All you need, if you’re Jules Feiffer, is a sharp stick and an even sharper satirical eye. Before he became a Putlizer Prize winner, an Academy Award winner, and one of America’s most beloved children’s book illustrators, Feiffer was a very young, very angry political cartoonist who found his style by drawing with pointed wooden dowels from the local meat market.In his Big Think interview, Feiffer remembers his renegade days at The Village Voice as a time of political indignation—“liberals didn’t understand that they had First Amendment rights,” he says—but also of enormous editorial freedom, of a kind that virtually no publication would permit today. Certainly Feiffer himself refused to be constrained by anyone: while “trying to overthrow the government” as a cartoonist, he developed side gigs as a controversial playwright (“Carnal Knowledge”) and a beloved children’s book illustrator (“The Phantom Tollbooth”).
Casting his eye over the American scene today, the illustrator and native New Yorker sees a “scary” but “wonderful” country whose greatest city still has “that crazy, anarchic spirit.” He believes American humor, too, remains as vibrant as ever—except that the political cartoonist’s traditional role may have been usurped by the likes of Stewart and Colbert.
Who — or what — really controls your mind?