News of Yore: Rube Goldberg Gets a Little Cranky

[from The Cartoonist, Summer 1957]

When I am asked to be a guest on radio or television I am always re­quested to “bring along one of your in­ventions”.

The invention phase of my varied career seems to expand with the years, so I now believe that in another gener­ation or two my bust will find a place alongside that of Galileo or da Vinci. But this disturbs me quite a little. I have done other things of which I am not completely ashamed—like using hu­man contrasts in a series (in verse, no less) called “Life’s Little Jokes”, which I believe furnished the inspiration for the use of queer names for principal cartoon characters and placing them in situations which contradict all the laws of logic.

For instance:

A bird by the name of Bicarbonate Lang
Liked to spend every night with a sociable gang;
While a gink by the name of Appendix McCloud
Sat alone every night, for he hated the crowd.
But, Lang, the poor guy, went and married a spouse
Who would not allow one of his friends in the house;
While, in marriage, McCloud also misery found—
for his wife had her relatives hang­ing around.

I need not say that any resemblance to Keats or Byron is purely coincidental.

I have also expounded certain general philosophies under the title, “They all look good when they’re far away” and “Now that you’ve got it what are you gonna do with it?,” to say nothing about having changed the trend of sculpture, architecture, balloon tires and interior decoration—especially chande­liers featuring acrobats defying the law of gravity.

Which leads me to the confession that for over twenty years I have been doing editorial cartoons. In some I have approached world problems with great reverence and in others have exposed dictators, aggressors, murderers and mil­itary upstarts to withering ridicule. But somehow those who remember my per­iods of insane “art” seem to think this is only a brief period of hibernation until I catch my breath for another go at the wild type of psychopathic car­tooning.

Let me assure these good souls that I take my political cartooning rather seriously and enjoy my identification with the world-shattering events of the day. I am still hoping for the return of the time when a political cartoon can swing an election or send those who abuse the trust of the people to a pro­longed stretch on the rock pile.

At the moment I still wonder how effective the present-day editorial cartoon is. I receive letters commenting favorably and adversely on some of my editorial efforts, showing that somebody reads them. But I regret to say I still wonder whether the political cartoon is largely a decoration for the editorial page- plus something that can be purloined by the Sunday paper around the country and spread over their editorial sections without benefit of remuneration to the cartoonist. It is generally considered an honor for an editorial cartoonist to have his work reproduced in Sunday papers and magazines. Inasmuch as it is uneth­ical to steal a comic strip, I am hoping that some day we editorial men can likewise be rewarded for reprints with a pack of cigarettes or a salami sandwich. We still wonder who reads our political cartoons – certainly not our friends. They are too busy looking at their own work. Let me admonish young cartoon­ists not to expect their friends or fam­ilies to follow their work. These tyros must seek their glory elsewhere.

When I was working out in San Francisco I used to spend part of my lunch hour standing in front of a cigar store with a friend of mine. I finally went to New York, where my cartoons won wide recognition. Five years later I returned to San Francisco for a visit, expecting to be received like a con­quering hero. I went to the old cigar store and I found my friend still stand­ing in his favorite place. He looked at me and said, “Hello, Rube. Have you been sick? I haven’t seen you around in a couple of weeks.”

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