Anxiety, humor mix to inspire Roz Chast's work
Roz Chast has been a cartoonist for The New Yorker magazine for more than 40 years, which is saying something, considering the number of artists out there drawing on the internet and with fewer outlets to make real money.
Chast will speak as part of the Voices Lecture Series at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 5, at the Tiffany Center, where she'll tell stories, show cartoons and talk about the cartoon industry.
Chast said aspiring artists should not be deterred from their passion.
"Listen to the people who understand what you're trying to do, who could offer you good advice," she said. "There are people not understanding what you're trying to do and put you down and think you're going in the wrong direction. Ignore that and stick to your guns.
"There is so much rejection and it can be painful, and you're not making grownup money even when successful. You have to want to do it a lot. You have to have commitment and some desperation."
With the internet, zines and more, "there are a ton of outlets, but the problem is how you make the money. It's one thing if you're 24 years old and living with five people in an apartment."
Chast entered the field when newspapers and magazines were abundant and many hired cartoonists as freelancers, and paid decently.
She began at the New Yorker in 1978, near the end of a time she called "the golden age of cartooning." Chast sold cartoons to The New Yorker, National Lampoon and Village Voice, as well as Harvard Business Review, Scientific American and Redbook.
"It was nice when everybody was using cartoons," said Chast, who has had more than 800 cartoons published by The New Yorker.
She has persevered through the changes. Her editor at The New Yorker, David Remnick, has been quoted calling her "the magazine's only certifiable genius."
Chast describes her style of cartoons and writing as "very personal," and relies on "anxiety and hilarity." She accentuates interior scenes and inanimate objects. But, "I don't know how deep they are." She stays away from politics, mostly because it has a short shelf life, instead prioritizing real-life situations.
Chast describes the creative process as "the mystery." She learned early to like to write and draw because "I didn't really like to do too many other things as a little kid. ... I liked cartoons, because I liked things that made me laugh, and I decided at age 12 or 13 that I'd like to be a cartoonist."
She admired the work of Charles Addams ("The Addams Family") and Don Martin in MAD magazine.
Chast always has loved her job. "It's pressure, but the thing is it's worse to not work than it is to work." She likes to do public presentations of her work for the simple reason that "you're not there when people are looking at it, and don't get direct feedback. When you're doing a show, you get to hear people laugh."
Chast, who grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and lives in Connecticut, is currently on a book tour, promoting "You Can Only Yell at Me for One Thing at a Time: Rules for Couples," which she wrote with New Yorker humor writer Patricia Marx.
It comes after her previous book, "Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?," a graphic memoir about her parents becoming elderly.
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