Cartoons, cartoons, cartoons.... John Crowther's Cartoon Odyssey

I think of it as The Fool's Journey. I've been asked who the "fool" is. It's me, but in the classical sense of the court jester. Only the fool was allowed to tell the king of his follies. All cartoons are available as prints or originals, framed or unframed, through my website or e-mail. For mugs, t-shirts, and other products visit my gift shop at* (be sure to include the *).

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Dry Martini, Straight Up, With a Twist

One of the amazing things about humor is how surreal it can be, from the most elegant epigram to the lowliest pun, anything and everything is possible. The odd juxtapositions are limitless, and yet only the grinchiest among us would question the set-up. Ted Kennedy, Jesse Jackson, and Newt Gingrich in a leaky rowboat after a shipwreck... Richard Nixon, the Pope, Henry Kissinger, and a hippy in an airplane about to crash... an American indian with a dog, horse, and sheep meet a ventriloquist on a country road... an oyster and a tunafish at the pearly gates... it goes on and on. I truly believe mankind could survive if somehow all the "great literature" was wiped out, but without humor we'd be goners.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Heart to Heart With the Kid

I've never been in therapy. If I were I'd come off like an unbelievable whiner. My parents were incredibly supportive. Even my failures were considered by them to be steps toward success. I've got nobody to blame my shortcomings on except myself, and that's an incredible bummer. I think I'll write a book, "12 Steps to Finding a Scapegoat."

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Juris Somewhat Less Than Prudence

I've heard that the guys who were heckling Michael Richards and as a result became the targets of his diatribe are planning to sue him. None other than Gloria Allred is presumably going to represent them. I can't wait. Imagine the media storm. I mean, things have been dull lately in the news, ever since O.J. admitted to the murder of Jo Beth Ramsey. Oh no, wait a minute, I've got that wrong. He only said he wanted to tell how he would have done it if he were a homicidal pedophile.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Reverse Psychology

I figure my generation was the first to transition from "shhh, we don't want my parents to hear" to "shhh, we don't want the kids to hear." When I got my first apartment in New York City my mother gave me a potted rubber plant as a house gift. Shortly thereafter I bought my first and only bag of marijuana, and as usual it contained some seeds. Just for fun I planted some of the seeds along with the plant. The next day my mother called to see how I was (as she often did), and she asked how the plant was faring. In one of those impulsive moments when you simultaneously want to shock your parents and declare independence, I told her about the seeds. "They'll never grow," she said, without losing a beat, and then proceeded to give me instructions for growing marijuana. It was in that moment, I think, that I lost forever all interest in controlled substances.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Horsing Around

According to Ovid (9 AD), "a spirited horse, which will try to win a race of its own accord, will run even faster if encouraged." On the other hand, Ben Johnson in 1633 wrote, "spur a free horse, he'll run himself to death." I personally always preferred racing cars to riding horses, It's something about a 2000 pound beast with a mind of its own.

(Apologies to my friend Lee for any anatomical inconsistencies with the horse. I'm less concerned about the humans.)

Saturday, November 25, 2006

"What the World Needs Now...."

It seems to me what the world needs is a kind of ecumenical version of a continental congress, where we can make ammendments to the list of universal sins. I mean, if you count everything that every religion in the world considers a sin there's probably thousands of them. I think if we tried real hard we might pare it down to just four or five hard core sins. If everyone agreed to really really obey them rather than just treat them like suggestions instead of orders the way people ignore yellow warning lights, the world would be a better place. "Thou shalt not kill" is a keeper, but let's knock off anything about coveting thy neighbor's ox.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Comedy Is Having To Say You're Sorry

I figure cartooning is basically safe stand-up. No heckling, no eggs thrown, no offering up finely-honed gags to a crowd that rewards you with icy stares, no Tuesday nights playing to three people, one of whom forgot to replace the batteries in his hearing aid, one of whom is an alcohol-besotted narcoleptic, and one of whom is a friend you dragged away from "Deal Or No Deal" to lend moral support. Anyway, I owe this cartoon to Michael Richards, who generously called me out of the blue a few years back to tell me he appreciated an L.A. Times article I wrote lambasting Leonardo di Caprio.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

