The Creation of a Gag Book

The meeting took place one quiet spring afternoon at Jerry’s Deli in Studio City California. John Cawley and I sat down to discuss plans for a new book. Hardly a magnificent academic tome, this was nothing but a simple gag book. A book inspired by the humorous situations at animation studios such as, Walt Disney Studios, Hanna-Barbara Productions, and the latest upcoming contender, the Tom Carter Studio. These were gags never intended for publication. Rather, the rough sketches that simply adorned the walls of cartoon studios to amuse the employees. However, John Cawley saw more than gags on a wall. He knew this material could provide a humorous look at the animation business. At the time, I knew little to nothing about the world of publishing and creating a book of any kind seemed a daunting task. Though this was a simple book of jokes, I preferred my involvement in the enterprise be limited. John remained passionate about the project and volunteered to do all the “heavy lifting” required to take a book to press. This was the early eighties, and we were still years away from the print revolution that would eventually be called, “Desktop Publishing.” Back in those days, editorial was still hammered out on a typewriter, and the finished pages were tediously constructed on paste up boards where text, photographs and art were physically pasted in place using rubber cement. This analog process was simply the way things were done prior to the digital revolution.

On the plus side, the content already existed. Over the years, I had sketched dozens - no, let’s make that hundreds of cartoon gags that chronicled the wacky activities inside Hollywoods animation studios. As far back as the nineteen sixties, I had started sketching jokes about the Old Maestro, Walt Disney. I later filled the hallways of Hanna-Barbara Productions with cartoons mocking the company founders while entertaining the cartoon makers as well. When the Tom Carter Company entered the cartoon business in the early eighties, I mercilessly hammered my boss by portraying him as a rich kid aspiring to be Walt Disney. While my gags were pointed, they were never mean spirited. In fact, I received the ultimate compliment years ago by a old Walt Disney veteran. He commended me for being able to humorously criticize people and even studio policy with a delicate balance. My gags never “attacked” anyone - I simply needled them. In my opinion, a good satirist has to be able to make his “victim” laugh even if he or she is the butt of the joke.

For the next few months, we gathered stacks of jokes garnered from the Walt Disney Studios, Hanna-Barbara and Tom Carter. Because these were rough gags never intended to be published, the originals had often been discarded. Thankfully, John Cawley was able to carry on using photocopies of the original sketches long since thrown away. Before long, Cawley had completed the tedious and meticulous job of, paste up, and the book was ready for press. A few weeks later, we had stacks of the published book ready to be distributed. I think John only ordered a thousand copies but that seemed like a huge print run at the time. Hardly a publishing masterpiece, the book had a few rough edges, yet it managed to find an audience. And, so began my flirtation with publishing so many years ago. As the years rolled past, a technological revolution took place enabling tyro publishers the ability to create books on their computer. Even though a decade had passed, I decided to utilize the new digital publishing tools and create a second book on my own. As an homage to John Cawley’s first publishing venture, I called the gag book, “Son of Faster, Cheaper.” Since those early experimental attempts at publishing I finally became legitimate when real publishers began asking me to write for them. My latest book, “A Kiss Goodnight,” a collaboration with my pal, Richard Sherman has just been released. However, I look back on those early days of print with a certain nostalgia. We’ve come a long way since that quiet afternoon lunch at Jerry’s Deli in Studio City.

"Faster, Cheaper, the Flip Side to the Art of Animation" was the gag book that started it all.

"Faster, Cheaper, the Flip Side to the Art of Animation" was the gag book that started it all.