#27: Sam Gross: The most absurdly funny gag cartoonist to ever wield a pen.
One of the most profane, absurd, and prolific cartoonists that ever lived, died today.
I really hate that this post comes days after a post about losing the great Al Jaffee, and moments after the passing of the great George Booth, and Ed Koren but here we are.
I’m devastated to hear that today, one of the funniest humans to ever hold a pen has left us. The great Sam Gross —prolific, absurd, profane and hilarious New Yorker cartoonist— is gone.
I do sort of feel strange calling him a New Yorker cartoonist because he was published in many other places, (usually on account of some of his gags being way too offensive to publish in the New Yorker.)
Sam was the guy who first asked me to “the lunch” after my first in-person pitch at the magazine. The day I first met him he was sitting in an armchair in the cartoon lounge underneath a framed cartoon, which happened to be by him.
He was hilariously dark and deeply absurd. His cartoons were agelessly funny. He was the kvetcher-in-chief, ever angry about pay rates and royalties for cartoonists— a past-President of the Cartoonists Guild, and an accountant who happened to be a brilliant cartoonist— he was interested in cartoonists being respected and properly compensated for their work.
We went to lunch with Gus Van Sant and Gus was the one starstruck by Sam. Gus had just completed a film about the cartoonist John Callahan, who took a lot of inspiration from Sam, and he had been invited by the Cartoon Editor to join us. As Sam went into detail about the structure of a deeply offensive joke about Jesus, Gus was glued to his every word.
I scribbled Sam on the tablecloth that afternoon as he grumbled away incessantly about the world, over duck salad and red wine at Pergola Des Artistes. It was endlessly entertaining.
Sam and I would talk about a lot of his jokes— he was a real stickler for line economy, and even more so, word economy. He taught me all kinds of little tricks of the trade: like photocopying your inks before applying wash, so you know that you have plenty of copies to spoil, and you can be more ‘haphazard with your wash’. (He said he would do this, and usually get the spontaneous washes just right the first time, knowing he had the insurance of the photocopies to fall back on.)
He was a cartoonists cartoonist— a sick, funny, grumpy, and deeply valued part of the cartooning world.
This one makes me very sad.
(Go buy this book from 1977. I look at it all the time and it never ceases to crack me up. )
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