Saturday, December 12, 2009

20 Questions with Kit Lively

Kit Lively is my kind of cartoonist. He’s one sick puppy.

Kit’s work is irreverent, outrageous and always funny. He’s collaborated extensively with Noel Anderson and has also worked with Joe Bob Briggs and Hustler magazine. Rumor has it that Kit is the secret lovechild of either Lenny Bruce or L. Ron Hubbard.

You can see more of Kit’s crazy cartooning at his website and buy his book.

1. When you were a kid, did you want to be a cartoonist? Did you draw?

A cartoonist was the first, and pretty much only, thing I ever wanted to be. I was drawing from an early age, and as soon as I discovered MAD, CRACKED and similar magazines, I was drawing my own, less than hilarious versions. My mom is the only one to still have copies of these efforts, and that reason alone is good enough to keep her rantings and ravings confined to the fruit cellar.

2. What was your first paying cartoon job?

It was a handful of single-panel cartoons sold to Joe Bob Briggs for his WE ARE THE WEIRD magazine.

3. You do a lot of work with Noel Anderson. What’s the best part about collaborations? What’s the worst part?

I guess the best part would be how our collaborations serve my almost crippling laziness. I get to have the fun of coming up with the gag or idea, then Noel has to actually sit down and draw it. The worst part is that Noel is a much better artist than I, so the cartoon comes out much better than if I had drawn it. I guess I’ll always secretly hate him for that. Whoops, cats out of the bag!

4. Why is the single panel gag superior to the comic strip?

I like a good comic strip, and have even dabbled in the form here and there, but I do tend to personally prefer the single-panel. This may have to do with my having a short attention span, but also has to do with the fact that a single-panel cartoon HAS to be funny in order to work. It can’t hide behind (admittedly otherwise important) things like characterization and plot. The joke is king, and if its not funny, nothing else matters. And that’s the reason I got into cartooning in the first place: to make with the funny.

5. You’re known for your outrageous humor. Is there any subject you won’t do a cartoon on?

In general, I think that no subject should be off limits, as the only way humor and satire can genuinely work is if everything and everyone is fair game. Having said that, I personally am uncomfortable with making mean-spirited and hateful jabs at God, as although I’m not a big fan of organized religion (and will gladly poke fun at it), I have Christian beliefs. But I have no problem with others who choose to deal in that type of humor.

6. What’s your favorite rejected cartoon?

Well, there are so many to choose from! Many rejections it seems are sent back without explanation, so I tend to enjoy the ones that are specific about the offense. When I first began selling to the Hustler line of publications, the cartoon editor at the time would stick post-it notes onto my rejected cartoons, with “Too Gross” or “Too Sad” written on them. I got a kick out of the fact that I had managed to, even slightly, upset a Hustler cartoon editor.

7. What’s the future of gag cartooning? Magazines? The Internet?

I honestly don’t know, and have no problem admitting that scares me quite a bit. Quite a few of my markets have dried up over the years, and replacements are more and more difficult to come by. Quite honestly, just like with so much else, the future of cartooning will have to be via the internet. Having said that, I do hope that print doesn’t completely wither and die; old computers don’t smell nearly as good as old books and magazines.

8. Name five of your favorite cartoonists.

Although there are many cartoonists that I’ve discovered and enjoyed over the past twenty or more years, the guys whose work has stayed with me are the guys who influenced me at the beginning: Sam Gross, Tom Cheney, B. Kliban, PC Vey and Charles Rodriguez.

Since becoming an adult (still a long time ago) I’ve discovered and added Dan Collins, John Callahan and John Billette to the list.

9. Who would win in a cage match, R. Crumb or Gilbert Shelton?

Although I tend to prefer Crumb’s work, he honestly doesn’t seem like much of a fighter, and would simply use his cadaverous frame to slip between the bars of the cage and escape. So, the match goes to Shelton via forfeit.

