Liberal vs Conservative Humor

Liberal vs. Conservative Humor

Liberals see conservatives as preachy, sanctimonious and humorless. Conservatives see nothing funny about shrill, angry, liberal losers. Who is funny? It depends on your point of view, but humor writers and cartoonists will always be liberal-leaning; it is a bias that is built into the system. It boils down to core values.

Conservatives believe that people should be trusted; they believe that we should all take responsibility for ourselves, that we should enjoy the rewards of our personal successes and suffer the consequences of our personal failures. Liberals believe that people are basically stupid, that we should be protected from hurting ourselves by making the poor decisions that we would certainly make, if we were free to exercise our stupidity. As a cartoonist, I know that I can’t make a living drawing cartoons about people who take responsibility for themselves, but I can make a career out of drawing stupid people.

The responsible vs. stupid perspective is clear for all to see in the Social Security debate. President Bush wants personal retirement accounts where we can make decisions for ourselves about where our money goes. Liberals don’t want us to have the freedom to make the poor investment decisions that could erode our retirement “savings.” There is no middle ground between responsible and stupid. The same is true with humor.

Jay Leno is a liberal humorist. Jay walks down the street and gives everyday folks the opportunity to demonstrate how stupid they are, while Jay laughs at them. David Letterman is a conservative humorist. Dave treats everyday folks with respect, giving them the opportunity to laugh at how silly Dave is, as he has fruit dropped from a rooftop, or when he visits his stoic neighbor, Rupert Jee, at “Hello Deli,” with another goofy contest. Both Leno and Letterman are funny. Liberals and conservatives can both be funny, but it is easier to be funny by laughing at others, rather than laughing with others. Most humorists take the easy road.

In politics it is easy to poke fun at the people in power. Political cartooning is a negative art form. Cartoonists tear things down. There is nothing funny about a cartoon that defends the people in power. With the White House and Congress controlled by conservatives it is no surprise that conservatives are humorless.

Demographics also favor liberal laughs as the blue-state media centers in California and New York broadcast their perspectives into the humorless red states.

Editors often complain that liberal newspaper political cartoonists outnumber conservatives by a ratio of about 10-to-1. Since cartoonists are evenly distributed at newspapers across the country, why would this be true? Most editorial cartoonists rely on a full time newspaper job because it is tough to make a living only through syndication or freelancing. There are fewer and fewer newspaper jobs for cartoonists as papers cut back on their editorial staffs and cartoonists are seen as expendable. The few jobs (about 85) that remain are at the biggest newspapers, which are usually in the biggest cities which tend to be more liberal areas. There are about 1,500 daily newspapers in America, and the vast majority are small, suburban or rural papers that are conservative, and are either too small or too cheap to hire their own local cartoonist. Unless those conservative newspapers get off the dime and decide to hire local cartoonists, we’re always going to see a majority of urban, liberal cartoonists.

Conservatives should learn to laugh at themselves, like David Letterman; instead they choose to complain about liberal control of the media. Rather than complaining, what conservatives need are better jokes, a more liberal attitude about their checkbooks and most of all, a liberal in the White House.

Daryl Cagle is the political cartoonist for, the opinion site of The Washington Post. He is a past president of the National Cartoonists Society and his cartoons are syndicated to over eight hundred newspapers, including the paper you are reading. His book, “The Best Political Cartoons of the Year, 2005 Edition,” is available in bookstores now.


Cartoonists Bash the New Pope

by Daryl Cagle

The selection of German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as the new pope has been treated politely by the American press, but cartoonists around the world have been bashing the pontiff in ways that most readers would find shocking.

Mixing the words “rat” and “Nazi,” the British tabloid “The Sun” dubbed the new pope “Papa Ratzi” in a banner headline. American newspapers are more polite to the conservative pontiff, criticizing him in editorials but avoiding Nazi metaphors. Growing up in Germany in the 1930’s, Ratzinger was compelled to join the Hitler Youth and

the German Wehrmacht. As a defender of conservative church doctrine, he was labeled as Pope John Paul II’s “rottweiler.” Cartoonists have seized on these images, portraying the pope as a snarling dog, and putting him in the role of the Fuhrer, reviewing troops of

goose-stepping sheep or Cardinals.

Readers usually see only one editorial cartoon in their daily newspaper and have to wander onto the internet to see what the political cartoonists are doing. Editors typically subscribe to many syndicated editorial cartoonists so that they have a large selection

from which to pick a favorite cartoon of the day. In recent years, the trend among editors is to choose more cartoons that are cute little jokes and do not express a strong point of view. Editors want to avoid controversy; strong cartoons draw a strong reaction from readers. Cartoonists call the trend to opinionless cartoons “Newsweekization,” as Newsweek Magazine is notorious for showcasing funny, pointless, inoffensive cartoons. Cartoonists still draw the strong cartoons, but readers see only the bland jokes that editors select. Cartoons that bash a pope will rarely be seen in the US, simply because too many readers would take offense.

