Charles Barsotti has been staff cartoonist at The New Yorker since 1970, and for more than three decades, has been entertaining us with his distinctive rounded pups (one of whom
he’s dubbed Buster). Rendered in deceptively simple lines, his cartoon dogs engage in utterly human tasks, and their fans are legion—one of them, Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz, told him in a letter that he hoped someone would collect all of Barsotti’s “little dog cartoons” in a book one day. And now, with the release of They Moved My Bowl, they have. We were pleased that Mr. Barsotti agreed to be interviewed—like his cartoon punch lines, his answers to our questions were short, witty and to the point.
Bark: What makes a good dog cartoon?
Charles Barsotti: Me, I make a good dog cartoon.
B: What is it about dogs going about human tasks that’s so funny?
CB: Perhaps our human tasks are for the most part intrinsically funny. But dogs are very much with us; I understand that our family dogs consider us all of a pack. So they can stand in for us in a way that I don’t think cats can—or would. And what can you say? A dog on a shrink’s couch is funny.
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B: We see that you dedicated your new book, They Moved My Bowl, to the memory of Jiggs, “the world’s greatest dog.” Can you tell us about Jiggs?
CB: Any kid who doesn’t think his dog is the world’s greatest dog is weird. Jiggs was part Dachshund, part mystery meatloaf. Jiggs was run over and killed when I was 10. In my book, there’s a cartoon with St. Peter and a dog named Rex. Rex is a stand-in for Jiggs.
B: Tell us about your two dogs, Chloe and Buster.
CB: Well, Chloe is real and Buster is—can we go with hyper-real? Buster is imaginary, but he’s a real guy’s dog, whereas Chloe, for all her charm, ain’t.
B: Can you talk about your drawing style? It’s so simple but perfect.
CB: For heaven’s sake, you talk about it. You’re doing such a good job.
B: Your cartoons are sweet and smart but never syrupy or corny—no mean feat when it comes to dog cartoons. How do you manage that?
CB: The “sweet but smart” part is autobiographical.
B: Tell us about your idea of dog heaven.
CB: Better yet, I’ll ask Jiggs when I get there and send word back.
See Charles Barsotti's obit published on June 20, 2014