Celebrity Interview: KAL, Editorial Cartoonist and Special Guest at The Xavier DuChamp Post-Holiday Extravaganza!
KAL, Editorial Cartoonist and Special Guest at The Xavier DuChamp Post-Holiday Extravaganza!
KAL (Kevin Kallaugher) has been the sole cartoonist for the Economist magazine since its inception 35 years ago. He was also a cartoonist for the Baltimore Sun for almost two decades, as well as a “standup cartoonist” who has done combination comedy and cartooning performances around the world. He began working with improvisational troupes while touring the country with a special show with Second City. This is KAL’s 4th performance with the Baltimore Improv Group.
KAL sat down with our Executive/Artistic Director, Mike Harris, to talk about the Holiday show, KAL’s recent tour of Asia, and his new book, Daggers Drawn, 35 Years of Cartoons with the Economist.
MH: KAL, we’re really excited to have you back performing with BIG. This is, what, our 4th time performing together?
KAL: Something like that, yeah. It’s pretty awesome.
MH: You have become a sort of cartoonist to the improvisers. Could you tell as a bit about how you got started, first working with Second City, and now working with BIG?
KAL: First of all, for years, I’ve taken the opportunity to take my craft out into public doing live cartooning and standup routines. The Economist Magazine, who I have been working with for 35 years, saw one of my shows in London, and they had a grand scheme during the 2008 election cycle to match me up with Second City. We ended up doing a nationwide tour with a show that we co-wrote called the Art of Satire. During the shows, I had a routine I did for myself, but I also did live animation with our friends at Second City.
MH: How does that work? Live Animation?
KAL: Worked like this. I would be backstage wearing a motion capture suit, and I had designed separately 3-D models of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, John McCain, and Hillary Clinton. A member of the Second City team would be onstage and tell the audience we were going to have a special visitor from Washington DC. Then up on the big screen a full picture of George Bush would appear, but it would be me backstage doing the moving, and we also had voice recognition software on the mic I was using so every time I talked his mouth would move, and we would do a live press conference with the audience. But our final show was my favorite, where we did a dance off between Barack Obama and John McCain for electoral votes.
MH: Should we ask who won, or was it--
KAL: Well it was in San Francisco so Barack Obama won, but he is also a much better dancer.
MH: For this show in Baltimore on the 27th, we don’t have motion capture suits, but you told us you’ve got some great things you’ve been working on with the Economist. What do we have to look forward to?
KAL: First a cartoon history of 2013, so we’ll have some slides and fun stuff to look at and remember. I’ll also do a drawing of some of the faces that we’ll expect big things from in 2014. And I also think we are going to do some very special improv with KAL and BIG together which I’m looking forward to.
MH: Now, let’s have a quick commercial moment. Usually when we do shows with you, you have a calendar coming out. But this year, you have something better.
KAL: Yes, something big. This year, to celebrate my 35th year with the Economist magazine, I self published a giant coffee table retrospective called Daggers Drawn, and I am going to have some copies at the event and will be happy to sign them. I’ve sold copies to 46 different countries, and I would love for some of our friends in Baltimore to have a copy for their coffee table.
MH: Tremendous. I want to come back to this idea of standup cartooning. We don’t normally think of drawing as being a performance. How have you been able to translate your art into a style of performance?
KAL: Well, I think that one of the things that fascinates people – because it even fascinates me as an artist – is to watch somebody draw. Because the line magically appears, and it goes in a direction only the artist knows. If you also couch it in the context of current events and funny stories, it combines the magic of the drawn line with the spontaneity that you get in improv. That’s kind of the backbone of my show.
MH: Do you find, when you do these shows, that the audiences enjoy getting the chance to do something hands-on? Or do you find with adults that they tend to be a little like, “Oh, I can’t draw, I’m no good…?”
KAL: Well, it’s a funny thing, because I do a drawing lesson in many shows where I teach people to draw a famous figure in the world. I have spoken to groups as many as 1000 – or just a handful of CEOS – and told them, “I can teach you how to draw in 5 minutes.” And once they take out their paper and do the exercise, I ask them to hold up their drawings. And they collectively gasp and giggle like a group of 6-year-olds. It is astonishing, the satisfaction they get out of doing this exercise. Part of it is just the sheer joy of creating that we in the creative world take for granted. Not everyone gets to tickle that side of their brains, but also drawing can be pure fun.
MH: Since this is a holiday show, do you have any holiday traditions that say Christmas or New Year’s to you?
KAL: Well, in my family, every Christmas Eve we have an Italian Buono Natale, and one of the quasi-traditions we have is that we do a White Elephant exchange with the whole family, using only socks. So, one of our big family traditions is to laugh over socks on Christmas Eve.
MH: Thanks man. We look forward to Friday!
KAL: Thanks, buddy. Me too!
Various BIG members and friends contribute to the blog. Enjoy!