Speedy Zawistowski, Gag Man

Yesterday’s notice of Speedy Zawistowski‘s passing got me searching.

I did find a couple references to Speedy in the Google Books preview of What Are You Nuts?,
Gag Recap editor Bill Keough‘s collection of some of his columns from that trade publication.

For instance Bill recounts how he and Speedy first met.



Later Speedy’s name came up in a conversation (a 2006 column).

© The Estate of Bill Keough

“Who’s Speedy Zawistowski?”  was what I was asking.

Finding very little I decided to go to the source. These days The New Gag Recap is run by Van Scott, who answered a few of my questions after digging into his archives.

Van sez:

I found Speedy’s very first column in December 2003.
Previously Bill had guest cartoonists and gag writers pen columns on a rotating basis called: Cartoonists and Gag Writers Forum.
Speedy contributed to this among all the others. At that time he titled his guest column ‘Bah Humbug’.

caricature by Gail 'Old Cat' Gerlach, cartoonist and art teacher

Van kindly transcribed portions of that first From Gags to Riches column:

Debut Column
Life with Speedy in gag writing’s fast lane
By Rollin ‘Speedy’ Zawistowski (Gag writer Par Excellence

My friend and mentor, Carl Koehler, who had a long career as  a cartoonist, humor writer and editor urged me to write a column for gag writers.

The title: Gags To Riches was suggested by Koehler. The goal of this column will be to facilitate communication between gag writers and help them make more $$$$$.

Since a new generation arrives every year, perhaps a description of the basic relationship-mechanics between gag writers and cartoonists are in order.

The gag writer types gags on a 3X5 cards, with the name stamp in one corner of the card and the gag # in the other corner. The gag writer encloses a SELF-ADDRESSED ENVELOPE for the cartoonist to send back and to indicate which, if any, he or she is holding.

The standard financial arrangement between cartoonist and gag writer: The cartoonist pays the gag writer 25% of the amount he receives for the cartoon. Syndicated cartoonists pay a flat fee for gags.

Speedy closes by writing: “I strongly urge that gag writers subscribe to Gag Recap. Anyone is welcome to contact Gags to Riches, even evil cartoonists.

I have no fear of giving out my contact info, Mr. Luca Brasi, formerly of the Corleone Family, is my roommate.

The above was for Bill Keough’s Gag Recap, which Speedy was part of until Bill’s passing in 2010.

When Van started The New Gag Recap Speedy joined in. From Van:

Speedy also contributed a column for the New Gag Recap when we began the rebooted version (starting with our 3rd issue December 2013). Speedy continued his column for us until May 2021 when health problems prevented continuing.

So Speedy was still active and writing at age 95.

Speedy’s first column for The New Gag Recap relates how he started with Keough:

Storms have been disrupting my activities lately, and one storm turned out to be a blessing, my TV reception was knocked out.
So I started reading Bill Keough’s ‘What Are You Nuts’ book. Bill starts out with his buying Gag ReCap from Al Gottlieb.
I was still living in Philadelphia and attended a meeting of the Pickwick Club where I met Bill in person. I wish I could have spent more time with Bill, he was an outstanding writer and individual.

Then Speedy recalls the meeting relayed above in “The Two Great Men Meet…”

Van ends with:

Just to let you know the New Gag Recap would have never happened without Speedy’s encouragement.

He was a very kind, generous man!

Many thanks to Van for the memories and samples.