Mike Luckovich 

Pulitzer winner and political cartoonist

Two-time Pulitzer winner and AJC political cartoonist Mike Luckovich has secured a berth as one of the country's most celebrated and widely syndicated commentators on the American scene. Luckovich's cartoons will enjoy a different venue Oct. 12-Nov. 6, when TEW Galleries features an exhibition of his drawings.

People have described you as an independent thinker and not a lockstep liberal or conservative, and yet many of the readers' comments on the AJC website seem to see you as some kind of paragon of the liberal, lefty elite. Can you talk about the difference between your public image and your private beliefs? I think that my private beliefs are public. I really try and make points based on the way I feel about things. On my blog you get a lot of people on the left and the right, people who are way out on either side. I do hit Bush a lot, mainly because to me he's just such a terrible president. He's just incompetent and arrogant. He's perfect for a cartoonist. At this point it's hard not to take shots at him. I can understand why people would feel I'm a huge liberal just because whoever is president gets most of my focus. When Clinton was president I was always hitting him, especially over the Monica Lewinsky scandal. But he actually was a pretty good president. He was not a stupid person and he cared about running the government, and I think Bush is the opposite. I don't think he cares, and I think he's pretty stupid. So it's more of a competence thing for me than a left wing/right wing.

How would you describe your political orientation? I try and view each issue independently. I think it would be fair to call myself a liberal, because I think I'm for most of what the Democratic Party stands for. I want to see us get out of Iraq in some sort of phased withdrawal. I'm for fiscal responsibility, which the Democrats seem to be for and the Republicans don't seem to be. So I think it's fair to say I'm a liberal.

How much does anger and outrage propel your work? It propels my work quite a bit. For instance, the one today, I did something on the talk of war with Iran. It's just so annoying. Yesterday, Dana Perino, who is the White House spokesperson, someone asked her based on this Sy Hirsch article in the New Yorker whether we're going to war with Iran. She said we're going to pursue a diplomatic solution first of all. Well you know, diplomacy involves talking, and Bush doesn't talk to people he doesn't like. So I'm pissed off. But the way to get people to pay attention is to use humor. So that's where the difficulty for me comes in. I'm so pissed off by the incompetence and the arrogance, but I want to make my point and I want to be funny so people want to look at what I have to say. So that's what I have to focus on, to get my opinions across in a humorous way.

Will your show at TEW Galleries be the first time you've shown in an art gallery? Does this signal a shift in the reception of political cartooning much like R. Crumb made the jump from underground comix to art galleries? I've never had a local art gallery show my stuff before. I just think that Timothy Tew at TEW Galleries saw a potential there, that people might be interested in my work and [he] understands that editorial cartooning is an art form. He's looking to bring interesting things to his gallery, and I think that was his motivation.

Your caricatures of President Bush definitely get the cowboy posture right. They also exaggerate his ears to Mickey Mouse proportions, and yet he is ironically the one president who listens the least. What's with the big ears? Well, he has actually very small features: He's got a very small little nose, little, kind of beady eyes, even a small mouth. So his ears were the kind of one big thing on him. And I use it as a way to kind of – because I personally don't like him – it's a way to kind of mock him. He bought his ranch in Texas a year before he ran for president. It's all phony. Even the way he walks is phony. He tries so hard to be this Texas cowboy, which he's not. But you know, a lot of people bought it. I don't think too many people are buying it now. That's why I draw his arms out like that; that's the way he holds himself, and it just seems so fake to me.

So are there certain people it's really hard to caricature? Does great beauty not lend itself to caricature? As a general statement that would be true. If a person's a really good-looking person, they are harder to draw. Although there are some good-looking people, like Tom Cruise is a good-looking guy, but there's something goofy about him and something sort of crazy about him. So even though he's a good-looking person, I enjoy drawing his caricature. He usually has his mouth in some big, huge smile, kind of crazy-looking. When I think about him I think about him jumping on Oprah's couch. Even good-looking people have certain characteristics to their face.


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