You’ve single-handedly reintroduced prison humor back into the collective subconscious of America. You’re writing offbeat, entertaining, non sequitur cartoons for the web, print and various Canadian news outlets. With a mind built by pop culture and saturated in comedy crack cocaine, you’ve warmed the comic book industry’s hearts and private parts with a never say die, often say more style of creativity that served you the same in both prison and Canada and with characters like Johnny Arson lurking about in your great and terrible brain it’s clear the fire’s just getting started.
In short, Chip, what I’m trying to say is this: we love you, your writing and your comics. And we’re not afraid of commitment or a little tongue.
On the heels of last week’s release of independent cartoonist Chip Zdarsky’s MONSTER COPS, the Willy Wonka of the Canadian comics frontier opened wide the doors of his fun factory and sat down to discuss what it means to write comedy and what sets him apart as a scribe in the fast and furious no-pants world of writing quality comic books. Hang on, keep your hands to yourself and prepare to feel the love.
KLEID: Of all the handsome writers I have interviewed this week, Chipster, you’re by far the handsomest. Some might say it’s because of all of them you’re the only one who can draw, too. Comics like to share out the work by establishing writer, artist, letterer and so forth… yet like many cartoonists these days you do it all. In fact, you’ve written and drawn all of your work – do you find it hard to collaborate? I know you’ve gone on record saying you’d rather draw from your own scripts, but would you ever write for another artist? And if not, why do you hate us all?
CHIP: I don’t want people thinking that I never collaborate! I collaborate all the time, just rarely with narrative work. I’ve worked with others on standalone illustrations, cooking, and sexual experiences, but I don’t yet feel comfortable handing over elements of a story. I get such a great sense of satisfaction from knowing that all the decisions were mine, good or bad, in a project. Mostly bad, but still.
I think a lot of this is the fact that I have a very … specific … sense of humour, in terms of pacing and style. Another artist might be better than me, but the joke will undoubtably change in the hands of another artist. It might be funnier, but it definitely won’t be what I envision and wish to get across.
Also, Comic writers bitch about comic artists and comic artists bitch about comic writers. Why would I want to be a part of that? I hear both sides because writers see me as a writer and artists see me as an artist, but I think they’re all nuts. Yes, I’m looking at you, Everyone.
KLEID: Comedy is the devil’s worship. At least that’s what I was told at my Satanic Book of the Month Club last week. The bulk of your writing tends to veer away from the type of work that wins awards, gets mainstream media recognition and captures a rabid fan following. Several other comedy cartoonists I know feel that comedy is brushed into the literary gutter and not taken as seriously as, say, a good rape story. Thoughts? Why isn’t Dave Barry as good as Dan Brown? Do you feel comedic writing has less merit than dramatic?
STEV…er, CHIP: Hahaha! I like that you just told me that I win no awards, get no attention and have no fans. You’re a real piece of work, Kleid. I do what I like to do, that’s it. If it makes me chuckle I’m happy. Sometimes I fail spectacularly and in public, but whatever. At the end of the day I just want to sit back in my cardboard box reading room, eat my Doritos and be happy with what I made, even if it is just a deep-fried Dorito sandwich. I do think comedy is harder, especially when it’s outside the realm of the 1-3 panel gag strip and part of a larger narrative. I don’t bemoan the fact because I don’t really care. It might sound cliché or corny, but seeing someone laugh reading my comic is worth far more than awards and media attention.
KLEID: Speaking of the funny, give us the Chip Zdarsky amended How To of Comedy Writing. How do you decide which word is funny? Which scenarios are too cliche? Is it possible to have too many arson jokes? Expound, good man, Expound!
“CHIP”, IF THAT IS HIS REAL NAME: It’s all in the stages for me. I re-write at every juncture, from the notes to the thumbnails, to writing a full script for myself, to entering the dialogue on the page and then the final edits. Every one of those steps has me re-reading and re-writing. I’m strangely anal with this stuff (another reason to never work with me). If you can get the right word or combination of words, it’s like a magic tickle- key that opens up a dark realm of laughter and mirth.
KLEID: Improvise: Sixty words on Pitching Comics. Go.
CHIP, IDOL OF MILLIONS: If you’re a pitcher ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top_(sex) ), you’ll more than likely end up being the catcher (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bottom_(sex) ).