For those of you who don’t know, Black Sheep Comedy duo Cathy McPherson and Darcia Armstrong met at Second City while in the (duh) stand-up program. There were a bunch of other funny, talented people in those classes, and Cathy and Darcia still keep in touch with them on a regular basis. One of these awesome humans is Jeff Katz. Putting his stand-up quests on hold for a bit, Jeff has come up with a cool and unique way to get his humour out there, using a pen instead of a microphone.
Q: What did the sign say to the cartoon? A: I didn’t know I was funny.
That’s the premise behind SignDoodle, a cartoon concept I came up with one day while driving by a store sign that unintentionally put a silly image in my head. From then on, I kept spotting signs with unplanned double entendres – second meanings I imagined as zany cartoons.
As an advertising writer and art director, my job has always been to translate the ordinary into the unexpected. Add my life-long love of drawing surreal cartoons, and it’s all come together in SignDoodle. So now I find myself compulsively snapping pics of signs, drawing weird cartoon translations, and posting them online to amuse friends, workmates and folks around the world.
Taking improv and stand-up courses also plays a role in my creation process, all wit-sharpening tools that help me quickly suss if a sign has the right word mix to inspire a surprising joke (I usually pass if the sign’s already funny, e.g. “Flying Monkey Bar”).
Despite their apparent simplicity, making SignDoodles takes some elbow grease, from noodling early sketches and caption options (although some need no captions) through to detailed finessing. It’s like writing a stand-up bit, with the photo as set-up and the cartoon as punchline. Determining the characters, where their eyes are aimed, trimming unnecessary elements – visual timing is everything.
“It’s like writing a stand-up bit, with the photo as set-up and the cartoon as punchline. Determining the characters, where their eyes are aimed, trimming unnecessary elements – visual timing is everything.“
Since launching last May, SignDoodle has been getting lots of happy-making comments online from a steadily growing audience. That’s gratifying, because landing a successful cartoon in a major newspaper has always been an uphill quest, with competition for limited space amid ‘toon giants like Dilbert, The Far Side and Bizarro. Thankfully, today’s online tech allows me to bypass the syndicates and fire my cartoons out to a worldwide crowd.
This isn’t my first cartoon success; I once got published in MAD Magazine, a childhood dream come true. But with SignDoodle I can get my crazies out there on a regular basis – a fix every comedy creator needs, and a true sign that sometimes the funniest material is right around the corner.
You can see the full SignDoodle gallery at signdoodle.com, or catch some posts at signdoodle_cartoons on Instagram, SignDoodle on Facebook, and SignDoodle on Twitter. I invite you to pop by, follow and share.
In addition to working as a Toronto advertising writer and cartoonist, Jeff’s endeavours have included art direction, illustration, stand-up and improv. His latest creative mashup is SignDoodle, now playing at signdoodle.com. You can reach Jeff at email@example.com.