The recent cartoons criticizing the new pontiff come from cartoonists who don’t like his conservative views. Australian cartoonist Paul Zanetti depicts the pope saying, “Forward to the future” as he leads his sheep down a hole labeled “the past.” Canadian cartoonist

Michael DeAdder portrays the pope’s vestments decorated with symbols that say “no condoms”, “no reform” and “no women.” Cartoonist David Horsey of the Seattle Post Intelligencer draws the pontiff invading a woman’s bathroom, scowling as she holds a birth control pill. Cartoonist Nate Beeler of the Washington Examiner draws the new pope with an accordion singing, “Are you ready to party like it’s 1299?”

I drew a breathless television reporter, with her finger on her ear-piece, delivering the breaking news from Rome: “…WAIT … I’m now being told that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the new pope, is NOT … repeat NOT called a ‘German Shepherd,’ he’s a ‘Rottweiler’. He WAS in the Hitler Youth, but he did NOT, repeat NOT, play Cliff the mailman on ‘Cheers.’”

Foreign cartoons are always more harsh than those from America. Brazilian cartoonist Lailson de Hollanda shows an evil-looking pope at the window, with a crowd chanting “Heil Pope! Heil Pope!” Slovakian cartoonist Martin Sutovek shows the pontiff wearing

blinders, like a race horse. Brazilian cartoonist Simanca draws the pope as a shark, about to chew up little fish labeled “homosexuals.”

Cartoonists are bomb-throwers. If this column runs with no cartoons, I’m sure there is nothing to worry about. If this column runs with sample cartoons, I know that somewhere, an editor is hiding under his desk.

Daryl Cagle is the political cartoonist for, the opinion site of The Washington Post. He is a past president of the National Cartoonists Society and his cartoons are syndicated to over eight hundred newspapers, including the paper you are reading. His book, “The Best Political Cartoons of the Year, 2005 Edition,” is available in bookstores now.


What Terri Schiavo Wanted

We’re told that poor Terri Schiavo could have avoided this great legal drama if only she had a “living will.” We’re also told that Schiavo became a mental vegetable when the blood supply to her brain was interrupted, because her heart stopped, as a result of her bulimia, the binge-and-purge eating disorder.

A living will tells physicians what a patient wants to have done in the event that she is terminally ill. Terri’s sleazy husband, Michael Schiavo, tells us that Terri wouldn’t want to live on like this, but, like most conservatives, I don’t believe sleazy husbands. After all, Terri was a bulimic, and bulimics are nut-cases. If Terri had a living will, this is how it would read:

“The Terri Schiavo Bulimic Living Will”

Let it be known that I, Terri Schiavo, being of sound mind and body, do hereby direct my physicians to place a feeding tube into my stomach.

Feed me, then take out the tube.

Starve me, then, put the tube back.

Feed me again. More this time. Now take the tube out again.

Starve me again. Put the tube back again.

Repeat until dead.


Terri Schiavo

It is a credit to the legal system that Terri can get just what she wants even without a living will.

Liberals think this case is all about the rule of law. Conservatives think the case is all about morality. Political cartoonists know the case is all about feeding tubes. Feeding tubes are funny. There have been lots of cartoons showing a tug of war, with liberals and conservatives tugging on a feeding tube. I drew Uncle Sam whipping himself with Terri’s feeding tube and the title, “Self Flagellation.”

Canadian cartoonist, “Tab,” draws a guy listening as the TV blares, “… surrounded by family and supporters while feebly clutching a feeding tube …” The guy watching TV responds, “I’m getting’ a little tired of Michael Jackson’s antics …”

Conservative Georgia cartoonist, Mike Lester, draws sleazy husband, Michael Schiavo, yanking out the feeding tube, exclaiming, “I would KILL to protect Terri’s right to die!”

Denver Post cartoonist, Mike Keefe, shows Saint Peter on the phone saying, “On the Terri Schiavo Matter, Sir, a Mr. Tom DeLay and company have appointed themselves to represent You …” God responds with thunder and lightening.

Florida cartoonist, Jeff Parker, draws a white, frozen judge with the caption, “Once given the power to play God by the Florida legislature, Jeb Bush intervenes in the Terri Schiavo case and then goes on to turn the courts into a pillar of salt.”

My favorite cartoon came from Mike Lane, who recently left a thirty-year job at the Baltimore Sun. Mike e-mailed me, asking if it would be OK to draw an elephant peeing. In his thirty years at the Sun, he was never allowed to draw an elephant peeing. Would we really dare to send a drawing of an elephant peeing to newspapers around the country? Would newspapers really print that?

I said, “Sure, what the heck?” Mike’s cartoon shows a Republican elephant peeing on the “Rule of Law.” I think it is the best cartoon of all.

