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Nick Galifianakis began editorial cartooning for USA Today in 1992. Following that, he worked with then-wife Carolyn Hax to create the advice column ‘Tell Me About It” (now simply “Carolyn Hax”) in 1997 for The Washington Post. The column and cartoon are now syndicated. An exhibit of his cartoon prints is currently on display in Falls Church. For the record, Nick says, people have a much easier time pronouncing his last name now that his cousin Zach Galifianakis has become a Hollywood phenomenon.
Washington City Paper: What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?
Nick Galifianakis: I’m the world’s greatest relationship cartoonist—-it’s because I’m the world’s only relationship cartoonist—-which also makes me the world’s worst relationship cartoonist.
WCP: When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?
NG: Durham, N.C., in the 1960s.
WCP: Why are you in Washington now? What neighborhood or area do you live in?
NG: We moved here when I was seven and other than travels and college—-I’ve lived abroad and all around this country, but somehow I’ve come back to a house that’s five minutes from my high school in Falls Church City.
WCP: What is your training and/or education in cartooning?
NG: Stealing from others. I have had no formal training whatsoever. None. I always doodled and I remember like it was yesterday when my father brought home The Arts of David Levine and it just blew my little mind. My father, Peter, a well-known fine artist, is one of my great, great influences. For cartoonists though, first Levine, and then I discovered Oliphant and then Searle and then MacNelly and that generation. And then I saw the possibilities when I met Richard Thompson. He was a plot point – a shift – because Richard was a peer. He was a game changer. I looked at the guys I had idolized until that point, and I realized Richard was as good as they were. I saw in real human form what excellence was. In one masterstroke he humbled me, and at the time, I needed humbling. I recognized that the best I could ever be was Magic Johnson, because Richard was Michael Jordan. When I showed up, I had thought I was Michael Jordan.
WCP: Who are your influences?
NG: There are a lot of dead guys that influenced me. Post-Richard Thompson is when I made a real effort to pay attention and to hone my craft, which really meant stealing in a smarter way. Daumier became my god. And then I started looking at a variety of artists and learning what I could. I copied Degas. I copied Toulouse-Lautrec. Vuillard – from him, I got the idea that you could throw a pattern against a pattern against a pattern and that it wouldn’t be muck, it would actually work and that informs my hatching style. My hatching style is equally informed by etchings where I discovered that you could give volume by following form. We could carry this on for three hours – it’s a whole ‘nother conversation.
WCP: If you could, what in your career would you do over or change?
NG: I would have worked at my gift at a much younger age. The first half of my career, I felt like I was catching up the whole time.
WCP: What work are you best-known for?
NG: My Washington Post “Carolyn Hax” cartoons. I have a book of them coming out—-If You Loved Me, You’d Think This Was Cute: Uncomfortably True Cartoons About You. My cousin Zach wrote the foreword. Though the book doesn’t officially come out until Nov. 23, advance copies will be available at my book signing on Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. at the Falls Church Art Space. For those of you that happen to be traipsing around D.C. two nights before [that’d be today!], I’ll be at the National Press Club Book Fair.
WCP: What work are you most proud of?
NG: I have a tough time answering that. All I see is the possibility of what I could do.
WCP: What would you like to do or work on in the future?
NG: I love the social commentary that I’m lucky enough to turn out, but I would like to do books and some larger scale works in my style that aren’t for reproduction, but would hang on a wall.
WCP: What do you do when you’re in a rut or have writer’s block?
NG: I’m such an ADD freak that I just engage some of my coping mechanisms. I will pester my studio mate Kevin Rechin so he misses his deadlines, I’ll contact fellow artists and tell them to come up with an idea for me… seriously, I read. I’ll walk around the house, I’ll call a friend, I’ll stroll in the yard. I do all of these things now because my greatest writer’s block-buster, my dog Zuzu, is gone. Whenever I was pulled in different directions, I would stop and crawl under my drawing board with my dog and hug her and fall asleep. I call it Deep Fur Inhalation Therapy. I would wake up and more often than not, I would have some part of an answer.
WCP: What do you think will be the future of your field?
NG: It’s simply going to be technological change, as it always has been. It’s certainly not going to be storytelling change.
WCP: What’s your favorite thing about D.C.?
NG: It’s home. And everything that that means.
WCP: Least favorite?
NG: It’s home. And everything that that means.
WCP: What monument or museum do you take most out-of-town guests to?
NG: I have a little tour that I do between the two wings of the National Gallery of Art. I have my own little tour.
WCP: Do you have a website or blog?