New Yorker cartoonist visits Macomb

Josh Defibaugh
Danny Shanahan, a famous cartoon artist for the New Yorker spoke at Western Illinois University Thursday Nov. 5, 2015.

Savannah Whitley

 On the dreary night of Thursday, Nov. 5, the small Lecture Hall 212 of Tillman was packed with bodies anxiously waiting to see cartoonist Danny Shanahan.

 Shanahan, most famous for his work in the New Yorker, has been a professional cartoonist for almost 30 years. Shanahan has contributed more than 1,000 cartoons and 10 covers to The New Yorker and has been published in other noteworthy publications such as Time, Newsweek, Playboy, Esquire, Parade, Barron’s, and the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the Chicago Tribune. Shanahan is no stranger to the pen, and his light-hearted work proves it.

 Thanks to a few busted projectors and some un-tech-savvy hosts, the lecture started a little off course. Instead initially showing the audience examples of his talent with the PowerPoint he set up, Shanahan got to talk and answer some questions while waiting for the projectors to, well, project. Shahanan covered a wide array of topics: talked about his career, his style and his start.

 Shanahan’s career started many years before his first publication. Before there was Playboy or The New Yorker, there was fun. Shanahan spent his childhood doodling. While “cartoonist” wasn’t in young Shanahan’s head, his talent and passion was always present.

 “I was all over the place,” Shanahan said. “I always just drew. When I was young I always drew cartoons, but I never thought about being a cartoonist … I just wanted to be an artist. I really wasn’t sure of what direction I would take.”

 Once Shanahan did find his calling, it didn’t take him long to find his play at The New Yorker. In 1988 it started to publish his work and by 1989, Shanahan had a contract … and the frustrations that come with being a full-time cartoonist.

 Each week, Shanahan draws about 10 different cartoons for the publication from his studio at home, but on a good week only a few get used. As any artists know, rejection comes with the territory. Despite some of Shanahan’s favorite work not making the cut, Shanahan has learned some wisdom over the years that he shared with the audience: Rejection is not the end of the world, even though it feels like it is.

 “The thing about rejection is it’s never ending, really,” Shanahan said. “I’ve found that I don’t take rejection as well as I thought I did … I just keep going. My theory is if you send them 10 cartoons and if they reject them all, send them 12. If you send them 12 and they reject them all, send them 15. Of course you have to put a cap on that, because I would be sending 50 a week by now, but I just persevere through it. You have to remember it’s not personal.”

Once the audience got to see some insight into Shanahan’s life and learned a few life lessons from the artist’s words, it seemed technology was finally on his side.

After about 20 minutes of talking, Shanahan’s PowerPoint presentation started to work. Once cartoons were plastered on the screen, the whole crowd was left giggling at the cartoonist’s work. Shanahan’s fun and witty humor translated well as he showed the audience everything from his most published work to his underrated favorites. Even a few advertisements he did got a few laughs.

Some may argue Shanahan’s unique timeless style may come from his old school medium — pen and paper with watercolor, never digital — but what really sets Shanahan’s work apart is his light hearted humor.

While a lot of artist tend to lean towards in your face, overly political and in your face, Shanahan keeps it simple but quick witted. Shanahan’s humor is light and fun, but not boring. There is something extremely refreshing about an artist keeping it simple and smart. While some of his work is controversial, like a female bomber’s dress flying up or a old lady about to fall on some banana peels, other work is just simply funny, like Lassie “getting help” in therapy.

“You can find humor in everything,” Shanahan said. “I don’t really care about what people think is funny, it just has to make me laugh.”

If you are interested in owning some of Shanahan’s work, prints of Shanahan’s timeless pieces are for sale on The New Yorker’s website ( and Shanahan sells originals on his own website (