I wasn't sure the government even knew there was a hunger problem in the U.S. Seem to me I recall they were once talking about waging a "war on poverty," but someone must have declared "mission accomplished." Or else, instead of "staying the course" they decided to "cut and run." Anytime those guys in Washington decide to give something a new name it means it's gotten so serious they have to come up with another term for it so that things won't seem so bad. I'm waiting for them to stop calling the civil war in Iraq an "insurgency" and downgrade it to "overt manifestation of internecine tension."

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

It's Not About Plot, It's About Pimping the Goods

Eons ago I was directing sports-themed short subjects (a handful of you may recall the Paramount Pictures "Sports In Action" series), and one of the perks was a brand new canary yellow convertible Chevrolet Impala with an 8-track stereo. I mean, wow, when you're a twenty-something living in New York City. All I had to do was make sure it appeared in every film. It was easy when the subject was college football (I had cheerleaders in it, riding in a halftime parade), or horse racing, or even golf, but bowling was a stretch. I can't remember what I wound up doing, but it was probably unsubtle.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Easy Money

Admit it, a little part of you thinks, "maybe this time it might be for real," every time you get one of these e-mails in your in-box. Why is it, I wonder, none of these letters come from Asia, or South America? They're all from Africa, or from a banker in the UK administering the fortune of my late billionaire cousin Hieronymous I never knew existed.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Home For the Holidays

I think maybe the worst job in the world is working at the Lost Luggage desk at the airport. Every single person you deal with is exhausted, angry, frantic, frustrated, and blaming it all on you. When I lose my luggage I try to sympathize with them, and you can't believe their level of gratitude. Once, I didn't have to wait until the next day for the van to return my bag, the man delivered it personally after he got off work that night.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Nothing Like the Smell of Exhaust and Fresh Coffee

This is no joke. It’s not unusual for people in Los Angeles to spend two to three hours in their car a day commuting, crawling along at an average speed (did I really say speed?) of less than fifteen miles an hour. Cars get pushed faster than that. I’m tempted to start a rant about the madness of it – it’s downright dysfunctional, after all – but what’s the use? Pass the marmalade, and I’ll take my coffee black, with a half teaspoon of Splenda. It’s decaf, isn’t it? Caffeine is bad for my nerves.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Did William Goldman Start This Way?

Welcome to L.A., where every valet parking jock has a screenplay to peddle. And many of them have plunked down their bucks for a seminar with a screenwriting guru who never wrote a successful screenplay himself. None of the gurus teach classes, of course, because that would require them to read something. Just three day seminars where they dispense with the “secrets,” heavy-duty stuff like, “put the first act break on page 27.” Movie executives take the seminars too, so they can sound like they know what they’re doing. And you wondered why movies are so lame nowadays (except for “Borat,” the funniest laugh-‘til-you-hurt grossly disgusting movie ever made).

Friday, November 17, 2006

Score Another For the Tasteless

As most people know by now, "sweeps week" refers to that period that comes around twice a year, when the TV networks aim for the biggest possible audience so they can demonstrate to their sponsors how brilliant and successful they are. It's done by trotting out the most vile, obscene, purile programming imaginable. Critics like to revile the networks for this blatant commerciality, but this sidesteps the fact that it works because people watch that crap in huge numbers. You can bet that all the folks around the water cooler this morning bitching about OJ's latest broken field run through the lame defenses of American pop culture will be tuning in to see just how he "would have done in Nicole" if he'd been the killer.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Status Buys Privelege. Not.

In the world of the roach coach the "d" in the term maitre d' stands for "driver." And don't try to order a crepes au fromage. It's a quesadilla, buddy.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Fill 'Er Up

Hey, the price of gas being what it is, nothing would surprise me. I used to race cars, but in a world where the drivers are supposed to know as much as the mechanics, I was the kind who'd drive into the pits and tell the crew "there's a funny little rattling noise somewhere back there in the rear." My favorite racing story is about Janet Guthrie, the first woman ever to drive in the Indy 500. A TV interviewer once asked her if competing with men at this level was comparable to, say, trying to play football in the NFL, and she replied, "I'm driving the car around the track, not carrying it."

