Can I wear a beret? It’s a classic black Spanish one. I’m not in the army.
A Roz Chast cartoon in a recent issue of the New Yorker shows a guy wearing a Basque beret (the most common style) in the street. Nobody is really looking at him, but he is thinking angrily to himself, “I’m allowed to wear a beret! Plenty of people all over the world wear a beret!”
The thing is, of course, they don’t: Only the very oldest of old men in the smallest of towns in France and Italy still do; the rest of the beret purchasers are either planning a fancy-dress costume (a “painter,” usually, with white smock and palette and floppy bow) or hoping to join the Guardian Angels. There is also a small contingent of elderly professors (political science, philosophy, classics) who emulate Jean-Paul Sartre and Che Guevara in pictures from their youth; they’re sweet, in their buttoned trench coats, but you don’t want to look like them.
The best presentation I saw at SXSW Interactive this week had nothing to do with digital technology. It was a talk by Matthew Diffee, a cartoonist for The New Yorker and other outlets, titled “How to Be An Idea Factory.” After sharing a fascinating and hilarious view of his creative process with a standing-room-only crowd, Diffee graciously sat down with FORBES to demonstrate, up close, how a great cartoonist does what he does.
“Idea factory” is an apt moniker for Diffee and his fellow members of the The New Yorker’s cartoon platoon. Each of them is required to submit 10 panels a week for consideration, nine of which typically get rejected. That means coming up with a lot of jokes.
Diffee’s solution to this challenge is to park himself at a table for the first hour or two of each day — however long it takes him to drink an entire pot of coffee — and force himself to free-associate on a blank sheet of paper. That means writing, not drawing; Diffee says his cartoons always start with words, not images. Typically, he’ll take a phrase that’s lodged in his mind and tweak it this way and that until he comes up with something funny or hits a mental dead end. By the time he fills up the paper, he usually has at least a couple workable ideas.
Strange Random Cartoonist Quote:
- You Made It Weird #18: Matt Diffee & Alex Gregory (nerdist.com)
- Test your creativity with our search caption challenge (googleblog.blogspot.com)
- SXSW Day 3: It’s all about Bob (Marley) and creativity (blogs.vancouversun.com)
- Feeling Witty? Enter Google’s Search Caption Challenge (pcworld.com)
- Try Google’s new cartoon Search Caption Challenge (thenextweb.com)
- Search Engine Creativity Challenges – Google Search Caption Contest Seeks Humor & Insight (TrendHunter.com) (trendhunter.com)
- Google Doodle Honors Macabre Cartoonist Charles Addams on His 100th Birthday (wired.com)
- A Collection of Putin Cartoons (themoderatevoice.com)