#bspokeofficehours with Jason Chatfield, New Yorker and MAD Magazine Cartoonist

Cartoonist Jason Chatfield on #bspokeofficehours via Instagram Live | June 5, 2019

Cartoonist Jason Chatfield on #bspokeofficehours via Instagram Live | June 5, 2019

(San Francisco, CA) -My first introduction to cartoonist Jason Chatfield happened on Instagram, but I can’t exactly recall how it played out. My best guess was that I caught one of his The New Yorker cartoons, which humorously spoke to the AvGeek and Twitter lover I am. As #bspokeofficehours has progressed over the last year, Jason’s been been on my wish list for a while. Fortunately, he was game when I finally got around to pitching him the idea. Our Wednesday, June 5th chat was awesome, but you’re never going to see any of that video. Sadly, IGLive didn’t save to my phone and I forgot to tape my screen. So, while in the process of getting over it, I decided a blog would be the best solution, hopefully capturing some of the fun and flavor of Jason’s brand story. 

Originally from Perth, Australia, Jason thought he’d become a local editorial cartoonist. Soon realizing that upward movement wasn’t going to happen ("no one was leaving"), Jason progressed through a series of important meetings and connections with mentors who recognized his talent. In 2007, he was chosen by famed but ailing Australian cartoonist James Kemsley to take over the Ginger Meggs strip, which Jason still care takes and grows with a team dedicated to keeping this iconic Australian character in print. 

At #bspokeofficehours, we use bulletpoints to guide ours live chats. For Jason, I’d asked the following: 

“Describe brand Jason. What is most important to you as a cartoonist? As a comedian? What’s your elevator pitch? How do you differentiate in the local, regional, national and global marketplace?”

In short, Jason’s career path has been just a wee bit spectacular. Overall, he seems to have been an incredibly persistent creative, continually honing his craft while never, seemingly, giving up. Maintaining his Ginger Meggs work while continually pitching both The New Yorker and MAD Magazine over the course of more than a few years eventually paid off; Jason says it took 3-4 years of consistently pitching to The New Yorker before he broke through. On the MAD Magazine side, he consistently pitched the publication while it was based in New York City, and eventually got on board after the publication had re-established itself in California. It was of course “a different era,” than the magazine he’d grown up reading, but still considers it an “epic honor” to contribute there. Fun fact: long before he’d started submitting things to MAD, staff cartoonists had suggested he do just that. However, Jason didn’t think they were up to snuff. Jason does “regret it a bit,” but nothing like hindsight to rethink past actions (hello, everyone).

Sidebar: Jason's reflection reminded me that I'm often my own, worse critic. Of late, my new mantra has been of the ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’ variety - 'be bold, be strong, be brave.'

It’s been five years since Jason relocated to New York with his wife Millie, an artist herself. And so began his always busy NYC cartoonist by day, NYC standup comedian-by-night professional life. Be sure to add his recent election as President of The National Cartoonist Society to the mix, too.  Regarding standup, Jason explored being on the road, but decided he “just wasn’t built for it” given his daytime cartoonist pursuits. As a result, he focuses on NYC gigs, but does go on the road from time to time, as he did recently in Southern California for NCS Fest, where cartoonists and comedians came together, sketching each other in real time on electronic sketch pads for the audience while others performed and vice versa i.e. “the biggest comic arts festival in the USA.” 

Jason makes this brand guy laugh primarily through his Insta Stories, i.e. his laughing at the world perspective as running Jason Brand Story. Also, pasting his contorted, laughing face to New York City and London landmarks works wonders on anyone's bad mood.  Case in point: that time his Australian comedian buddy Scott Dooley convinced Jason to dine at Outback Steakhouse. Full disclosure: my parents sometimes take me there, they live in a small non-coastal American town, so not that unusual. But as Jason and I know, Outback is anything but Australian. This American, who lived in Oz for a few years and considers it his spiritual home, is of course offended. However, Jason is far, far beyond that level of “no.” The section of our IGLIVE video that I loved most was this one, listening to Jason describe the experience. It’s incredibly sad that I’m not able share it with all of you (laughing as I type this). Exceptionally funny moments. And no, people. Bloomin’. Onions. Are. Not. Australian.

Back to Jason’s buddy Scott Dooley. A former Sydney radio announcer, he’s now a New York City-based comedian, too. However, the guys didn’t meet until they were both in New York City at the same time, even though they did have many of the same colleagues. Scott and Jason brainstorm regularly, trying out new material on each other for standup, as well as ideas for Jason’s new cartoons. If Scott’s ideas pop, they'll do things like go to Outback (which he apparently loves?!), but if Jason’s idea gets traction, he’s inoculated against Outback (for that moment anyway). Why am I telling you this? Because these ideation sessions became the basis for the duo’s podcast - Is There Something In This?'. Dooley first suggested the podcast, which consists of storytelling, bouncing ideas off one another, testing things, improving them, destroying them and ultimately lots of laughs. Definitely NSFW so perhaps wear headphones. Try "Can Mice Swim?" for your first listen, you’ll thank me later, especially if you live in New York City. 

Back in Australia, there was apparently only one agency to be with and if not with them, career prospects were practically nil. Today, Jason works with a manager and an agent to book his comedy gigs, as well as send him out for voice and acting auditions. As Jason put it, “they know what they know,” so he’s very happy to work with both.

A cool discovery made during my research on all things Jason was his website, I recommend a visit.  In its own Jason Chatfield way – is that branding? -  it’s perfect. Here you’ll find various rabbit holes of funny, work product, his pod, his store and overall Jason Brand Experience. One section jumps into Jason’s considerable portfolio of advertising work, covering a wealth of brands (and respective visual identity) from both commercial and pharmaceutical clients i.e. brand geek heaven.

It was great to hear that Jason is the manager of his website and all things digital. He works on it “constantly,” keeping the vertical scroll fresh, responsive and awesome on mobile. Right now, his focus is on building out the aforementioned store (where I purchased the illustration mentioned at the beginning of this blog, so have a look). 

I’d asked Jason to share a call to action for our close, but cannot for the life of me recall what was said other than thanks it was fun and so forth – oops. So, please do me a favor and find out where Jason is performing, follow him on Instagram, explore his website, listen to his pod and shop his store - it takes a village of IRL action and original content to build a cartoonist, writer and comedy brand, give Jason a look and your support. JM  

Originally published via LinkedIn on June 11, 2019.