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Cartoonist talks about the merger of politics, humor


By Celeste Meiffren
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, October 21, 2004
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The time for bullshit is over. The time for satire has just begun. It has, at least, if political cartoonist David Fitzsimmons has anything to say about it. In his lecture today at 2 p.m. at the UA Museum of Art, he might just convince you too.

Wildcat: How are you able to come up with a subject for your political cartoons every day? Where do you look to find things to parody? Where do you get your inspiration?

Fitzsimmons: It's easy to come up with a subject every day in Arizona, in the United States of America. I'm a progressive liberal in a mean-spirited corner of George Bush's America. I'm in a target-rich heaven. What's the old joke? Happier and busier than a mosquito at a nudist colony. I begin my daily hunt for topics by consuming news in the morning like an arcade Pac-Man. Bloody television, right-wing troglodyte talk radio, my newspaper and other papers get tossed into the cranial cauldron. Throw in the mind-numbing partisan sites on the Internet and by mid-morning a thought or three has bubbled to the surface.

Wildcat: Why do you think political cartooning is important in contemporary American society? What influence do you think parody has in politics, if any?

Fitzsimmons: Political art has value because it is pure, naked, subjective commentary. It is designed to burrow into the psyche and lodge there. In our society it has value because we live in a roaring 24/7 flood of media designed to distract, numb and sell, sell, sell. Standing firm against the oceanic tide of groupthink, political art asks you to reflect and question. That is invaluable. For the enlightened American revolutionaries that is the sustaining gift of the First Amendment. Parody and humor are growing in their significance in political discourse. Who cares what Jennings, Brokaw and Rather have to say in 2004? Jay Leno, Letterman and Jon Stewart are the new kingmakers. Or should I say queenmakers? Gotta be careful. A fem-lit studies major could be reading this.

Wildcat: Who is your main audience?

Fitzsimmons: I'm proud to say my work is read by a mix of news consumers with a tilt towards the seniors. And a geodesic dome-load of aging Fourth Avenue hipsters. And three militia wing nuts in an arroyo north of Tortolita.

Wildcat: What will you be discussing in your upcoming lecture?

Fitzsimmons: In my lecture I will be discussing the role of the political cartoonist in history, and in this election. And the role of magic marker fumes in the cartoonist's workplace. Struggling to keep a straight face, and without foaming at the mouth, I will also talk about influences, and trends in the trade. And I will tie it all together by rambling. I have a tattoo. It reads "Born to Digress."

Wildcat: Do you consider yourself more of an artist or a political activist?

Fitzsimmons: I began life as a longhaired, hand-wringing, granola-slinging activist in high school. And now? I'm a remarkably mundane middle-class suburban schlub. I'm deep undercover in the heart of Middle America. Polyester slacks and slacker politics. I think of myself as a political commentator who draws much better than he can write.



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