Aug 12, 2012

Shary Flenniken Interview

On Friday August 3rd, we had the pleasure of interviewing Shary Flenniken in Seattle.  We put her through hours and hours of rough interrogation, just to get the facts.  She was a tough cookie to crack, but eventually we got all we needed to know about her amazing life as a cartoonist, working for National Lampoon and various other publications.  She was an absolute joy to interview and we're excited to share with you all the amazing information she spoke to us about.  She even helped us celebrate Ron's birthday by singing Happy Birthday!

Flenniken drew for National Lampoon from 1972 to 1990, and was an editor of the magazine from 1979 to 1981.  Her cartoons have also appeared in MAD and other magazines.

A sample image from Flenniken's Trots and Bonnie cartoon

Here is a very short excerpt from her interview with us:

Ron: “What different perspectives do you have being a woman in the cartoon industry (since it has been traditionally dominated by men)?”

Shary: “In the industry?” (finger’s quoting the word industry and she laughs) “in the cartoon industry? Being a woman in the cartoon industry, I would guess that every woman’s experience is different. Mine was more smooth I think because I grew up in a neighborhood with five boys, so I was used to being abused by men. It didn’t really bother me that much, and I just learned to tolerate the bad stuff and enjoy the good stuff.” 

Shary: “I wanted to be accepted as a guy, be with the guys, and so [my cartoons] were filthy and scraggily, and I fit in very well because I wasn’t trying to be terribly feminist.”

Louise: “You were quoted [in a previous online interview] as saying that to process your pain through humor, stunts your growth. What did you mean by this?”

Shary: “That comes from the book ‘Passages’ by Gail Sheehy. Gaily Sheehy wrote that our lives follow fairly predictable paradigms. In your 20s you take a lot of risks, in your 30s you realize what you did and say oops (sometimes). And [Gail Sheehy] wrote that when you get to your 40s this is where the chickens come home roost. A lot of creative people died,  killed themselves, or went downhill when they get to that point, because they weren’t that happy and they thought they could just laugh things off, and reality catches up with them, and choices catch up with you. And that is what I meant by that. ”

Shary: “Here I had this career, I was living in Manhattan, I was an editor of a magazine [National Lampoon]. I was doing ostensibly very well. Yet I had a lot of pain, I had a lot of fear, and I had a lot of anxiety. 

Ron: "Back when you were in your 20's and early 30's where did you see yourself going with your cartooning?"

Shary: "I think when I first started off in cartooning my objective was just to play with the boys and get into the comic books with the boys and have them say 'you're ok.' And I wanted to make some money, though I didn't know how much I had to make. " "I was just having fun walking through doors. Doors would open up and I would just walk through them."

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