6:07am

Sat February 12, 2011
Books

Cartoonist Sees Bad Relationships In A Funny Way

Originally published on Tue July 31, 2012 7:46 am

Monday is Valentine's Day, and stores are abloom with red hearts and tubby little cupids. There are also books of love poetry, romances and cartoons.

Nick Galifianakis has a book of cartoons about love, dating and relationships, too. But if you give it to your sweetheart, you may find yourself spending Valentine's Day alone. It's called If You Loved Me, You'd Think This Was Cute: Uncomfortably True Cartoons About You.

Galifianakis' drawings evoke a side of relationships that doesn't really fit the romance version — like the cartoon that appears on the cover. It's of a rather porcine gentleman, clad in a belly-revealing undershirt and disturbingly tight briefs, sprawled out on a sofa while his wife stands over him, arms crossed and exasperated.

"I like to do what I call the 'logical extreme' of a situation," Galifianakis tells Weekend Edition's Scott Simon. "I try to put myself in the intimate context of the relationship and then think, 'What is true — but often inappropriate?' "

Galifianakis draws cartoons to accompany the advice column written by his ex-wife, Carolyn Hax, in The Washington Post. They were married eight years — "to the day," he adds.

"We were a great couple that could maybe be greater apart," he says. Some have wondered how the couple could keep giving relationship advice when their own marriage failed, but Galifianakis says that's not the point.

"The point of the column is not to keep people together; it's for people to be happy. And sometimes being happy means making that kind of adjustment, where maybe you're not together."

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Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Monday is Valentine's Day; stores are abloom with things pink, red hearts, tubby little cupids. There are also holiday books, love poems, romances, cartoons. And that introduces Nick Galifianakis. He has a book of cartoons about love, dating, and relationships. If you give it to your sweetheart, you may find yourself spending Valentine's Day alone.

We like the book though. It's called "If You Loved Me, You'd Think This Was Cute: Uncomfortably True Cartoons About You." Nick Galifianakis joins us from the studios of Georgia Public Broadcasting in Atlanta.

Nick, thanks so much for being with us.

Mr. NICK GALIFIANAKIS (Cartoonist/Author, "If You Loved Me, You'd Think This Was Cute: Uncomfortably True Cartoons About You"): Ah, the pleasure to be here. Thanks for that introduction.

SIMON: Well, people who read what Ill refer to as Carolyn Hax's column, if thats okay with you.

Mr. GALIFIANAKIS: Thats exactly the way I'd refer to it.

SIMON: Produced out of The Washington Post and nationally syndicated, it's an advice column about relationships. You do the cartoons, which dont just illustrate something but kind of add a little something.

Mr. GALIFIANAKIS: Yeah, I like to do what I call the logical extreme of a situation. Oftentimes I think, you know, what would I say here if I were standing in this person's shoes. And, of course, I am standing in that person's shoes. We all are. We all have been in relationships. And so I try to put myself in sort of the intimate context of the relationship and then think, what is true but often inappropriate.

SIMON: There's a cartoon in here Im looking at now that shows a woman kind of almost mummified. She's in a hospital bed...

Mr. GALIFIANAKIS: Right.

SIMON: ...tubes...

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: ...traction. And a young man who is apparently her boyfriend says to her: I was going to wait to break up with you, but then I thought, no. She's tough enough - she'd want the truth.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Oh, my gosh.

Mr. GALIFIANAKIS: Well, again, it's the logical extreme. We dont always say what we think and we certainly dont always do what we think. The interesting thing about that cartoon and cartoons like that is, okay, maybe the timing is bad, but you really shouldnt hang on. By the way, my favorite part of that entire cartoon is the little eye thats peeking through the bandage.

SIMON: Oh, yes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GALIFIANAKIS: I always look for whats thing thats going to make me laugh over and over and over again, when I see that thing. And thats the thing that I always find first when I look at that.

SIMON: We should explain Carolyn Hax, who pens this column, is your former wife.

Mr. GALIFIANAKIS: She is. Carolyn and I were married for eight years, to the day. We planned it that way.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GALIFIANAKIS: No, we were a great couple that could maybe be greater apart. You know, we heard a lot of stuff, of course. You know, how could you guys give advice when your relationship failed, at least as a marriage. And, you know, the point of the column is not to keep people together; it's for people to be happy. And sometimes being happy means making that kind of adjustment where you're not together.

SIMON: Im interested in your transition from political cartoons to personal relationship cartoons.

Mr. GALIFIANAKIS: Political cartoons became sort of less interesting to me for a couple of reasons, not the least of which was - this was around the Monica Lewinsky era. Ill call it (unintelligible), the Bill Clinton era.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GALIFIANAKIS: It's the Monica Lewinsky era. That got old; that same note, hitting that same note. What I didnt like was that there would be the political issue of the day and then I would do a cartoon. Within a day or two, 300 other political cartoonists were sort of doing the same thing about the same issue.

I like the idea of the more intimate context. Thats timeless, ageless stuff. I mean ever since we've been drawing on walls, we've been jealous. We've been insecure and afraid. And we've been in love and we take care of each other. And we ignore each other. We're self-absorbed. We're thoughtful. So the challenge in commenting on these aspects of different relationships and commenting in a hopefully thoughtful and unique way, and my way, is very appealing.

SIMON: You want to point something out to us?

Mr. GALIFIANAKIS: Ugh. Well...

SIMON: Even if it's just a cartoon you like in particular.

Mr. GALIFIANAKIS: Most of the folks in my cartoons are people that I know. I put them in the cartoon in whatever context, and then I wait for the phone call.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GALIFIANAKIS: So in this particular cartoon, I am at a bar with my dad -and my dad is the bartender, and my dog, Zuzu - who has an entire chapter in this book thats hers. Zuzu is telling the story, and my head is thrown back in laughter and my dad is laughing. You know, we're in hysterics and Zuzu is saying: And so she says that's it. It's me or the dog.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GALIFIANAKIS: And I, you know, as I do with most of my cartoons, I did that just for me.

SIMON: But, you know, you do I mean, can I get you to talk about Zuzu?

Mr. GALIFIANAKIS: Oh, endlessly.

SIMON: Zuzu is real was real.

Mr. GALIFIANAKIS: Oh yeah. She passed away on August 9th. She would sleep under my drawing board and I would rest my feet on her. You know, the reason the Zuzu cartoons are funny or any cartoons that anthropomorphize an animal like that, to place it in a human dynamic is that relationships with animals are generally good. Aw, isn't that cute? Aw, it brings this to my life, brings that to my life, they're happy, we smile, we laugh, we love each other, we cuddle, we kiss. There's a lot of therapeutic value in that over the course of a lifetime.

SIMON: Nick Galifianakis. His new book, If You Loved Me, You'd Think This Was Cute: Uncomfortably True Cartoons About You.

Thanks so much.

Mr. GALIFIANAKIS: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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