Cartoons

The Eli Stein School of Gagwriting


(Don't worry -- you won't need a credit card)

Lesson One: I've always believed that a cartoon caption is funnier if it is posed in the form of a question -- if possible -- rather than in the form of a declarative statement. I feel that the question format effectively invites the reader to participate in the humor, perhaps even prompting the reader to silently but knowingly answer the question posed.

I realize that this is somewhat like what Neil Simon has one of his characters saying in one of his plays -- the old comedian who adamantly insists, and I'm paraphrasing here, "You know what's funny? Words with a 'k' are funny -- 'pickles' is a funny word."

Well, pickles IS a funny word, isn't it?? Notice how that last question got you involved?

End of Lesson One, and probably the end of the Eli Stein School of Gagwriting.






The Wall Street Journal, July 12, 1957


wsj071257.JPG This was my first sale to a major market. It was printed in 1957, but I remember making the sale in 1956.

Charles Preston was the man who, more than fifty years ago, convinced The Wall Street Journal to start printing a cartoon every day, and to this day he's still at the helm of their "Pepper . . . and Salt" feature.

I remember visiting Preston many times in his Lexington Avenue office on Wednesdays, which was "Looking Day" for the local cartoonists. Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of the young, dashing Charles Preston of those days, but I have this photo of him and myself at the 50th Anniversary celebration/exhibit, which was held at the World Financial Center in 1999. preston.jpg That's Preston on the left, me on the right.






Selling Power, September 1990


sell0990.JPG This is the first of more than 75 cartoons that Selling Power magazine purchased from me. The publication started out as Personal Selling Power, a trade magazine for professional salespeople, shortened its name after a few years, and is very much still around. Unfortunately, however, about five years ago Selling Power completely stopped using cartoons as part of its editorial mix.

Not too long ago I cornered Selling Power's founder and publisher, Gerhard Gschwandtner, at a trade show (he was manning the Selling Power booth) and asked him why no more cartoons. He gave me what I considered a pretty wimpy answer, to the effect that while he personally loved the cartoons, the "design boys" decided they had to go, and he went along with that decision.

Bad thinking. If ever a publication needed cartoons and humor to supplement its hard-hitting editorial content, it's Selling Power.

A strange contradiction: Selling Power has an ongoing website, sellingpower.com, on which there is a "Cartoon of the Day" feature, using cartoons from past issues. My cartoons appear there on a regular basis. An even stranger contradiction: in 2005, Selling Power came out with a cartoon collection, "The Sunny Side of Selling", containing 200 cartoons from past issues (18 of them are mine). So Selling Power is obviously still very much cartoon-oriented.

C'mon, Mr. Gschwandtner, it's time to speak up! Bring cartoons back to Selling Power!






The National Enquirer, November 11, 1982


natenq111182.JPG The Enquirer, the much-maligned supermarket tabloid, was surprisingly generous in the rate it paid for cartoons. It was said that the owner, Generoso Pope, believed in rewarding his reporters and contributors well. Mr. Pope died many years ago, and as far as I know the Enquirer doesn't publish cartoons anymore, but I'll keep checking it at the cashier.

A couple of times when I was in the neighborhood of the Enquirer editorial offices in Lantana, Florida, I stopped in to say hello to the cartoon editor. I'm pretty sure that the offices are now in Boca Raton.






King Features "Laff-A-Day, August 5, 1982


king080582.JPG The political campaign of 1982 must have been an exciting time, at least for me. I drew this cartoon, and another one very similar to it, with a slightly different caption, and they were published within a couple of months of each other. See the Wall Street Journal entry for October 27, 1982 for the other version.

I suppose I should have been embarrassed, but I'm sure no one even noticed it at the time.

"If it's worth doing, it's worth doing twice."






National Lampoon, July 1984


natlamp0784.JPG I was certainly surprised when National Lampoon bought this one. I shouldn't have been, since it was right up their irreverent alley, so to speak.

Nevertheless, when I drew it, I was concerned about the controversial subject matter and decided to sign it only with ST. instead of my full name. Call me paranoiac, but I felt that if I used my obviously Jewish full name, it would bring out every religious crank and crackpot in the world. I had good reason to think this -- heck, I even got hate mail as a result of a harmless Santa cartoon that appeared in the Wall Street Journal! What I didn't realize at the time was that the famous New Yorker cartoonist and artist Saul Steinberg, who died a few years ago, also sometimes shortened his signature to ST., and it looked exactly like mine. So technically (but not practically, since our styles were so different) it was possible for someone to mistakenly think that it was a Steinberg. I hope I didn't cause him any hate mail problems.

And now I'd like to put in a little sidebar to all those "haters": Lighten up! This is strictly about humor! We have no hidden agendas! And yes, I have drawn cartoons making fun of Moses! In some small way, I think I understand what those Danish cartoonists are currently going through.






National Business Employment Weekly, June 21, 1987


nbew062187.JPG I got involved pretty early when this Dow-Jones publication was launched. NBEW only printed one cartoon per weekly issue. Their editorial offices were in Princeton, New Jersey, so I didn't have any personal contact, except occasionally by phone. The first editor, Ellen Kolton, LOVED my cartoons and puchased them like they were going out of style, sometimes as many as five at a time. Of course, we cartoonists realize that this sort of thing can't possibly last, and sure enough Ellen eventually left NBEW to work for INC. magazine (which has never published cartoons, by the way). I was so devastated that I called her at INC., at their Massachusetts office, and jokingly pleaded with her to get back to NBEW, or at least convince INC. to start using cartoons. I still remember one of her kindly comments to me over the phone: "Y'know, The New Yorker publishes cartoons, too!"

Anyway, and inevitably, her replacement wasn't so enthusiastic about my work, but still kept buying at a decent pace, out of habit, I imagine. Then more editors came and went, and each one seemed even less enthusiastic. Sales came fewer and farther apart, until the publication folded in 1999. According to my records, NBEW printed 113 of my cartoons, which I consider a pretty good run.

Aside: For a while there, it seemed like there was a contest between me and New Yorker cartoonist Tom Cheney as to who would be the principal cartoonist at NBEW. In the end, Cheney won out easily. The late Henry Martin, another New Yorker cartoonist, also appeared regularly. When a small paperback of the best cartoons from NBEW was printed, I had six cartoons included, and Cheney had about ten times as many.

Cartoon Editors should never change jobs -- unless they're not buying my cartoons, of course!






Datamation, March 1981







Datamation, March 1981


datam0381.JPGCAPTION: "Miss Farber, would you please tell me what this piece of paper is doing on my desk?"
This cartoon from Datamation is by far the most reprinted of my cartoons. It was first picked up by Business Week for an article they were doing on "The Paperless Office". After that, the reprint requests just came in thick and fast.

I used the name Farber as a silent tribute to radio talk personality Barry Farber, who I used to listen to a lot while I was cartooning.






True, September 1958


true09581.jpgCAPTION: "Well, yes, it is a sort of a price war. First he raised his price, then I raised my price . . ."

A "gas price war" cartoon that was funny in 1958, when gas sold for about 29 cents a gallon. Is it still funny now? Only as nostalgia, I guess. The Cartoon Editor of True was Bill McIntyre, and his favorite cartoonist was VIP (Virgil Partch). You could count on at least one VIP in every issue. Both McIntyre and Partch are deceased.






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