Published on Saturday, June 24, 2000 in the Manchester Guardian
Bored With Bush/Gore, Cartoonist Feiffer Gives Up His Strip
Voice of liberal America for 44 years to focus on life 'outside six panels'
by Duncan Campbell in Los Angeles
One of America's most celebrated political cartoonists is putting down his pen because he feels there is no humour to be found in George W Bush or Al Gore. The breakfast tables of much of liberal America this weekend will not be graced by Jules Feiffer, the subtle chronicler of his some of his country's most turbulent moments for nearly half a century.
Feiffer has already alerted his devoted band of readers on both sides of the Atlantic to his departure. One of his characters, a dancer, upbraids him in a strip for giving up and he replies: "I'm a political cartoonist and it's become a real problem. The material I have to work with - Al Gore, George W Bush - when I grew nostalgic over Bill Clinton, I knew it was time to go."
The dancer - based on a very early girlfriend - tells him: "You were a young man dating girls when you started drawing this comic strip." He replies in the cartoon: "And now, three children and a grandchild later, I'm giving it up. Don't you think I have a life outside these six panels?"
Feiffer, whose cartoon had run every Sunday in the Los Angeles Times, the Miami Herald and the Chicago Tribune, as well as more than 100 US Sunday papers and the Observer, started drawing for New York's Village Voice in 1956. He articulated the voice of perplexed liberal America in much the same way that Posy Simmonds later did for perplexed liberal Britain in the Guardian.
Before the arrival of Gary Trudeau's Doonesbury it was Feiffer who exposed the hypocrisies of US politicians and satirised the times of LBJ and Nixon, of Reagan and Clinton. He said he had learnt his "contempt for abusive authority" in the army.
His departure not long after the death of Charles Schulz, the creator of Peanuts, ends another era of American cartooning. He has explained on his website that he wants to spend more time on other projects and escape the "drumbeat of deadlines".
"I was no longer having fun," said Feiffer, 71, who teaches a course in "humour and truth" at Long Island University's Southampton College. He said he had made his decision about three months ago and wanted to quietly fade from view.
But he decided to say a long goodbye to his readers, some of whom have followed the Sunday strip since it started.
Feiffer will not be idle. There are screenplays, children's books, plays, teaching and one-off cartoons for the New York Times, the New Yorker and Rolling Stone.
"The Reagan years gave me lots of material, like the Nixon years did," he said. "Clinton and his weirdness gave me material but he really wasn't fun because I started out liking him."
One cartoon suggested that President Clinton should not have been impeached for his behaviour but "grounded" like an adolescent.
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2000