Phil McAndrew is an illustrator, cartoonist and writer. His books include Crying In Front Of Your Dog And Other Stories (Uncivilized Books), Monster Science (Kids Can Press), and the Caveboy Dave series of graphic novels (Viking Books). He has also contributed comics and humor to The New Yorker, MAD Magazine, The Nib, Popula, and many other publications. Phil lives in Syracuse, NY.
Where did you get your wit? How old were you? And were you deemed sarcastic and punished for it?
I don’t really know. My family isn’t very religious, but for some reason my parents had me baptized as a baby. In the middle of the ceremony I apparently peed all over my dad, so I suppose it’s possible that I’ve simply been a brilliant humorist since birth.
How has being in NYC influenced your work? Does it have a big impact on your perspective as a cartoonist? How so?
I don’t live in New York City. I love the city and I visit often, but I’ve never lived there and I don’t expect that to change any time soon. I like being surrounded by trees.
From what we know about creative entrepreneurs, it takes a special soul to put passion and people above profit… What has inspired you to also take this approach with your life?
Well, I always hated having to wake up early just to go sit at a desk all day at school. So I knew at a very young age that I didn’t want to grow up and get a job where I had to wake up early just to go sit at a desk in a boring office. And I love drawing and making up stories and jokes. I spent most of my time in school doodling in the margins of my school work, drawing stuff to try to make myself or my friends laugh. And I spent a number of years as a teenager and in my early 20’s working minimum wage jobs that really sucked the life out of me, so I’ll pretty much do whatever I can to avoid having to get a life-sucking job ever again.
Can you tell us a little about the amazing work you’re doing with The New Yorker? That mag rocks, by the way!
Thanks for the kind words! The first few things I drew for The New Yorker were collaborations with another cartoonist who had already been writing and drawing for The New Yorker for a while, Jason Adam Katzenstein. We’d been following each other’s work online and one day he sent a message asking if I’d like to collaborate on some things to pitch for the magazine’s website, which of course I said yes to. I’ve always wanted to draw for The New Yorker. I studied illustration in college and for my final project, my senior year, I actually mocked up fake New Yorker pages and did a bunch of illustrations for pieces of short fiction that I liked. So I’m really thankful Jason invited me to work on some stuff with him! He very much helped make a little career dream of mine come true. Anyways, Jason wrote up a few really funny pitches and I roughed out some drawings for them and then we pitched them to Emma Allen, the magazine’s humor and cartoon editor. I’ve since done some stuff for The New Yorker’s website that I wrote myself, but Jason and I are planning to continue working on some new pieces together as well.
Ultimately, what plans do you have in place for 2019, personally and professionally?
Personally, I’d just like to enjoy another trip around the sun and hopefully eat a few good sandwiches along the way. And I’d like to start playing music in a new band. I’ve played drums in a few bands in the past, just for fun with some friends. I miss doing that. Professionally, I’m hoping to find publishers for a couple of book projects that I finished writing during the second half of 2018. Ideally, I’ll spend a good chunk of 2019 working on illustrations for those books. And I’d like to continue making short comics and illustrated humor for some of my favorite magazines and websites. I’d also like to do more writing. I have a few more book ideas that I’d like to get started on and I’d also like to try changing things up a little by writing a book-length comic for someone else to illustrate. I also have a TV show idea that I’ve been sitting on for a long time now, pretty much since my first and so far only attempt at creating a TV show went into development but ultimately got canned back in 2012. Maybe in 2019 I’ll finally try to do something with this idea I’ve been sitting on.
Here’s an easy one – How does your work comment on current social or political issues?
When I was starting out, I didn’t really have any aspirations to write or draw about politics. I wanted to just make up fun stories and draw funny pictures. I still want to do that, but as I get older and as the Republican party seems to become more and more deranged and eager to destroy all life on the planet, I find it’s pretty much impossible to keep politics out of my work. I’ve drawn some overtly political stuff over the last few years, of course. But I definitely find politics sneaking into my work in less obvious ways too. When you’ve got a dangerous, foolish, self-obsessed, racist, sexual predator in the white house… it almost feels like it would be irresponsible not to say something about that, and about the people that support and enable someone so evil, in my work.
Who are your biggest influences?
Jim Henson, Ronald Searle, Sergio Aragonés, B. Kliban, Tom Bunk, André François, Jean-Jacques Sempé, Martin Handford, Quentin Blake, Edward Gorey, old Monty Python stuff and Terry Gilliam’s movies from the 80’s and 90’s, tv shows like The Adventures of Pete & Pete and Kids in the Hall…. uh… there are others that I’m forgetting. And a lot of the illustrators and cartoonists that I’ve known personally have influenced me in one way or another. People like Britt Wilson, Vicki Nerino, David King, Kate Beaton, Natasha Allegri, Frank Gibson and Becky Dreistadt, Pendleton Ward…
Are you having fun?
After all is said and done, what do you want to be remembered for? And by extension, what do you want the people to say about the work you’ve done?
I hope that I’m remembered for my genius level intellect and for being extremely muscular and beautiful and for being very good at kissing. But really, If I’m remembered at all or if my work is remembered at all, I guess it would be nice to be remembered for making tour absurd world just a little tiny bit funnier, a tiny bit weirder.