Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Dan Piraro, Cartoonist of Bizarro – Vegan and Environmentalist

Because he’s a relatively new vegan, he has a healthy look at the subject of animal rights. Here are a few quotes from the article below that sum up his look at the issues:

“There are so many people out there that just have no idea of the impact that their day-to-day lifestyle choices have, and that was me six years ago, so you know, I’m not being judgmental.”

“Environmental and animal rights issues are so interwoven, there’s no way to separate those two issues. Vegetarianism is environmentalism. It’s all the same issue.”

“There’s is an inordinate amount of suffering caused by a person’s 99-cent hamburger... [Most people have] no idea what tremendous amount of suffering and environmental damage is being done — and political damage with all the subsidies. It just drives you crazy once you know.”

Article:

Bizarro's Piraro

http://thesuburban.com/content.jsp?sid=
20476197201962316595503958513&ctid=1000073
&cnid=1011863

By Anthony Bonaparte, The Suburban

Syndicated cartoonist Dan Piraro was in town last month to speak at the Blue Metropolis Montreal International Literary Festival.

Anybody who reads the newspaper comics pages is familiar with Bizarro — the surrealistic panel ‘toon with a die-hard following of fans of all that is warped.

Dan Piraro, the 48-year-old cartoonist behind Bizarro, was in town last month to speak at the Blue Metropolis Montreal International Literary Festival and says he’s thrilled to have such a loyal fan base.

“Every time I get an e-mail from somebody who loves my work and has been enjoying it for years ... It’s like ‘wow,’ how terrific is that?”

Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Piraro debuted the cartoon in 1986 and though it now appears in more than 250 daily newspapers, Piraro says he’s not as rich as people might think.

“The one regret I have is that I haven’t made more money at it,” says Piraro, who now makes Brooklyn, New York, his home. “It’s hard to make money in syndication, but I make a living, so I’m very lucky.”

Known mainly as a cartoonist, the eclectic artist also expresses his creative freedom as a stand-up comic, painter and writer, with his latest book, Bizarro and Other Strange Manifestations of the Art of Dan Piraro, released just last year. His one-man Bizarro Baloney Comedy Show is an on-again-off-again labour of love.

“I haven’t actually done an organized tour of any kind since last year when I took my comedy show around and made my wife promise to never let me do that again,” says a laughing Piraro, who is not enamoured with lugging sets, props, costumes and multi-media equipment through airports.

All things being equal, Piraro says if he had to pick one interest over all the others, and still make a living, it would be his painting, “cause there’s no parameters, there’s no rules to it — and there’s no deadlines.”

Piraro says syndication deadlines are brutal, and were especially difficult to handle several years ago when he had to produce comics while going through the painful end of his 16-year marriage.

“It was horrible. It was the one time in my life where I really wished that I had just been an accountant. You know, something where I could just get dressed, go to work and add numbers all day. Something mindless that was simple,” he said.

”Now watch. If you print that, every accountant in Canada will be writing to me. I get a lot of hate mail.

“Trying to be creative and funny in the midst of emotional distress, when your brain won’t stop chewing on this one single issue, is just torture,” says Piraro.

Environmentalism and animal rights play a central role in his life, and the two issues are often reflected in his work. He became more ardent after meeting his second wife, Ashley Smith, a long-time animal-rights activist. Like Smith, Piraro turned to veganism when he learned more about how farm and agricultural animals are treated.

“There are so many people out there that just have no idea of the impact that their day-to-day lifestyle choices have, and that was me six years ago, so you know, I’m not being judgmental.”

Piraro often beats the animal rights drum in his cartoons, sometimes so subtly that some people might not notice — but it’s there.

“A lot of my cartoons are born out of anger. And a lot of it is just the anger of ignorance,” says Piraro.

“Environmental and animal rights issues are so interwoven, there’s no way to separate those two issues. Vegetarianism is environmentalism. It’s all the same issue.”

His anger is aimed at a media that he says doesn’t give the issue enough coverage, at politicians who turn a blind eye, and at the average citizen who doesn’t bother to get informed.

“There’s is an inordinate amount of suffering caused by a person’s 99-cent hamburger... [Most people have] no idea what tremendous amount of suffering and environmental damage is being done — and political damage with all the subsidies. It just drives you crazy once you know.”

Piraro hits the issue so persistently that he was honoured for his efforts in 2002 by the Humane Society.

Piraro also is bugged by what he sees as an American attitude toward religion that is becoming increasingly poisonous politically. But he says its a topic he’s not allowed to address in his newspaper cartoons.

“Newspaper editors are almost more skittish about religion than they are about sex. And they’re certainly more skittish about religion than they are about violence, which has always driven me crazy.”

He says he would like more freedom to do cartoons on contentious issues, but the need to be politically correct has gotten out of control. “It’s insane. I’m too embarrassed to be an American.”

The outspoken Piraro scoffs at the idea of receiving Dixie Chicks-like treatment for his statement.

The country singers’ albums and concerts were boycotted after member and Texas native Natalie Maines said the group was ashamed that the President of the United States was from Texas.

“The sort of people that follow me are embarrassed to be Americans,” says Piraro. “They’re not toothless rednecks like the Dixie Chicks followers, and I’m not that popular. It’s not like they can shut me down.”

Informed that The Suburban’s website has U.S. readers, Piraro laughed and said, “I’m sure you do, but they’re not right-wing nit-wits who would blow the whistle on me.”

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