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

"Working together" 2006

Anybody who's been following the elections and reading the papers can understand. It all reminds me of the old joke about Richard Nixon throwing a 6 foot rope to someone drowning 12 feet offshore. "Well," he said, as the victim disappeared beneath the water, "I met him halfway."

Monday, November 13, 2006

You Thought Atkins Was New?

I've been doing Atkins for a few years, I admit it, but I'm ready to quit. It's not that I'm craving french fries, Danish pastry, pizza, because I'm not. It's just that here I am, rigorously sticking to the "maintenance diet" like stink on an outhouse rat after originally losing 30 pounds, and now the weight is creeping back. And I'm not only consuming fewer damned carbohydrates than originally, but fewer calories as well. I feel as if I've won a Ferrari that I can only drive in traffic jams. Okay, two metaphors in one post is one too many.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

"Democracy is a messy business."

"Democracy is a messy business." This may be one of the few things Donald Rumsfeld ever said that I agree with. Everybody is right, in their own mind, but their rights are always butting up against the rights of others. What is it, I wonder, in the human psyche, that convinces us we can solve our differences with "a left hook" rather than mutual understanding and empathy? Maybe we'll never get it right, as long as greed meets greed, and an unchained libido comes face to face with outraged empowerment.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Artist's Statement

I'm not making this stuff up, honest. Nowadays, if you a want a career in art you need, more than anything else, the gift of BS. You can take anything you want and call it art as long as you have an "artist's statement" to go along with it, and the more opaque the better. The kid is already on a career path.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Those Who Can Do....

As George Bernard Shaw famously said, "those who can, do, those who can't, teach." I'm not sure I agree, since teaching has always been an important part of my life, but there's an element of truth to it. Those of us who like to think of ourselves as creative, are the first to forget it's a lot easier to criticize than it is to take criticism. It's also more convenient to teach than to educate. You teach people to think like you do; you educate them to think for themselves.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Even Free Entertainment Comes With a Price.... For Someone

Some of the best entertainment in the world can be found at Venice beach in my home town, Los Angeles. And while movie, theatre, and cable prices soar, it's all free, unless you're generous enough to make a donation. Of course, somebody winds up having to pay. In a perfect analogy for all of society, it's usually the lowest rung of the ladder. Apologies to PETA.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Road Rage

I didn't intend for this to be partisan. It could just have well been a liberal host, but almost everyone will agree that most talk radio lists to port, contradicting the liberal media myth. (Just look how many media outlets are owned by big corporations.) But I digress from my main theme, which is my belief that road rage is caused almost entirely by talk radio, whether it's right or left. Think about it. A huge part of the audience is listening in their cars. And they're always being whipped up to a frothy anger. Either they agree with the host, who is venting anger at something or somebody, or they disagree, in which case they're angry at him. You never heard about road rage before talk radio began, did you?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Sometimes We Just Have to Laugh....

Because, after all, what else can we do about it?

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Magic of Language

Lincoln told us that if you call a sheep's tail a leg, the sheep still only has four legs. But he didn't consider the possibility of a three-legged sheep. Nowadays our politicians call something whatever suits them. When the opposition is forced on the defensive, it validates the lie. Let's not discount the power of language to shape ideas and sensibilities. (Stick with me here and eventually I'll get into my theory of "information streams" and "thought stacks."

Starting Now

I'm a writer and an artist. My doodles come in the form of words as well as pictures. They also tend to be reactions to the world around me that I have habitually shared with family and friends. I'm regularly being told that I should publish this material, some of it random and disconnected, some of it having narrative and thematic arcs. But the question for me has always been, in what form. Hopefully, this blog can be both form and forum. I just had a thought: to move from form to forum all I needed was a "u," otherwise spelled "you."