Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

The Basics:
About Emdashes | Email us

Before it moved to The New Yorker:
Ask the Librarians

Best of Emdashes: Hit Parade
A Web Comic: The Wavy Rule


Drew and Adam, Pt. 3: Clip-on Parrots' Revenge

Filed under: Seal Barks   Tagged: , , , ,

When we last checked in with them early this morning, recent caption contest winner, snowboarder, and newly minted St. Lawrence University graduate Adam Szymkowicz (who at press time was still not a New York playwright) had replied to the pithy questions of New Yorker cartoonist Drew Dernavich. Now Dernavich gets his say. He's in boldface, much like his boldly inked drawings (for example, in the cartoon now accompanied by Szymkowicz's snappy caption).

[Adam Szymkowicz:] All right, my turn to ask questions:

So why parrots on businessmen's shoulders, and what would you have had the parrot saying?

I think my original idea for the caption is best left to fade into the ether. It didn't have anything to do with pirates or crackers, however. It's safe to say that the clip-on idea took it in an unexpected direction.

Who is your favorite cartoonist, and in line with that, how did you decide you wanted to be a cartoonist?

As a youngin', it was actually the political cartoonists in my local papers that first caught my attention—Jeff MacNelly, Doug Marlette, and the like. I loved their drawings. But of all the cartoons that I soon came to enjoy—"Shoe," "Calvin & Hobbes," "The Far Side," "Zippy the Pinhead"—it was probably Matt Groening's "Life in Hell" that most inspired me to start drawing cartoons myself. That strip showed me that you don't have to be a master draftsman as long as you have a keen sense of humor. That's what I like about the cartoonists in the magazine. There are some incredible artists who draw cartoons, but the art is, in many respects, irrelevant. They have sharp ideas, and that's what counts.

On a deeper level, I was frustrated as an art student by what seemed to be a lack of criteria about what made a great work of art, and by the subjective and mercurial tastes of the art world. But with cartoons, you either "got it" or you didn't, and I liked that. You could make an argument that that's not necessarily true, but that was my experience.

What's the most ridiculous thing you've ever engraved on a headstone?

What do you want engraved on yours?

I've engraved lots of things that, when you look at them, you wonder why somebody would choose to be remembered by them—lawnmowers, beer bottles, motorcycles riding off into the sunset with nobody operating them. But the weirdest thing was a grim reaper, and there was no funny caption to go along with it.

What do you prefer, boxers or briefs?

Are you asking because you are buying me a Christmas gift? I'm all set in the underwear department, but I could use a new turtleneck.

If you were given a shovel in a public place, by someone you didn't know, what would your first instinct be?

To look around and try to find the hidden television camera.

You have ten words to describe yourself, they all must begin with the letter "T"...ready, get set, go!

Ten! That's The Toughest Task To Try Today! Tomorrow, Too!

Finally, if you were given the choice, would you rather de-pants a bear (assuming bears wore pants) and immediately be mauled, or would you rather be mauled by a bear, knowing that in the future (after you healed) you would be able to de-pants it without injury? Why?

Is this the type of philosophical question that somehow went unanswered during your undergraduate days? I am appalled. My answer would be the same as Aristotle's, which is on page CDXLVII of Metaphysics.

Good luck, keep up the awesome cartoons, and enjoy answering these questions.

Your friend and fan,
Adam Szymkowicz

Thanks Adam!

Final note: Here's a cool little video of Dernavich drawing audience suggestions. Videographer Andy Carvin (from whom I stole the image above—thank you, Andy!) writes:

One aspiring cartoonist asked him some questions about the biz, but after that, Dernavich started taking requests. After drawing a picture of a man covered in grass cuttings from his neighbor's lawn mower, Chewbacca-style, he made eye contact with me and paused to see if I had a drawing request. I drew a blank for a moment, but then asked him how he would portray Boston's notorious problem with bad street signage. (If you want to get lost in Boston, follow the signs and it's inevitable.) Dernavich smiled, paused another moment, and got to work, drawing a "Welcome to Massachusetts" sign almost completely obscured by a giant tree...


Other Emdashes caption-contest interviews:

  • Robert Gray, winner #106 ("Have you considered writing this story in the third monkey rather than the first monkey?")
  • David Kempler, winner #100 (“Don’t tell Noah about the vasectomy.”)
  • David Wilkner, winner #99 ("I’d like to get your arrow count down.”)
  • Richard Hine, winner #98 ("When you’re finished here, Spencer, we’ll need you on the bridge-to-nowhere project.”)

  • Carl Gable, winner #40 ("Hmm. What rhymes with layoffs?”)
  • T.C. Boyle, winner #29 (“And in this section it appears that you have not only alienated voters but actually infected them, too.")
  • Evan Butterfield, winner #15 ("Well, it's a lovely gesture, but I still think we should start seeing other people.")
  • Jan Richardson, winner #8 ("He's the cutest little thing, and when you get tired of him you just flush him down the toilet.")
  • Roy Futterman, winner #1 ("More important, however, is what I learned about myself.")

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, it may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Thanks for waiting.)

2008 Webby Awards Official Honoree