It’s a pretty short list.
Renowned New Yorker cartoonist Jack Ziegler — aka my father — has generously allowed us to publish some of his never-before-seen parenting cartoons in a special series we’re calling Jack Ziegler @ Science of Parenthood.
When I was growing up, The New Yorker could always be found in our house, along with an entire library of cartoon books and collections. I spent a lot of time reading those books, trying to unravel what was funny and why. Sometimes the drawing alone made a cartoon funny; sometimes it was the text; often it was a combination of the two. When I was young, many jokes went WAY over my head, but over time I figured them out as I learned more about the world, sex, war and relationships. It was an unusual education.
It is still strange to me that I ended up creating cartoons, especially since I wasn’t completely confident my illustrations had earned the title “cartoon.” And yet, here we are! But enough about me. Let’s see what the old man has to say!
So. Dad. Can I call you Dad?
Please — call me Dad, or dad.
You’ve been a cartoonist my entire conscious life. How’d you land that sweet gig?
I started thinking about cartooning when my attempt at becoming The Great American Novelist failed. I began to cartoon in early 1972, in San Francisco. Soon, I decided to move back East — to New York City’s periphery — to be closer to the action. I began doing rounds at all the magazines. But I had no luck until later that year with a sale to Inside Detective for $20. I did a little better the following year — 1973 was my big breakthrough, but not until the end of that year with some sales to Saturday Review, Cosmopolitan, National Lampoon, and a few others. I sold my first drawing to The New Yorker in December, but it didn’t appear until the following February. I think I made about $2,000 for the year, so you can see that my income was QUADRUPLING!!!!!!!!!!!!!
In ’74 I was selling on a regular basis to The New Yorker and several other mags. My cartoons were so fabulous that The New Yorker offered me a contract that December, which allowed your mother and me to start giving you real food on a regular basis.
That did work out pretty well for me. Is it weird that I am doing what sort of amounts to cartoons now? Even though I refused to call them cartoons until a few months ago? I still have a hard time calling them cartoons, clearly. What’s wrong with me?
It’s not weird at all. You have a great sense of humor — and you can draw, which is more than I can say for any number of the new cartoonists at the magazine. But that’s not really a surprise because the number of people attracted to this way of life is ever diminishing, due to the fact that it’s almost impossible to make a decent living at it. Very few magazines are left that use cartoons. These days, one might be better off doing animation or creating their own new worlds on the web. Me? I’m too old now to change my spots. I still draw with a pen — and on paper, for God’s sake!
By the way, it’s easier to call them “cartoons” than “amusing drawings” or “idea drawings,” which is what they were always referred to at The New Yorker.
Apparently they have the same issues that I do. Why did you decide to let us run your previously unpublished parenting-related cartoons? Is it because I’m your favorite child? I’m pretty sure that’s it.
Ninety percent of my work is rejected by The New Yorker, so what else am I gonna do with these stacks of drawings? I like getting the good ones out there, and besides, I can always use these Science of Parenthood cartoons in future books of my own. That is, if you’ll allow me to do that. If not, I will, of course, sue you, which will be far worse than being simply grounded and/or cutting your allowance.
And it’s true that you are my favorite child — at least until your two brothers get out of prison in, I think, 2025.
I knew it. Any words of wisdom for other aspiring cartoonists? Not me, obviously. I’ve got this shit locked down.
Words of wisdom, hmm. See Answer #3. That said, if they insist on becoming magazine cartoonists (which is all I know), try The New Yorker first. You might as well start at the top, because there’s not a lot below that. Learn to embrace rejection — massively. And that what’s funny to you is not necessarily funny to anyone else. But you might be ahead of your time, in which case, hold off on everything until the planet gets back to normal.
You can find many of Jack’s previously published books on Amazon.com, as well as in Lee Lorenz’s The Essential Jack Ziegler (Essential Cartoonists Library) and in The New Yorker magazine on a sort-of almost weekly basis.