By MARK J. GROSS
The 49th Philly Non-Sports Card Show in Allentown, PA., was held on October 2008, and I was one of the many who attended this card collector’s paradise. With so many vendors and anything past, present and even future card sets on the horizon, this is a show that boasts the collecting of those addictive non-sports cards that we remember and are still being collected. Card sets that reflect sci-fi, fantasy, horror and nostalgia films, TV series, comic book characters and many more genre cards are on display.
Along with the card sets available to view, fans can meet the artists. Some of the artists in attendance showing their sketch cards were Kate Bradley (Women of Marvel), Dennis Budd (Lord of the Rings) and Jim Kyle (Avengers). Their genre art was an incredible display of talent.
But my favorite, who I anticipated meeting, was the wildly popular Hollywood and political cartoonist, Drew Friedman. Besides his political and celebrity illustrated parodies, Friedman has worked on Heavy Metal magazine, Wacky Packages, Topps series cards called Hollywood Zombies, Weirdo comics, which featured well known iconic artist R Crumb, the New York Observer, Wall Street Journal, New Republic magazine and he has been with MAD Magazine for the past 20 years. And, his books, Old Jewish Comedians and More Old Jewish Comedians, are a huge hit. Steven Heller, in the New York Times Book Review, stated, “Friedman might very well be the Vermeer of the Borscht Belt.”
Friedman makes rare appearances at conventions, so it was a thrill to have the opportunity to speak with him and find out how he began creating this realistically wacky art.
Mark Gross: How did you begin as an artist?
Drew Friedman: I did a lot of comic books at first with my brother, but my father is a writer [Bruce Jay Friedman] and my parents always encouraged me to be creative.
Who were some of your influences?
I was always a huge fan of MAD Magazine and Warner Brothers cartoons, and Basil Wolverton and Jack Davis were favorites of mine; Mort Druker, a lot of the MAD guys and then later, Robert Crumb.
With MAD Magazine, did you go to them, or vice versa?
When I was in my 20s, I didn’t want to contribute to MAD because I really wanted to contribute to underground comics, National Lampoon, that sort of thing, but MAD was uninteresting to me. Then years later, I actually got a call from MAD, and I said, sure I’ll do a page for you. The thing was MAD actually liked to keep all original artwork, so I said, if I can get back my original art I would do it, and we agreed, so I have been part of their “usual gang of idiots” ever since!
How did you begin drawing more politically-based art?
Well, it started with magazine assignments, starting with drawings of the first George Bush, and then Bill Clinton. I worked for a humor magazine called Spy a few years back, and most of the pieces I did for them were political drawings. That’s what they wanted and it evolved from different assignments—I didn’t set out to do political artwork.
How did the Old Jewish Comedians and More Old Jewish Comedians books begin?
I had a friend who edits these Blab books, and he said what sort of project would you like to do next? I thought about what I enjoy drawing the most—old Jews and comedians—so I just combined them.
Have you received any feedback from the celebrities you draw?
Some of them have bought the artwork, and depending how far I go with a celebrities art work, sometimes I get a call from an individual subject and they want to buy that piece of artwork from me. Howard Stern had bought a few pieces, producer Harvey Weinstein has as well. I have gotten calls from Jerry Lewis, Freddie Roman, Larry Storch and Jerry Stiller who have loved seeing these two books. Sid Caesar and Don Rickles were both upset telling me I got their real names wrong. I did the research, but, still had to print a correction in the next book.
Were any celebrities not happy with your rendition of them?
Woody Allen was upset with my drawing a couple years ago. He was offended because he said I drew him with too many freckles on his face. But I distinctly remember him in the film Play it Again Sam, and the camera comes in on him when he is sitting in a theater watching Humphrey Bogart, and you can plainly see all the freckles all over his face! He is very sensitive and touchy about his appearance. I love Woody, so I was upset that he was upset.
Do you collect any autographs yourself?
Yes. I have a few. I have Groucho Marx, Gilda Radner, Jerry Orbach, and I have a few signed things from artists I admire, such as Robert Crumb who is one of my favorites.
Perhaps someday Friedman will do a drawing of me. I’m already Jewish, and sometimes a comedian, or so I may just think.