April 4, 2001

Op-Ed Comic Artist Mocks U.S. Politics

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Using humor to express oftentimes controversial views, Mike Luckovich, a political-editorial cartoonist, mocked American politics, culture and himself in a crowd-pleasing performance last night at the Statler Auditorium.

Introduced as a man, “hated by a select few political figures but loved by many more,” Luckovich used sarcasm to describe his relationship with many of the leading politicians of our times. He depicted the former President Bill Clinton as a living, breathing cartoon — with numerous comical qualities — and said that he also loves to poke fun at current President George W. Bush, distinguished in cartoons by his large ears.

Not only dealing with politics, Luckovich’s topics range from injecting humor into scientific discoveries, such as the discovery of water on Mars, to the recent crisis of school shootings and the debates surrounding Napster. Luckovich joked, “I’ve downloaded over 400 songs ‘doing research’ for my cartoons on Napster. That’s o.k., if you’re a journalist.”

Other perks that come with his job are his daily work schedule, which begins at around 11:00 in the morning. Luckovich said that he used to “stumble and stutter like George W. Bush before lunch time,” so he decided that the best that he could do was to start work at a time when the first thing he had to do was eat.

This lifestyle appealed to some of the members of the audience, “I wish I could go to work every morning at 11:00 and I am a second semester senior [and should have a pretty easy schedule],” said Brian Fiske ’01.

Luckovich also spoke about how he started off in his field. “The dorky kid in school that can draw really well — there is always one — and I was him,” Luckovich said. Moving around a lot, “the first thing I would do at a new school would be to draw a caricature of the teacher. Instantly, thirty friends,” he added.

Luckovich told a story about a time when former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was so upset by one of his cartoons that he had to pull over his car to the side of the road and compose himself.

Although making enemies through his caustic cartoons, Luckovich has received many accolades. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his work in 1995 and the Robert F. Kennedy Award for a cartoon that depicted the plight of the homeless. His work has been published in Time magazine, Newsweek and the Washington Post. He currently works for the daily Atlanta-Journal Constitution.

“This man with a gentle soul and [a] choir boy’s face harbors the cool aplomb of a professional hitman,” wrote Jay Bookman, an associate of Luckovich at the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. “Once he catches you in his cross hairs, he seldom misses,” Bookman continued.

“I try to vary my work between lighthearted stuff and more serious topics. It keeps everybody guessing,” Luckovich said. “Editorial cartooning is a negative art form, using sarcasm to point out the flaws in people and in policies,” Luckovich continued. “[It] seems that in Washington, decisions are made not based on common sense but on money.”

However, Luckovich also noted that editorial cartooning can be an art form that he can finish in roughly 20 minutes if working on deadline.

As for riding in Air Force One and meeting Clinton, “Once you’re around him for a while it loses its excitement,” Luckovich joked.

Luckovich was commissioned to speak by the Cornell University Program Board (CUPB). “We like to bring a diverse group of intellectually stimulating and entertaining speakers and he’s the perfect combination,” said Lisa G. Prichep ’02, CUPB publicity chair. “He shows the humor[ous] side of politics,” she continued.

Students responded positively to Luckovich’s presentation. “Luckovich was witty and amusing and demonstrated the unique ability of a political cartoonist to make a point better than anyone else,” declared Kira Moriah ’03 after the lecture, validating Luckovich’s own stated desire to make a difference with his “goofy cartoons.”

Archived article by Ruthie Wahl