The following is excerpted from Mike Sacks's And Here's the Kicker." (And his book can be ordered by a link below)
How to describe Roz Chast? During an interview with Roz Chast at the 2006 New Yorker Festival, comedian Steve Martin read aloud from one of her cartoons. It was a fictional help-wanted classified, touting the “opportunity of a lifetime.” Among the many absurd qualifications, applicants were expected to have an up-to-date trucker’s license and knowledge of quantum physics. There is so much literature involved,” Martin remarked about this cartoon, and others. “So much writing.”
Chast has always been a master at finding the perfect balance between the literary and the visual. Her cartoons do not depend on funny pictures to sell the joke. But, at the same time, they never seem overcrowded and dense with needless explanation or rambling punch lines. She’s a rarity among her creative brood—a cartoonist whose humor can be appreciated without the drawings.
As with all great writers, she has a fascination with the tiny, seemingly insignificant details that are usually and all too easily ignored. Her cartoons—which have appeared in The New Yorker since 1978—have featured an array of hilarious and over-the-top characters, some of whom bear an uncanny resemblance to her own family members.
But many of Chast’s most famous creations are insentient and not in any way alive, beyond their tendency to mouth off. Chast has devoted entire comics to those items usually relegated to the background and usually ignored—wallpaper, lamps, boxes, electrical cords. She specializes in finding the “inner voice” of these objects—or, as her mother once referred to it, the “conspiracy of the inanimate.” In one late seventies cartoon, she gave a toaster a bow tie, a vase a string of pearls, and dressed a grandfather clock in a skirt and a straw hat. (“You can dress them up,” she wrote in the accompanying caption, “but you can’t take them out.”).
Born and raised in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn in the mid-fifties, Chast did not grow up aspiring to become a professional cartoonist. Even when she began drawing—her first original comic strip, which featured two anthropomorphic birds named Jacky and Blacky, was created at the age of five—it never crossed her mind that she might someday make a living in cartoons. But within only a few months after graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design (which she attended with the future members of Talking Heads), Chast was already publishing her work in Christopher Street magazine and The Village Voice, and, still in her twenties, she was invited to join the approximately forty cartoonists under contract with The New Yorker. Today, Chast lives with her two children and husband, humor writer Bill Franzen, in Ridgefield, Connecticut, where she continues to write and illustrate her cartoons, as well as the occasional book.
Roz Chast's art can be found in these books:Books by Roz Chast and And Here's the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers on their Craft