain, the haunted smile. I don’t buy into it. I think they’re all just a bunch of hams. They like to be up there, telling jokes, being funny, and meeting women.”

by Jay Ruttenberg Photo of Drew Friedman and Jerry Lewis courtesy of Jay Ruttenberg

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About our Guest

Drew Friedman is an award-winning illustrator, cartoonist and painter. His work has appeared in Raw, Weirdo, SPY, National Lampoon, Snarf, The New York Times, MAD, The New Yorker, BLAB!, The New York Observer, The Wall Street Journal, HONK!, Rolling Stone, Field & Stream, TIME, The Village Voice, Entertainment Weekly, and more. His comics and illustrations have been collected in several volumes, the latest, Too Soon?, published by Fantagraphics in 2010. His collection of portraits, Drew Friedman’s Sideshow Freaks, was published by Blast books in 2011. He has published three collections of paintings of Old Jewish Comedians (1, 2 and 3), but none of Old Episcopal Comedians. He also raises champion beagles with his wife, K. Bidus. You can find his full bio and buy his art at his fine art prints site and you really should read his blog.

Credits: This episode’s music is Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals by Raymond Scott. The conversation was recorded at the 2nd Ave. Deli in Manhattan on a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro were recorded in my home office on a Blue Yeti USB microphone. File-splitting is done on a Mac Mini using Audacity. All editing and processing was done in Garage Band. Photo by a waiter at 2nd Ave. Deli.

Borders Raid

I finally made a foray to the local Borders store. I checked it out during the first week of bankruptcy, when prices were an amazing 20% off list. I felt bad that they were charging more in liquidation than Amazon was charging in regular operations.

But I was next door, picking up some measuring spoons at Bed, Bath & Beyond, so I walked in. “ONLY 7 DAYS LEFT!” the posters warned. Inside, prices were 80% off, with an additional 15% if you bought 20 or more books. Of course, there was scarcely more than 20 books in the joint.

I looked through the remaining comics — sorry, Graphic Novels — but that had been pretty well pillaged. I considered picking up Sophie Crumb’s book, but eh.

The fiction section was pretty sparse; the offerings were mainly contemporary fiction, which I have no use for. I meandered over to the biographies, and it was there that I made my score. There were at least 8 copies of Jules Feiffer’s memoir, Backing Into Forward, on a shelf, so I grabbed a copy of that. I remember wanting to buy it for the Kindle when it was first released, but it was listing (and still is) at $15.99, and there’s no way on earth I’d pay that much for an e-book, unless it had the answers in the back.

Then I noticed a copy of Pierre Assouline’s Herge: The Man Who Created Tintin. It was a hardcover, as was the Feiffer book. I know nothing about it, but at this price (80% off $24.95), I couldn’t go wrong.

I also came across paperbacks of two of Mary Karr’s memoirs, Liar’s Club and Cherry. I’ve never read her, but I enjoyed her recent Paris Review interview, so I thought I’d give her a chance.

On the way to the register, I noticed a “new books” shelf with a copy of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s The Bed of Procrustes. I gave up on The Black Swan pretty early, on account of authorial arrogance, but one of my magazine’s readers recommended I pick up this book of aphorisms. I bought it for my Kindle this summer, but found that the aphoristic style didn’t work for an e-book; I found myself reading too quickly. I thought it would be better in printed format, so I could scribble notes in the margins and otherwise just look at a line on a page. So I grabbed that, too.

I have far too many books

The damage for all five books, including three hardcovers? Twenty-two dollars. Poor, doomed bookstores.

I did have a laugh on the way out, when I noticed that one of the employees set up the shelf by the entry so that customers would see the following:

Do the No Future

What It Is: 3/22/10

What I’m reading: Finished The Ask, read West Coast Blues, and started Schulz and Peanuts, David Michaelis’ biography of Charles Schulz, and The Night of the Gun, David Carr’s memoir of his, um, very bad years. I didn’t mean to have so many books going on at once, but we got hit with a blackout on Saturday night and I decided to read on the Kindle app on my iPhone for a bit. Since the Schulz book isn’t available on the Kindle, I thought I’d start on Carr’s book. Three chapters later, I’m enjoying it immensely. Still, I’d like to read the Schulz book and segue from that into the new memoir by Jules Feiffer, Backing Into Forward (for which Carr wrote a really nice review in the NYTimes this weekend). I guess I’ll stick with the Carr book, since I’m traveling next weekend and don’t want to carry around the Schulz hardcover.

What I’m listening to: Joe Jackson Live 1980-1986, and Born To Run, the latter because it was a gorgeous, sunny weekend in NJ and what else are you supposed to listen to when you’re out driving? It’s in the state constitution fer goshsakes!

What I’m watching: A little TV (Parks & Rec, 30 Rock, The Ricky Gervais Show, the new South Park), but the only movie was a take-the-bad/weird-with-the-good capitulation to one of Amy’s oddball requests: My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

What I’m drinking: Death’s Door gin & Q-Tonic, and Domaine de L’Hortus grande cuvee 2007.

What Rufus & Otis are up to: Enjoying the warm weather with long walks. Well, Otis isn’t enjoying them as much as Ru is, because he has a bit of fur to shed, and has been panting by the last third of a 1.5-mile meander.

Where I’m going: St. Louis, for Passover with my family.

What I’m happy about: Assembling a new dining room table (yes, it was Ikea, but it seems sturdy as heck) and getting some new chairs, to replace the cheap-ass set I bought in the winter of 2002.

What I’m sad about: My NCAA brackets falling apart by the end of the weekend. Despite the fact that I watch zero college hoops and filled them out half an hour before the first game, I’d managed to pick a bunch of the upsets and was actually doing just great on ESPN’s Tournament Challenge through Saturday.

What I’m worried about: Getting the April issue out by the end of the week.

What I’m pondering: The weak link on Born To Run. It’s either She’s the One (a somewhat generic rocker to follow the title track?) or Meeting Across the River, which gets extra demerits for that awful David Sanborn horn. But Meeting does segue into Jungleland better than any other song on the album would, and She’s the One does rock pretty hard, albeit eh. It’s pretty amazing to think that one album contains Thunder Road, 10th Avenue Freeze-Out, Night, Backstreets, Born To Run and Jungleland. And that the artist still managed to make songs like Sprit in the Night, Blinded By the Light, Rosalita, NYC Serenade, Incident on 57h St., Badlands, Prove It All Night, The River, etc.. And don’t let ’em take me to the Cadillac Ranch . . .