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Quick On The Draw

A cigar-smoking bird named Shoe and political caricatures have made Jeff MacNelly a newspaper favorite.
Neil A. Grauer
From the Print Edition:
Orlando Hernandez, Mar/Apr 99

(continued from page 4)

MacNelly firmly believes that humor can be an important, powerful weapon--provided it is aimed with precision.

"There has to be a point behind a cartoon. You want to say something, you want to point something out, and sometimes making fun of somebody is the point of the cartoon. A lot of times a gag is valid. You don't have to draw people with gunshot wounds in their heads or massacres in order to get a serious point across."

Asked to further define his political philosophy, MacNelly offers a broad outline: "Well, first of all, I am anticommunist--always have been, always will be. The anti-big government shtick is another thing I've always been in favor of; cutting the budget, basically supply-side economics, I've always bought into. But I'm more of a pragmatic conservative, if you really want to sit down and analyze it. I realize that certain things can't be done in the context of twentieth-century America."

Yet MacNelly insists that he can't be confined in an ideological box. "I'm not much on dogma. On the rare occasions when I do get really lathered up, I always turn out a really stupid cartoon."

So where--and how--does MacNelly get his ideas for political cartoons?

"I don't know," he says candidly. "I am sort of immersed all the time in so much news and stuff that I've got several things on my mind most of the time. I just sort of decide what I feel strongly about or what I'm having the most fun with and go with that. And like anything else, some days are better than others.

"I'm not doing things on every airline crash or something. It's more the big issues; what's on everybody's mind; what my neighbors talk about. They're not news junkies, but boy, if a story trickles up to the Settles grocery and I hear people talking about it, I know people really care about this issue.

"I think that when a cartoon really rings true is when it makes common sense. That's when people really connect with it. People don't appreciate hatchet jobs."

Having captured political cartooning's greatest prize after just two years at the drawing board, MacNelly subsequently began a second career as a comic strip artist. He launched "Shoe" in September 1977. It immediately became immensely popular, too.

MacNelly had wanted to do a comic strip since his youthful infatuation with Walt Kelly's legendary "Pogo."

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