This column is by the great Randy Enos about his favorite gag cartoons.

My interest in cartooning started when I was a wee small child and on Sunday mornings, my dad and I would lay out the big newspaper comics on the rug in our parlor and go over them carefully with him pointing out some of the finer details of the artwork along with both of us laughing at the antics of the poor Dagwood and Major Hoople and the Toonerville folks. My father and I also greatly enjoyed the political cartoons of Shoemaker and Herblock.

I started looking at, what we in the business call “gag cartoons”, in The Saturday Evening Post which came to my house every week. I was a big fan of Virgil Partch (who I got to meet later in life).

When I worked at The Famous Artists Schools in the 50’s and 60’s, I got to work with a fellow instructor named Frank Ridgeway who was a gag cartoonist for Saturday Evening Post and other magazines and wrote gags for The New Yorker. At lunchtime, Frank would sometimes make roughs for his cartoons. One time I said, “Hasn’t that idea been done before?” He replied, “Of course it has but has it been done this week?”

He showed me some of his tricks in coming up with ideas. One was “gag switching” where you would take a cartoon you found in a magazine and, in essence, take the general idea of the joke and just re-do it using different characters, locale etc.. No honor among thieves.

One day, he showed me another technique. He said for me to get a magazine and he’d show me how he can quickly put an idea together. I got a magazine and was instructed to flip through and at random just pick out three images. I found a picture of a cowboy in a cigarette ad, a picture of a little boy and finally a picture of a store or market. In a few minutes, he had the gag. A kid dressed in a cowboy outfit is talking to a butcher in a market. The kid says, “WHAT… no buffalo meat, and you call yourself a meat market!” This was before we actually had buffalo meat in the markets. Not a great idea, by his own admission, but it quickly demonstrated a method that could be used. I’ve used it a few times myself. Frank sold a comic strip “Mr. Abernathy” while he was working there at the school and he was off to fame and fortune.

When I would go into New York to deliver my illustrations or pick up work, I often rode the train with several New Yorker guys who were going in to their weekly meeting to sell their cartoons. They would NEVER talk about cartoons on the train. Their heads were buried in the New York Times except for Bob Weber who would be doing his roughs because he always waited until the last minute.

In this column, I’ve included some of my favorite cartoons from recent times. My favorite of this bunch is the “tango” cartoon by P.S. Mueller. I find Hillary Price‘s cartoons always funny and likewise with Dan Piraro who seems to never draw an un-funny cartoon (how does he do that?). Both of these guys, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.

I’ve done very few single panel “gag cartoons” in my career but I’ve included a few of them here also. I’ve sold some of them abroad but never in the U.S..

The very very VERY funniest cartoon I’ve ever seen was a long long time ago and I don’t remember who drew it and I don’t remember where I saw it but I often think of it to this day.

Here’s what it was. Two hippos are in the Nile. Only the tip of their snouts and a little bit of their eyes are showing above the water in this very plain, gray, steamy atmosphere. There is nothing around… just grayness… quietness… boredom. One hippo says to the other, “Y’know, I keep thinking today is Thursday!” I crack up every time I think of it… like just now!

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Read many more of Randy’s cartooning memories:


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