Given Our Planet’s Situation, Can A Cartoonist Always Be Funny? By Rick London

I have been co-creating Londons Times Cartoons, the Google #1 ranked offbeat webcomics on the Internet, with my team for over 14 years.  We’ve created 5000+ cartoons and over 1/4 million funny gifts & collectibles; many carried by Amazon, Sears, and other established firms.  Again, I’m proud.

A few weeks ago, an old childhood friend asked me how I can always “be funny” & added “You are #1 on the Internet.  You live on a ridgetop mountain paradise. Do you ever feel empathy or sadness?  There are different types of humor and though it all “comes from the same place, different events or visuals might trigger it. Do I feel sadness and/or anger or grief.  Of course and often lately with all the world tragedies. Just because we are somewhat buffered does not mean we don’t care what happens in our world.  What happens five thousand miles away, affects us. We all now live in a global village called “earth”.

At first I thought back to the BP Oil disaster in the Gulf Of Mexico. I grew up on that Gulf and it was magic to me as a child even up into young adulthood.  I loved everything about it. I swam there, fished there, skied there, flirted with girls there, ran with my dogs there. It was my life in many ways. In the blink of an eye it was destroyed, and though the oil is out of sight, out of mind, we all know things are not okay but a lot of chemicals; oil and dispersants have sunk to the bottom or halfway down.  Baby porpoises are floating to the beach. Sperm whales are nowhere to be found.  I created a Tony Hayward  BP cartoon which has become popular.

I had been thinking about starting Londons Times Generation Two Offbeat Cartoons, and funny gifts, but the oil spill was the only thing on my mind.  So I made a pledge to write a parody song regarding the oil spill every day until it was plugged; and I did. If I could have found a band to record them, the funds were to go to various Gulf animal and environmental causes.  Sadly, I was unable to recruit a band on spec who could do song parodies. But I was able to purge, in a jaded sarcastic way, humor, as angry as I was. Anyone who knows Lee knows how angry I was, and I could not shake it. The songwriting helped.  Posting them on my popular well-visited blog helped even more.

Then I mellowed out a bit after a number of nature hikes with Lee and though I never forgot the event, and never will (both of us have pledged never to buy gas or other BP-owned products), we have in our own way, moved past it.  Lee is from Oregon and has never seen the Gulf and all its natural beauty.

Then came the uprising in the Arab world. Though I occasionally do socio-political cartoons, it is not the norm. Most are offbeat in the spirit of, some critics have said, The Far Side, which I consider a compliment, though my goal from the start was to attempt to continue Gary Larson’s absurd spirit, but create it with less text and a more “fine-art” look. For the most part, that has worked out fine.

So I decided to create ideas about the dictators which is always fun. It gives one a chance to be iconoclastic without hurting anyone but lampoon those who has not hurt many others.  A few of the cartoons landed in a major newspaper in the Middle East and though I find nothing about nations in turmoil funny, again, I was able to find comedy in fear and anger and it happened.

Finally, there was the tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan and a lying company called Tepco.   I can’t explain how much it felt like watching the oil leak from Deep Horizon and Tony Hayward saying things weren’t so bad, and when busted by the media added, “I just want my life back”.  It reminded me of Yogi Berra’s great quote “Just like deja vu all over again”.   Now the citizens of Japan, one of our greatest allies if not our greatest, and good friend, was being destroyed, first by a natural disaster, which I know from Katrina can eventually be fixed, but then by a firm “Tepco” which seemed to play the game exactly like BP.  The sad thing is that the Japanese media seemed to go along with it; basically reading Tepco’s press releases as news, until evidence began showing what was being released as news, was not what was really happening.  Radiation was leaking everywhere.  Tepco was insisting it was not so bad.

Meanwhile radiation was covering the planet and it has now been found in nearly every country on the planet. It will go down in history as worse than Chernobyl.  My team created a two-headed frog cartoon lounging by the leaking plant reading a newspaper. The headlines read, “Nuclear Accident Safe, No Worries”. One frog head says to the other, “Looks like the media is telling us the truth. Nothing to worry about”.

Some mistook my jaded reaction to making fun of the event.  It was anything but that.  It was a message to Tepco and the complicit media that they have no right to hide the truth from their citizens (any more than BP had a right to do all they could to hide their disaster from us).    Again, there was nothing funny about this event, and it felt like BP was happening to them this time.  I was enraged.  But from that rage I was able to find a bit of humor. It was angry humor but humor nevertheless.

Then came the flurry of tornados. One hit our hometown of Hot Springs about 7.8 miles from us and we lost some of our Arkansas citizens.  This was a very sad time and even out of anger or fear, I found nothing funny, so I just stared at the news and went on hikes when I had the energy. I created a few items, but no cartoons.  It was a time of grief as the warnings kept coming and tornados were hitting ground and destroying cities and killing people and other living creatures.  I was too sad to get much done, but I allowed myself to be that sad.  Lee understood as she too was sad.

Neither of us had ever experienced anything like it, and I grew up outside of New Orleans, tornado and hurricane alley and went through the worst of them. It had been a way of life growing up. Now with global warming and climate changes, the tornado behavior was/is too.  All I knew is we were lucky to be surrounded my mountains, and though there is always a slight chance of one landing inside such a geographic area, it is very rare.  That did not take away the sadness I felt and still feel watching the people hit in Kansas, Alabama, Mo, etc try to pick up and put their lives back together.  No way to create cartoons (or much of anything) when you know people are experiencing such a tragedy.

I don’t enjoy creating cartoons out of fear or anger. To me, they are not as funny nor do they have the same feel of professionalism as do those that come out of my head when the world feels a bit stable and I am hiking/communing with nature.

So I founded Rick London Designs which include Sushi Wear (I kid you not) and love quote gifts (again no joke).  I don’t have to feel funny to create these gifts and collectibles.  I love sushi and I love shoes, so I make shoeshies (sushi shoes) at my These are fun creation, but I don’t have to “be funny” to create them, yet I have a wonderful outlet.

The love quote gifts and sushi items also just got picked up by our main manufacturer who is not a traditional POD but a private organization who chooses talent they want (creators cannot simply sign up with them), which means they are already beginning to show at Amazon and should soon be at Sears online and other outlets. Some of the sushi gifts at Amazon can be seen here.  The famous love quote gifts on Amazon can be seen here.

This makes me not feel angry, but that life is good.  And it is.  The world is a good world.  We live in a very good place.  Lee and I get to create for a living and she gets to hike and take photos and design products. I get to design products and think up cartoons and make gifts that make people laugh.  I can’t think of anything for which we would trade our lifestyle.  And as you can see, we still are a part of the world, feel sadness, happiness and all the other emotions persons in Metropolis feel.


Rick London says he’s a semi-pro blogger, a designer of sorts, a cartoonist who doesn’t draw well, and a professional twitterer who doesn’t like social media all that much.  He and his wife Lee enjoy hiking, outdoors, nature and wildlife and they live in the heart of the gorgeous Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas.  Lee is a professional wildlife and nature photographer who runs the popular blog She designs beautiful designer shoes, gifts, clothing and home decor at her Lee Hiller Designs Gift Shop.




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