See All Topics

Home / Section: Comic history

Mort Gerberg: A career of diversification

Notes taken live during Mort Gerberg’s presentation:

When Mort began his career, he was told cartooning was a dying art, so he decided to diversify. Over the course of his career he did his magazine cartoons, editorial illustration, comic strips, cartoons for late-breaking news on television, appearances on children’s show, newspaper reporting, advertising designs, writing books (40 books so far), children’s books

At the 25 year anniversary of the publishing of his book “Cartooning: The Art and the Business” he industry is “still dying,” but his advice the book is still quite relevant.

Mort likes political cartooning but because the New Yorker doesn’t do editorial cartoons, he had to sneak them in subtly.

After the Bush Gore election, he was riding the train to the New Yorker office and had a great idea for a cartoon on the matter. He quickly pulled out some paper and drew up the cartoon on the subway and presented it to the magazine. They bought it and published it four days later.

He tried to do a comic strip – because he was told by Mel Lazarus that syndication was the way to cartoon fame and fortune. He started a strip called Koky with Richard O’Brian with TMS and ran for a couple of years. “It was really fun to do” but it was never a financial success. He also did a panel cartoon for TMS in the 1980s called Hang in There. He was asked by United Media to take over the There Ought to Be a Law that he did for a while.

He also started to do a live on the spot cartoon for late breaking news on a local television news station. He “covered” the inauguration of Richard Nixon. The examples Mort is showing the audience appears like an Andy Rooney segment where he introduces a topic and then they show him draw the cartoon and ends with a punch-line. He had to practice drawing the cartoon 35 times the night before so he could get the timing right. Eventually, 16 weeks later, they started taping the segment.

He guest starred on the old “Lamb Chop” children’s television show. The skit has him trying to convince one of the puppet characters to draw the letter “U” – and the puppet thinks he’s saying “ewe” – kind of like a “Who’s on first” comedy skit.

He did advertising cartoons for Brooks Brothers, Weber Grills, Fidelity Investments, HBO and Motorola.

He’s published 40 books for children, cartoon collections, and political humor. His latest book is called “Last Laughs” about collection of 131 cartoons on aging. Best gag: St. Peter is talking to a man at the pearly gates: “You have more money than God. That’s a big no.”

Community Comments

#1 Larry Trepel
January/30/2009
@ 5:19 pm

Just wanted to add that Mort also taught a lot of people cartooning at the New School.
I took his class over twenty years ago, he was an excellent instructor, supportive and precise in his comments. My sporadic but enjoyable work as a magazine cartoonist is much due to him.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.