Awards are handed out every year at The Reubens Dinner.
Most are annual acknowledgements, some are occasional.
The ACE Award is on the intermittent schedule.
The ACE Award, or Amateur Cartoonist Extraordinary award, is given to a celebrity or notable who aspired at one time to become a cartoonist, but whose path led them to an entirely different career.
In 2018 TV anchor/reporter Jake Tapper was so honored.
In 1991 it was another TV reporter who received the ACE Award—weatherman Al Roker.
In the mid-1970s Al was a TV weatherman in Syracuse, New York.
Toward the end of that stretch Al was also drawing a comic strip for the Syracuse New Times.
And for a very short time, Roker also put pen to paper as a Syracuse New Times cartoonist for the comic strip “Salt and Pepper,” which debuted in the Oct. 3, 1976, issue.
“I want the strip to reflect Syracuse,” noted Roker. “You know, a good time.”
With that, Roker married “Doonesbury”-style drollness to the Salt City scene, as his central characters Gregory Salt (a visual alter ego for the artist) and his Caucasian roommate McFarland W. Pepper lobbed then-timely shots at area politicians, multimillion-dollar edifices (such as the brand-new Civic Center), the deteriorating downtown picture (a background image in one panel depicts the Flah’s department store with a closed sign on its doors) and even local television programs (a spoof of rival weatherguy Bud Hedinger, who hosted Channel 3’s Bowling for Dollars).
Beyond the sometimes spicy seasoning of “Salt and Pepper,” however, Roker’s New Times’ stint was short and sweet. Roker drew just 10 strips before pulling the plug on his characters, as he pulled up his Syracuse stakes at year’s end to head for major-market status at a TV station in Washington, D.C.
The Syracuse New Times looks back to when Al Roker was their cartoonist.
Also, thanks to the New Times, we have the first and the last and every strip in between.
So here’s The Complete Salt & Pepper by Al Roker:
The ACE Awards of the National Cartoonists Society: