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The Funniest Cartoon I’ve Ever Seen

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

Email Randy Enos Visit Randy’s archive –Daryl

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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Here are Randy’s favorite gag cartoons, along with his reviews …

Ahab and the swatch… My good friend Arne Levin, the New Yorker cartoonist sent this great cartoon to me because of my interest in whaling history and Moby Dick, of course.


The slinkies… it took me a while to figure out what was going on with the ski lift. I wasn’t reading it as a ski lift, but THEN, when I figured it out, I haven’t stopped laughing. (Mark Parisi is one of my favorites, too -Daryl)


The cowboys robbing the bank… great cartoon by Piraro. I think this is the best one of his that I’ve ever seen.


The tango… my all-time favorite cartoon of past years. A lot of people don’t agree with me but I think it’s brilliant.


The last supper… Best take-off on the Last Supper that I’ve ever seen and there have been many.


Litter box and cat… Hillary Price put me on the floor laughing with this one. Anyone who has ever had a cat has got to love this.


Crash dummies in car … Dan Piraro again at his best. Anyone who has had children has to love this.


Retractable dog leash… This one rivals the Tango cartoon for best of recent years for me. I love this guy Parisi. Simple, clean and hilarious. (I love Mark Parisi, too. –Daryl)


Seeing-eye dog … A great one by Drew Panckeri!


Dog with walkman apparatus… Another great one by Mark Parisi.


Retractable dog leash… This one rivals the Tango cartoon for best of recent years for me. I love this guy Parisi. Simple, clean and hilarious.

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Read many more of Randy’s cartooning memories:

The Beatles had a Few Good Tunes

Andy Warhol Meets King Kong

Jacques and the Cowboy

The Gray Lady (The New York Times)

The BIG Eye

Historic Max’s

The Real Moby Dick

The Norman Conquests

Man’s Achievements in an Ever Expanding Universe

How to Murder Your Wife

I Yam What I Yam

The Smallest Cartoon Characters in the World

Chicken Gutz

Brought to You in Living Black and White

The Hooker and the Rabbit

Art School Days in the Whorehouse

The Card Trick that Caused a Divorce

The Mysterious Mr. Quist

Monty Python Comes to Town

Riding the Rails

The Pyramid of Success

The Day I Chased the Bus

The Other Ol’ Blue Eyes

8th Grade and Harold von Schmidt

Rembrandt of the Skies

The Funniest Man I’ve Ever Known

Read “I’m Your Bunny, Wanda –Part One”

Read “I’m Your Bunny, Wanda –Part Two”

Famous Artists Visit the Famous Artists School

Randy Remembers Tomi Ungerer

Randy’s Overnight Parade

The Bullpen

Famous Artists Schools

Dik Browne: Hot Golfer

Randy and the National Lampoon

Randy’s Only Great Idea

A Brief Visit to Outer Space

Enos, Love and Westport

Randy Remembers the NCS

Blog Newsletter Syndicate

The Bullpen

By Randy Enos.
As I entered my final year of high school in 1954, I had lost some of my childhood interest in the cartoons and illustrations in favor of an interest in painting. It was generated by the emerging New York school of Abstract Expressionists. So, I ended up going to the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts to study painting where I met my future wife. The summer that we were married, I was in Westport, Ct with her and looking for a summer job. We were planning to return to Boston so I could continue studying painting and realize my dream of starving to death in a Greenwich Village garret. I had a job waiting for me there at a hotel where I had worked for the two years I had already spent there at school.

So, I applied for a job working on a new highway (I 95) that was under construction. I was waiting to hear back from them when my mother-in-law invited me to accompany her for lunch at her friend Bud Sagendorf’s house. Bud was, at that time, working on the Popeye comic books. He had worked with the creator of Popeye, Elzie Segar, since he was a high school kid and now continued to work on Popeye as did a few others like Bill Zaboly who did the dailies. I was excited to meet Bud.

As we sat in his yard having lunch, Bud told me that The Famous Artists Schools, there in Westport, had hired him away from his post as comics editor at King Features to head up a brand new cartoon course that the famous correspondence school was offering. He asked me if I could draw cartoons because he was looking for teachers. I, modestly blurted out that of course I could draw cartoons … I was a painter. He said that I should draw up some samples to show to the head of the instruction department. To help me along to cinch the deal Bud told me to draw up some stuff using the method they were teaching which featured drawing a center line down a head, for instance, and then an eye-line to locate the eyes etc.. I did as he asked and went in to apply for the job. They said they would contact me in a few days. A few days later I got calls from the highway department AND The Famous Artists Schools both saying that I was hired. What a dilemma. H-m-m-m, sweat all day in the broiling sun in a road gang … OR … sit at a drawing board all day and draw cartoons?

I arrived the next day at The Famous Artists Schools for my summer job. They informed me that they didn’t hire just for the summer and if I took the job I would have to stay there for the rest of my life. I looked around at all the artists working there in the illustration course and the painting course and the new cartoon course and I decided that maybe I could learn something from all these seasoned veterans.
So, being the youngest person (20 yrs. old) they had ever hired I took my place amongst old cartoonists, ex-art directors and middle-aged painters.

I was the first one hired from the “outside” to work in the cartoon course. There was Bud (director), Pete Wells (co- director), Barney Thompson (brought over from the illustration course) and Bill Feeny (brought over from the school’s art department). The five of us worked in a bullpen situation rather than choosing to have separate offices like all the other instructors at the school. We liked to collaborate freely in one room because the course was brand new and we were feeling our way along. I had to learn how to draw cartoons while I was teaching people how to draw cartoons. And I found out that drawing funny was very serious business. The other four instructors became my mentors and teachers and everything I know about drawing cartoons I learned from them.

Young Randy Enos.

Bud, as I mentioned, was doing the Popeye comic books (he hired me on weekends to work with him on them); Peter Wells (who never let you forget that he went to Yale) had come from drawing the Katzenjammer Kids; Barney Thompson had done gags for Life, Judge and even Playboy. Barney taught me how to draw nifty babes. As “Bud” Thompson, Barney had also drawn the Captain Marvel Jr. comics which I had really loved when I was a kid, so I was particularly excited about working with him. Bill Feeny had come from penciling The Lone Ranger. They’re all dead now, but I owe my life and career to them.

Later we hired on a young guy named Warren Sattler and also Frank Ridgeway (who on our lunch breaks created “Mr. Abernathy”). I remember the day he was called at work by King Features when they bought the strip. Frank was also a Saturday Evening Post gag cartoonist. He would work on his gags there at work. Once I said, “Hasn’t that gag been done before?” Frank said, “Yes, but has it been done this week?”

Pete Wells taught me the old cartoonists’ trick of drying up puddles of ink with a lit cigar. Sometimes he and I would sit at work with green eyeshades, puffing on cigars as we wielded our trusty Gillott # 170 pens.

Years and years later, we had a great reunion art show of all the old Famous Artists Schools people. I put in 3 or 4 big fairly abstract color linocuts. I hadn’t seen Pete in a very long time. The minute he spotted me, he ran over. He didn’t say, “Randy, nice to see you”. What he said was, “Randy, QUICK, come over here, somebody has put up some God awful pictures and they put your name on them!

A lot of amazing Famous Artists Schools stories to come.

Randy Enos

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