Happy National Are You Okay Day
Whatever Your Answer, This Newsletter Is For You
I’m sure many of you are still recovering from yesterday’s, National Are You Okay Day. Of course it was also National Cream Filled Donut Day, National Coloring Day (“Where ARE those crayons?!”) and most importantly, National Live Creative Day. Since you asked, here’s a explanation from the good people at CPP [with my comments in brackets]:
National Live Creative Day was introduced in 2016 by an American company called “Creative Promotional Products.” Founded in 1994 and located in Illinois, Chicago, [the windy city] the company provides full-service promotional products to brands. They provide a wide range of services, which include brand awareness campaigns, custom-decorated apparel, corporate and executive gifts, incentive programs, and [blah, blah, blah]. Through an initiative called Live Creative, the company established the holiday to encourage people to live more creatively [and make themselves sound important].
The history of the word, “creative” is traceable to the Latin word, creo, which means to make or create something [most readers are bailing right about now, if they haven’t already]. In the past, the word was used as an attribute that could only be ascribed to a divine creator — God [Yep, they worked in the big guy. Perhaps the biggest marketing genius of them all.]. Moreover, during the time of the Ancient Greeks, creativity was not a considered concept. However, the first to eventually apply the word “creativity” was a Polish poet who lived during the 17th century, called Maciej Kazimierz Sarbiewski [how different would my life had been with this name?]. However, he only used the word in relation to poetry [and love-making].
It wasn’t until 1926 that Graham Walls published a scholarly article identifying four stages of the creative process, which he classified as preparation or saturation, incubation, illumination, and verification. In modern times, creativity has become associated with out-of-the-box thinking and ideas that stand out from the crowd. It’s no longer limited to disciplines such as arts and literature but applies to every aspect of life, be it in the workplace or even in parenting [whatever].
Some of my old cartoons have reared their ugly head this past week, including a pair from The New Yorker on their social media feed (and both did well in regards to Likes and Shares.). The first was a New Yorker caption contest. MY original caption was, “I’m afraid there will be more cuts.”
For more bad helmet ideas, go to my feature on this subject, The Worst NFL Logos.
Speaking of the Jets, it’s sobering to see someone make $70 million after playing just four downs when cartoonists continue to struggle they way we do. I’ve never come close to making that type of money. But there was a time when some cartoonists, like Charles Schultz, were among the richest Americans and the biggest philanthropists. And you don’t have to go back that far. Bill Watterson and that racist guy, too, became millionaires.
I still hear big advances going to first-time authors yet in comedy that’s no longer the norm. Maria Bamford, a well-known comedian with six-figure social media following, and a defunct TV show, said yesterday on Pete Holmes’ podcast, You Made It Weird, she got only $50,000 for her advance for her new autobiography, Sure, I'll Join Your Cult: A Memoir of Mental Illness and the Quest to Belong Anywhere, which is now everywhere and doing very well (she just wrote, the book’s now on The NY Times bestseller list.). That is a pretty low advance, for a household name. Nowadays, I’d gladly take that.
I met Pete Holmes in the Green Room at The New Yorker when, a long time ago, we were both cartoonists. I remember him announcing one day, “Everyone here thinks we are known—there is only one household name here [Roz Chast].” He said he had had enough and would go somewhere (TV) where his work was appreciated [fairly compensated].
I was having a Zoom with a cartoon buddy (whose name I will not use in case anyone takes offense to his summary) who attended the Reubens last week. He went, I would think but these are my words not his, in search of some answers but observed we, cartoonists, have become buskers. Others in my cartoon group agreed this was an accurate metaphor. But he had positive constructive advice as well:
“Screw what anyone else is doing. Do what YOU do best, and do it with a smile. I’m okay with defining oneself by one’s work; just don’t fall into the trap of defining yourself by what somebody else buys. [I had discussed this in my newsletter before, quoting comedian Jeff Garlin, “Do what you love doing but make a living doing would you do best.”] Make a living any way that puts food on the table. [I just interviewed at a tennis club—I used to teach tennis—but no luck. It is not easy getting a job anywhere at my age, except during the holidays.] But never forget that you’re a cartoonist doing that. [I was going to doodle during the changeovers.]
It’s being a cartoonist that makes you good at whatever else you do. The world has been pissing on cartoonists now for so long that whining about it has become a cliché. Excellent! Because you know what cartoonists do with clichés.”
But let’s discuss more positives. I was going to say, you also can’t put a price on creative freedom. I can’t, and that’s because every cartoon or humor piece I have been turning in lately has been changed for what amounts to being political reasons. Everyone is so afraid of upsetting either a Blue or Red state, and consequently advertisers in their publication, that individual words or whole subjects are off the table. Jokes are watered down and you see this in a lot of published work. I am not trying to publish blue work. I don’t like profanity and won’t promote dirty work (I get asked frequently by cartoonists, who do, to share their stuff, and I won’t.). I’m talking about looking into clouds, seeing meanings that are not there, like using any specific detail which suggests a type of person or location, which in turn is either Blue or Red. But worse, I’m finding many either have lost or never had, a sense of humor—I hear this all the time from humor writers complaining to me that their adult children did not get their work. They don’t laugh at anything that is longer than a three second gif and doesn’t involve a cat or kid saying something pithy.
There’s some unwritten rules which I DO regulate myself by:
A cartoon should not sound like it could be a humorous TV commercial.
The cartoon should not feel comfortable showing up in the pages of Highlights magazine. I know many of you see cartoons today that fail that test.
Don’t give kids things to say they would never say, a la Different Strokes or those popular ‘80s sitcoms where the children got the best lines.
There are more, of course, but these are the main ones… Sorry, I forgot, I was suppose to come up with some positives. Next time.
I went from getting nonstop fan mail, to no longer getting New Yorker batches for feedback. That’s okay, I know I’m a harsh critic.
Keiko Hasegawa is a talented artist making unique dolls that are not just for children but interesting interior design accessories. Check out her art and follow her on Instagram @piccola_k2
You can meet me at the following upcoming events:
Milford Readers & Writers Festival (Milford, PA) Sept. 22-24
Miami Book Fair (Miami) Nov. 12-19
Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop (Dayton, Ohio) April 4-6, 2024
To order online at Bookshop, CLICK HERE.
I also sell lots of fun T-shirts (and iPhone covers, pillows, notebooks, mugs, wall art, totes, hoodies, pins, stickers, magnets, even tapestries) of my designs.). Check them all out here.
Thanks for reading. And thank you for spreading the word and your support. The Bob has been making Best Of lists for newsletters.