10. How do you develop ideas? Which comes first, words or pictures?

The words almost always come first for me, but every so often an errant doodle will accidentally turn into an actual cartoon idea.

11. Do you ever worry about running out of ideas?

Yep, that’s a big fear of mine. I calm myself by attempting to believe that cartoonists get their ideas from their unique perspective, which hopefully is something that we get to hang onto for the duration of the ride (as long as it isn’t too dulled by time, alcohol abuse and overexposure to reality TV).

12 You’ve drawn cartoons for Hustler magazine. What’s Larry Flynt really like?

I’ve never actually met the guy, but many years ago I heard from a Hustler staff member that Larry found my artwork to be “too funky” (hard to argue with that). Of course, this also explains why I do better at the Hustler mags working with Noel.

13. What kind of editor do you prefer, hands-on or laissez-faire?

More hands-on, I’d say. My favorite editors have always been the ones who would call me up to discuss a project I’m working on, then would stay on the line in order to just chat about various stuff. It's always a bit more comfortable for me if I can sort of become friendly acquaintances with the people I’m working with/for.

14. What are your favorite books, TV shows, songs and films? (Yes, that counts as one question.)

I recently read a book on founding National Lampoon editor Doug Kenney (A Futile and Stupid Gesture: How Doug Kenney and National Lampoon Changed Comedy Forever), which was an excellent book on a subject I’m fascinated with (the evolution of comedy in the late 60’s, early 70’s). I love books on the history of comedy and cartooning. I also love horror novels, anyone from Stephen King to Richard Laymon. Also, I read a lot of magazines and comics.

As far as TV, I love The Venture Bros., Aqua Teen Hunger Force, The Whitest Kids U Know, Reno 911, etc. A lot of animated comedy and sketch comedy programs. Also The Office, 30 Rock, Weeds, Dexter and Lost.

With movies, I tend to drift towards comedy and horror for the most part. My favorite comedies are Wet, Hot, American Summer, National Lampoon’s Animal House, Office Space, Lost in America, There’s Something About Mary, and too many others to list. Horror-wise I love the original (not remake) versions of Black Christmas, Halloween and Dawn of the Dead. I also love me a good trashy B-movie, which thankfully is never hard to come by.

15. What are your tools of the trade?

I use a black ultra-fine Sharpie marker, good quality copy paper and a drawing board that I sit on my lap or on the floor; the same stuff that I’ve been using since my teen years, sadly enough.

16. What’s the best part about being a cartoonist?

The fact that I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do (being a cartoonist), and doing it for many of the same places that I loved and were such a big influence on me in the first place. Also, having had the chance to have my work published alongside many of the industry’s greats, and again, people who had a huge influence on my work, is about the coolest thing that I can think of.

17. Have you met any of your cartoonist idols? Under what circumstances?

I’ve communicated via e-mail and regular mail with quite a few cartoonists who I greatly admire. I also interviewed John Callahan for the sadly short-lived humor magazine Rubber Chicken, which went under before the interview saw print. I’ve never gotten the chance to hang out with any of my cartooning idols, though (considering that many of them are dead, I guess that’s a good thing).

Although I did have a dream recently where I was using warm pimento cheese in generous amounts to massage the upper back and shoulders of the guy who draws SALLY FORTH. Does that count?

18. What advice would you give aspiring cartoonists?

I’ve always believed that cartoonists are born, not bred. So, I would say “head towards that odd triangle of light” and “try to breathe when the man swats your bottom."

19. How important are awards?

Well, I won a “Most Improved Hygiene” award when I was a sophomore in high school, and to celebrate, my mom and this guy she was seeing took me to Burger King for dinner. That was a pretty good day. So, I guess I’d say they can be important.

20. What’s something that nobody knows about you?

That while I’ve been answering these questions, I’ve also been putting together an entire three-bean casserole using my feet (and a wooden spoon; don’t freak out).

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