Daryl Cagle is the political cartoonist for, the opinion site of The Washington Post. He is a past president of the National Cartoonists Society and his cartoons are syndicated to over eight hundred newspapers, including the paper you are reading


A Cartoonist Spins In His Grave

A Cartoonist Spins in his



Daryl Cagle

There is no institution that cartoonists despise more than The New York Times.

The editorial cartooning profession is slowly dying as more and more newspapers

decide that they can do without the expense and controversy of a local political

cartoonist. The New York Times is the biggest newspaper to go without a

staff editorial cartoonist. They don’t even run comic strips.

The Times has not employed a political cartoonist for nearly fifty years and

editors at the Times have been quoted saying that they would never hire a

cartoonist because “you can’t edit a cartoonist like you can a writer,” and, “we

would never give so much power to one man.” The arrogance with which the haughty

Times dismisses our art form really sticks in the collective cartoonists’ craw.

So, imagine my surprise when I read that The New York Times was winning

the “Herbert Block Freedom Award,” a prize bearing the name of a great

political cartoonist.

Herbert Block, better known as “Herblock,” is a beloved figure among

cartoonists; he worked as the cartoonist for The Washington Post for most

of the past century, winning three Pulitzer Prizes and contributing to

the downfall of President Nixon and Senator Joe McCarthy.

During his lifetime, Herblock quietly amassed a fortune in Washington Post

stock. When he died, Herblock left money to his favorite organizations, among

them the National Cartoonists Society, which is using a $50,000 Herblock

bequest to fund a scholarship in his name. Herblock’s estate established the

Herblock Foundation which, among other things, supports the art of editorial

cartooning and bestows a yearly Herblock Award to a top cartoonist. Herblock

left money to the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, which

recently received a $150,000 grant from the Herblock Foundation to fund

efforts to facilitate use of editorial cartoons in the classroom and promote our

art form on the web.

Herblock also left $50,000 to his union, The Newspaper Guild/Communications

Workers of America, which used the legacy to start an award called the “Herbert

Block Freedom Award,” that they decided to bestow upon the evil nemesis of

cartoonists, The New York Times. The award comes with a $5,000 prize, a

drop that will be thrown into the Times’ vast, private, corporate money bucket.

Cartoonists love irony, but some irony is too much to stomach.

The Newspaper Guild never thought about how giving the Times an award,

named after a beloved editorial cartoonist, would look to Herblock’s cartoonist

colleagues.  Guild President Linda Foley writes, “We did not consider the Times’

history or relationship (or lack thereof) with editorial cartooning. It’s not a

controversy or history with which we are familiar.”

The award will be presented to the Times at a banquet on March 30th to honor the

Times’ efforts in defending the confidentiality of their sources. In particular

the award is intended to honor the Times’ star reporter, Judith Miller, who is

fighting court efforts to root out a confidential source who disclosed the

identity of CIA agent, Valerie Plame.   Plame’s husband, former Ambassador Joe

Wilson, accuses the White House of exposing his secret agent wife in retaliation

for Wilson’s outspoken criticism of the Bush administration.

Miller is probably best known for a series of articles in the Times that

encouraged the run up to war with Iraq in which she gave credibility to false

claims that Iraq was amassing huge, menacing, stocks of weapons of mass


Now Miller is fighting to stay out of jail and defending a slimy source who

outed a CIA agent. When we think of confidential sources, we think of frightened

whistle-blowers, putting themselves at risk to point out wrongdoing.  This case

is different.  There is no whistle-blower here; it is the leak itself that is

the crime.  The source is the bad guy and Miller is a witness to the crime.

The Newspaper Guild thinks that protecting sources is noble, even in this

case. So The New York Times gets an award … but why call it the

Herblock Freedom Award?

Guild President Foley writes, “In addition to being an ardent cartoonist, Herb

Block also was an ardent trade unionist. That’s why Herb left us the $50,000 …

Trade unions, like cartoonists, are also on the verge of extinction. Newspaper

companies like Cox, Tribune, Gannett, etc., do their darndest to eliminate the

Guild. Do you folks ever give consideration to that legacy of Herb Block when

you give your awards for cartooning? I doubt it; nor would I expect it (even

though I might wish it). And we would never, ever presume that you or any other

group (such as The Herblock Foundation) was somehow “dishonoring” Herb

Block because it gave an award to a cartoonist or publication that was

anti-union. Again, we wouldn’t like it, but it wouldn’t be our award to bestow.”

OK. They can do what they want

to do in Herblock’s name. But the irony of this award creates a great

opportunity to make the point about how terrible The New York Times has

been for cartoonists.  Readers can complain to the Times by e-mailing [email protected] 

Tell them the cartoonists sent you.

Daryl Cagle is the political cartoonist for, the opinion site

of The Washington Post.  He is a past president of the National

Cartoonists Society and his cartoons are syndicated to over eight hundred

newspapers, including the paper you are reading.