Cartoon Death Match: Four cartoonists go in, one comes out. And then three more come out a little bit after. The door is only so wide.
Last night, as part of Satire Fest—the convention for the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists, which descends on San Francisco this weekend—two hometown scribblers (Bad Reporter artist Don Asmussen and former Chronicle cartoonist Mike Cappozola) squared off with two out-of-town challengers (Vishavjit Singh of Sikhtoons and anti-capitalist political cartoonist Stephanie McMillan) at the Cartoon Art Museum to determine once and for all who was San Francisco’s favorite cartoonist…or at least, favorite cartoonist who bothered to show up. The Cartoon Art Museum was packed with fellow cartoonists from around the world, a few of whom proved their professional pedigree by forgoing the entertainment and staying glued to the bar.
Satire Fest, which is open to the public and runs through Saturday, includes panels and discussions on serious issues like cartoonists who face prison time for the mere act of doodling funny pictures in the wrong country, but it also boasts tongue-in-cheek business like last night’s face off. The throwdown was a special production of Literary Death Match, the traveling competitive reading series actor Michael C. Hall once called “A highbrow, lowbrow literary clusterfuck,” which is very close to the language we used about his final season on Dexter. Each artist had seven minutes to impress the judges with his or her best cartooning. As journalists, we of course have no concept of laughter and mirth, but well-adjusted humanoids assure us this was all very funny. At any rate, 13 of the best burns, digs, and shenanigans:
1. “We’re bringing together writers and cartoonists tonight to show everyone what alcoholism really looks like.”
—Our Death Match emcee “warms up” the crowd
2. “For those who don’t know me, which should be everyone, I’m very funny. But I’m French, so I don’t really need your laughter. Also, I can draw penises.”
—Panel judge and comedian Clara Bijl introduces herself
3. “I was born looking like an old white man. After a hospital stay as a teenager I came out briefly looking like a beautiful girl. Mother Nature was very confused.”
—Vishavjit Singh gives us entirely too much personal background
4. “Jesus, do I really have to stand? I thought I was done exercising for the evening after I walked from the car.”
—Panel judge and Last Gasp publisher Ron Turner on the rigors of judging
5. “Thank you.”
—Don Asmussen, responds to a round of boos at his introduction
6. “’Australia Disrupts ISIS Terror Plot: Attack planned after next 20 hour sleep cycle.’ If you know a lot about koalas that’s very funny.”
—Asmussen justifies his punchline to the judges
7. “It’s good you got some injured babies in there. That’s very 2014. No one likes babies anymore.”
—Bijl on Asmussen
8. “I had a strip in the Chronicle for four years until they discovered they could fill that same space with ads. Here’s one of my Walking Dead parodies with fast food icons. I call it ‘The Unhappy Meal.' As you can see, Colonel Sanders, famous fast food icon, not fast enough this time.”
—Mike Capozzola introduces his work
9. “You should have stayed in high school. Your best work was then.”
—Turner on Capozzola
10. “Was the vegan joke necessary? In San Francisco we have militant vegans who will punch you right in the face. It doesn’t hurt, but still.”
—Panel judge Will Durst on Capozzola
11. “Here I am at the first protest I ever organized: me and three other people. Here I am giving a speech to Occupy Miami about why capitalism is evil. Here’s my new book: Capitalism Must Die.”
—Stephanie McMillan suddenly harshes our mellow
12. “There’s poor people who need aid and what do we send? A cartoonist. Wonderful.”
—Turner on McMillan
13. "You're from Florida. That's a tough handicap to overcome."
—Durst on McMillan
In the end, McMillan beat Asmussen in a third-round faceoff of comic book Pictionary, where the tipsy cartoonists in the crowd were permitted to shout hints for the competitors. We kept quiet out of a sense of journalistic objectivity, and also because we were on Asmussen’s side of the room.