Cartoonist Pat Byrnes’ Confessions

If you ask cartoonist Pat Byrnes, the best comeback in history is in the Bible and was brought to us by cartooning. The Pharisees tried setting a trap for Jesus, to which he responds by drawing in the sand.

Born and raised in an Irish Catholic family in Detroit, Byrnes is now a renowned cartoonist who has been published in The Washington Post and The New Yorker, among other places.

Byrnes, the brother of Archbishop Michael J. Byrnes — current archbishop of Agaña, Guam, and a former Detroit auxiliary bishop — said he has been cartooning for as long as he can remember.

The Byrnes brothers spent their formative years in Detroit, attending St. Mary of Redford Parish in Detroit and attending Detroit Catholic Central High School. In school, the brothers took Latin together.

A fellow student glanced over at Byrnes and caught him doodling and invited him to join the school newspaper as the cartoonist.

“That was a big step for me, to make the high school paper,” Byrnes said. “It was a chance to see stuff in print, and that’s when you really start to reap the benefits of an Irish Catholic upbringing because shame is a powerful motivator,” Byrnes joked — tongue in cheek about his propensity to notice all the little flaws in his work.

Byrnes had no clue how to tell his Depression-era parents that he wanted to be a cartoonist, nor did he know how to become one. However, on a campus tour of the University of Notre Dame, he found his way in.

“I went to Notre Dame because they had a student-run, daily newspaper, and that would give me an opportunity to see more (garbage) in print and be shamed into improving it,” Byrnes joked.

Hoping to stock more good marks in St. Peter’s Book at The Pearly Gates
cartoonist Pat Byrnes agrees to sit down with Detroit Catholic (via CNS).

© Pat Byrnes