What makes a cartoonist laugh


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Every so often, a guy hits the jackpot. Mine came this week when Rick Kirkman, the man behind the popular cartoon, “Baby Blues“, offered to contribute an article for the Broadside Blog. Rick has visited several military hospitals around the world, spreading cheer among active and wounded troops with his wit and talent. Sit back, grab a cup of joe, and enjoy Rick’s impressions of his most recent trip to Walter Reed, Bethesda, Landstuhl, Kuwait and Iraq.

This October, I traveled with nine of my cartoonist friends from the National Cartoonists Society on a USO tour to draw cartoons for the troops. During and after our trip to Washington, D.C., Germany and Iraq, several stories were written with headlines like “Cartoonists Draw Smiles For Soldiers.” It’s been mentioned before, but it bears repeating: we got as many smiles out of it as we gave, if not more.

Those service men and women–wounded and able–hospital staffs, and civilian contract workers were an endless supply of humor and goodwill. And that’s special considering the circumstances under which they live and work. Not just special, but probably necessary, because it’s humor that gets humans through a lot of terrible stuff.

I’d like to share a few of my favorite moments:

There was 21 year old William from Chicago, injured by an IED in Afghanistan, who was asked, “Are you going to stay in the army?” His response without hesitation was, “Blow me up once, that’s it!”

The soldier who joked with us and took our ribbing about his burn injuries because he was reluctant to reveal the source. We turned the whole session into a segment worthy of “What’s My Line?” In my drawing of him, he appeared on the show, “What’s My Injury?”

A soldier with an alliterative name, all J’s, who slowly revealed her name with comic timing, until we were laughing heartily with her.

Or the civilian nurse, who had been at the hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, several years and had collected so many Challenge Coins (the NCS coin was her 100th) that she had an unofficial, hidden name tag that bore her nickname, “Coin Bitch”–a name she considered more acceptable than the alternative. You figure it out.

A female soldier presented me with photos of her two children in lederhosen, twins whom she referred to as “First” and “Last.” I drew Hammie and Zoe as her kids, complete with lederhosen and the name tags “First” and “Last.”

I met a soft-spoken father of four who gently joked that he and his wife got married for all the wrong reasons: they liked the same beer and the same amount of it.

Rick’s sketch of a Soldier using his gloves as eye shades during a C17 flight to Iraq.

A navy man in Iraq joked with me about what NAVY stands for–Never Again Volunteer Yourself.

So in addition to saying thanks to all those men and women for their service to their country, I’d like to thank them for leaving me with so many smiles.

–Rick Kirkman

Rick didn’t ask me to do this, but he and Jerry Scott have a new book out. Click on the image to order it!


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1 Comment

  1. Jeff (and Rick),

    Thanks for what you are doing! I speak from experience — a visitor with a sense of humor is great medicine.

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