Steve Kelley writes about his Katrina experience

As a cartoonist, what do you do when your intended audience is not in the mood to laugh? Steve Kelley, stand up comic and editorial cartoonist for the Times-Picayune, found himself in such a situation when Katrina hit New Orleans. He has written a very good piece in the Winter 2005 Nieman Reports about his experience and how he dealt with humor in a humorless situation.

Nothing–and I mean nothing–is more difficult to address in a political cartoon than the deadly duo of tragedy and despair. Calamitous events demand comment, yet defy the kind of treatment–sarcasm, cynicism, pies in the face–that cartoonists usually administer. There is simply a limit to how many times a cartoonist can draw Uncle Sam, hat in hand and his head bowed, and I had succumbed to that image most recently when Ronald Reagan died.

So it was with acute trepidation that on the day after Katrina made landfall, I called my editor to see what direction she wanted my cartoons to take. She confirmed my darkest fears. For the next several weeks, I should confine myself to cartoons about the hurricane, and the tone must be “appropriate.”

Dear God, no–anything but appropriate.

A PDF of the article is available for download and well worth your time.