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Meet the Artist: Warren Miller

May 13, 2010
Miller, January 13, 1973

"I forget the name of the product, but the jingle on TV goes something like 'Yadee-dum-dee-rahte-dum-dee-rah-dee-dum.'"

Warren Miller has been a New Yorker cartoonist for more than four decades, and during that time the drawings he’s produced in his classic pen and ink wash style resemble a catalog of changing trends across all subjects. From business and technology to pop culture and politics, Warren has strained it all through his keen powers of observation and lightning-quick wit. During our lunch with him, we absorbed some fun facts about him (though he didn’t know it at the time, he went to school in the same town as fellow future cartoonist Gahan Wilson) as well as about The New Yorker itself.

TCB: When do you first remember being interested in drawing?

WM: When I was a little tiny person, my father was a commercial artist, and my grandfather was an engraver and also drew. I sent in my first cartoon to the Saturday Evening Post when I was around seven and a half. It was of a little Arabian boy outside a tent in the desert, with camels around, asking his father to build him a sandbox. And actually, many years later, Mischa Richter published a cartoon in The New Yorker that made a similar joke. Great minds think alike.

TCB: What other things do you remember drawing when you were young?

WM: I drew a lot of war things, and my cousin and I used to make comics.

TCB: When did you start to consider cartooning as a career?

WM: I had gone to college for commercial art for a year before transferring to another college. There I had a double major in art and anthropology, and was thinking of going into museum work. After I graduated, I was working at the post office (what do you do with a B.A.? You get a job at the P.O.), and I met this guy who had worked with the sculptor Henry Moore. I had sent some cartoons to Playboy in the past, so he said, “Why don’t you try submitting again?” So I started sending more work to other magazines, and out of the first batch I sent to Esquire, they bought some ideas.

Miller, January 23, 1984

"The Birth of the Martini"

TCB: What was the first cartoon you had published in The New Yorker?

WM: It was in 1961, and the cartoon showed a guy in a hospital bed, with a computer-type machine coming in with a hypodermic needle, and the guy screaming, “Oh God, no! Not here!”

Miller, August 19, 1961

"Oh God, no! Not here!"

TCB: What are some changes you’ve seen at The New Yorker since the beginning of your career there?

WM: In the old days, the cartoon editor’s office was the holiest of holies; you couldn’t just walk right in. When I was first at the magazine, some of the cartoonists had offices. I had one, and James Stevenson had an office down the hall from me – he did a lot of children’s books, and would draw maybe one a week.

Stevenson, June 1, 1987

"I know so much that I don't know where to begin."

TCB: Who are some of your favorite New Yorker cartoonists, past and present?

WM: I was always a Charles Addams fan. And I liked Frank Modell and Saul Steinberg. Of cartoonists working today, I like Roz Chast and David Sipress.

Steinberg, February 4, 1961

By Saul Steinberg.

TCB: What advice would you give to an aspiring cartoonist?

WM: Persevere. If drawing is what makes you happy, you just have to find a way to do it.

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