My friends Mikhaela Reid and Masheka Wood introduced me to Keith Knight at this year’s MoCCA Arts and Comic Fest. I got his email address and permission to conduct an email interview. I shopped the interview around a bit but didn’t get anywhere. Rather than letting it whither away, here’s the unedited interview.
KEITH KNIGHT INTERVIEW VIA EMAIL
By Frank Reynoso
With two fierce, weekly comic strips, (th)ink and K Chronicles, Keith Knight easily surpasses many cartoonists’ creative output. Add to this his numerous books, his band Marginal Prophets, greeting cards, and his ubiquitous presence at annual comic events like MoCCA and SPX, and you’ll get a better understanding of the word prolific. Behind Knight’s gentle demeanor and pleasant voice is a sharp mind that roars in his works, delving into a range of subjects: from everyday racism to post 9/11 America to urinary mishaps. Mr. Knight took some time to answer these email questions that reveal what makes for a good political cartoonist and how he’d physiologically describe his visual style.
FR: Where are you originally from and how did you end up in LA?
KK: I grew up in Malden, Massachusetts. Just north of Boston. Birthplace of Converse All-Stars and Jack Albertson, the old man from "Chico and the Man".
I just moved to Los Angeles four months ago after 16 years in San Francisco. I moved cuz I was getting complacent.
FR: What is one childhood experience that's defined you?
KK: When I asked my 11th grade English teacher if I could do a comic book report instead a regular book report. He allowed me to do a comic book parody of George Orwell's "Animal Farm". He gave me an A-plus, and said I should be doing a syndicated comic strip.
FR: What's a typical day for you? Talk us through your day from waking up with a coffee in your hand to passing out with a pen in your mouth.
KK: No coffee. I'm a green tea guy.
I get up. Make some cereal. Write down a list of what I'd like to accomplish for the day. Check email. Take care of any impending comic deadlines by 5pm eastern time (2pm my time). Shower. Grab my drawing stuff and head to a local cafe. Draw for a few hours. Head home. Check email. Make calls. Fill online orders. Prepare dinner. Fool around with the wifey. Mebbe go to another cafe to draw some more. Mebbe we watch a movie and go to bed.
FR: Who is the biggest non-comics/cartoon influence on your work? How did you end up being a cartoonist?
KK: George Lucas. Richard Pryor. Spike Lee. My great uncle Owen. Does it have to be just one?
I've always wanted to be a cartoonist. I didn't know how it was gonna happen. I just knew I was gonna be one.
FR: What is your biggest cartooning regret?
KK: No regrets. I ain't got time for regrets.
FR: What makes for a good political cartoonist?
KK: Taking a complex issue and distilling it down to a simple, humorous and effective image.
FR: Which of your works do you like least? Which one do you like most?
KK: There are a ton of strips that I'd like to write and draw over again. But you just move on and attempt to do better with the next one. There are a few K Chronicles that I really enjoy. The K Chronicles is my favorite strip to do.
FR: What's missing in comics and/or cartoons?
KK: Nothing and everything. You can do so much stuff with a comic. It's like your own little film where you control the dialogue, the actors, the scenery. It's a great medium.
And there are so many different people doing some many different things. Something for everyone. You just gotta search for it.
FR: What body part would you use to describe your visual style?
KK: Ass. Pure ass.
FR: Where can folks find your cartoons?
KK: Lots of places. Salon.com. Mad magazine. The Funny Times. A lot of alternative weeklies and college newspapers. Go to my website: http://www.kchronicles.com It'll tell you where you can find my stuff.
© Frank Reynoso Oct, 2007, All Rights Reserved