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Interviewed: Roz Chast and her career

Richard Gehr interviews here for The Comics Journal.

GEHR: When did you first approach The New Yorker?

CHAST: In April of ?78 I was still living at home with my parents, which was not good. I don?t think they wanted me there any more than I wanted to be there, but I didn?t know what else to do. I decided to call up The New Yorker even though I didn?t think my stuff was right for them. I found out that drop-off day was Wednesday. I didn?t know how to do it, but I had one of those brown envelopes with the rubber band. I left like sixty drawings in this thing. When I went back the next week to pick them up, there was a note inside that said, ?Please see me. ? Lee.? At first I couldn?t read it because it had this very loopy handwriting. There was a little anteroom and you had to be buzzed in. A very intimidating woman with red hair named Natasha used to sit there like she was guarding the gates. She read the note and said, ?You can go in and see him.? It was a really scary feeling, like I wish I were not here. I still didn?t think I was going to sell a cartoon. I thought Lee [Lorenz] was going to give me some bullshit talk like, ?This is very interesting work, little lady.? But they ended up buying a drawing. I was pretty shocked, but he said to come back every week with stuff.

I met Roz Chast last fall at the Festival of Cartoon Art. Funny lady. Great cartoonist.

Community Comments

#1 Jacquie Roland
@ 12:29 pm

I’ve yet to meet funny lady Roz Chast, but I remember “Natasha” rather well from my few attempts at selling to The New Yorker.
I, too, had a note to meet Lee Lorenz, but mine was sent to Lee by my editor, Nye Willden, who thought I might stand a chance at a few sales.
I remember handing it to her ( I didn’t know her name was Natasha )… she looked at it and said “No.” She then closed that little window, and went back to whatever she was doing. I was so intimidated, I didn’t go back for a month.
I don’t remember what year it was, a LOOONG time ago. I met Jack Ziegler the next time I went… it was the day he sold his first cartoon/cartoons to The New Yorker, you do the math. :- )

#2 Tom Wuthrich
@ 9:43 pm

Enjoyed your interview with Roz Chast! I believe I sent exactly one batch to the NYer early on. Before I could send a second, I read an interview somewhere with Henry Martin. He said he’d sent a batch a week (or something like that)
for FIVE YEARS before they finally took something. I never did get around to submitting a second batch. Closest I came to being “in” the New Yorker was having a toon of mine included in the food anthology, “All You Can Eat,” as well as on the back cover. I believe I was the only non-NYer cartoonist in that book, edited by Sam Gross. Happy to have discovered The Daily Cartoonist. Hope to return often.

#3 Andrew Birch
@ 11:16 am

I’m a British cartoonist and love Roz, too – although sometimes I don’t get all the references. I sent stuff to the New Yorker for a year or so until the penny dropped that they only use American cartoonists, and even then you have to serve an apprenticeship of suffering by rejection until one day you may have one picked…

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