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In early August, in the wake of Mike Dawson’s conversation-starting essay, Magic Whistle creator Sam Henderson assessed the mitigating factors affecting his work as a cartoonist, laid many of the challenges at his own feet. As refreshing as it was to read a candid assessment of his creative plight, I was curious to learn Henderson’s mindset after people he responded to his post. While I was at it, of course, I angled to get a glimpse of his creative process.
This John Kerschbaum interview is long overdue. After I interviewed John Arcudi back in January 2009, he suggested I interview John Kerschbaum. In fact, he mentioned Kerschbaum in the course of our interview: “Petey and Pussy creator John Kerschbaum is the best cartoonist working in funnybooks right now. And he’s not working nearly enough.” My apologies to Kerschbaum for the time it took to make this interview happen (he agreed to it back in late January, but I was unable to get questions to him until May), so I am really glad to run this finally. Kerschbaum, who was a 2008 Eisner nominee in the Best Humor Publication category for Petey and Pussy, was kind enough to discuss this most recent Fantagraphics book as well as the work he has self-published through his own Fontanelle Press. Enjoy.
Tim O’Shea: Looking at your work to date, is there any line of comedy that you are afraid to cross?
John Kerschbaum: I don’t know if I’m motivated by fear, per se, but I tend to shy away from specifically offending people. That is, I avoid ethnic, political or religious humor, that type of stuff. I like to think I’m more of an equal-opportunity offender.
But that’s not to say I think any of those topics are taboo. There are talented cartoonists, humorists and comedians that mine those territories for humor whose work I really enjoy. It’s all about the context in which it’s being done and the abilities of the cartoonist doing it. Just because something CAN be funny doesn’t mean is always IS. There’s a time and place for everything.