Rob Rogers speaks about satire in today’s political climate
All eyes are on the front of the room. What starts as a pair of eyes drawn unusually close together grows into the top half of a face, complete with bushy eyebrows, enlarged ears and a balding head. The lower half of the face then comes to life. Below the unsettling ear-to-ear smile, there is a squared-off chin and a pair of hands reaching out to touch someone’s shoulders.
When all is complete, Rob Rogers steps back to reveal his on-the-spot drawing, a sketch of someone he refers to as “creepy Uncle Joe Biden.”
During the National Agenda event held on Wednesday in Mitchell Hall, Rob Rogers, a Pulitzer-Prize finalist editorial cartoonist, spoke about his career and shared his opinion on the current state of editorial cartoons.
Rogers, a Pittsburgh native, worked full-time as an editorial cartoonist from 1993 to 2018 with the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. He was fired from the paper after 25 years of work due to his editorial cartoons aimed at President Donald Trump. There were multiple cartoons that contributed to the firing, but one in particular that gained widespread circulation was a caution sign, on which President Trump is stealing migrant kids from their family. He continues to work today as a freelance artist.
“It was sort of a standoff,” Rogers said about the split. “They weren’t talking to me but they were killing the cartoons… eventually they did fire me and the first thing that happened was New York Times called and said ‘Do you want to write about this’ so I wrote an article and they asked me to do the drawing for it.”
Rogers went on to discuss one of the main problems he had with the Post Gazette: the way they went about approving cartoons. The paper would make him draw three cartoons a day, and then the editors would select their favorite, not asking for Rogers for input on which was the best. When he told the New York Times about his issues with this process, they at first showed sympathy and asked him to write about it. Shortly after, however, they asked the same of him for his article in their paper.
Rogers also spoke about his creative process, listing the seven steps he uses to draw a cartoon: finding a topic, choosing a metaphor, drawing a rough sketch, transferring the sketch over with a light table, inking the sketch, adding color and standing back and watching the audience take it in. He also talked about his strategy for generating ideas in the first place, which involves looking at a list of relevant topics and then combining them.
“That’s how sometimes my mind works,” Rogers said. “I look at two topics that are very different and very disparate and think, oh, what if I combine those? That’d be a surprise.”
In an interview with The Review, Rogers said that he believes in freedom of speech when it comes to editorial press and does not believe that there should be a definite line to cross when it comes to satire.
“I do not think we should dictate where those lines are because I think that once you start doing that, who determines that? Who becomes the arbiter of what is right and what isn’t?”
The presentation left a positive impression on many members of the audience, including student Brian Weiss.
“I think [the presentation] was good in brining a lot more awareness tom cartoons when in some cases you can tell they’re losing prominence” Weiss said. “I think that memes are becoming more like the political cartoons, though it definitely is interesting. And I think [political cartoons] are hilarious.”