The Day David Sipress Became a Cartoonist

David Sipress writes:

In the fall of 1969, I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to quit graduate school at Harvard, where I was enrolled in a master’s program in Soviet studies. As the euphoria brought on by my boldness began to fade, an overwhelming anxiety about consequences took over…

Chief among my real-world worries was that by leaving school I had forfeited my educational draft deferment. This was at the height of the Vietnam War, and every day I expected to find my draft notice in the mail… 

But the draft was only part of the problem. Leaving school had landed me in the middle of an existential crisis: I had only ever been one thing—a student—so who was I now?


“Perhaps I’m a cartoonist,” I thought one morning as I sat in bed drawing on a newsprint pad. Why not? After all, the wonderful thing about deciding to call myself a cartoonist, I realized, was that no official validation was necessary. I had a pen; I had paper; I was drawing—that was all it took to make it official.

The New Yorker excerpts a few pages from David Sipress
autobiography What’s So Funny?: A Cartoonist’s Memoir