Below is the latest The Pain -- When Will It End?
Updated 02/22/06

Artist's Statement

Last week I vowed that I would win the Funniest Holocaust Cartoon contest. This is my entry. It was my colleague Emily Flake who first brought the contest to my attention, and we immediately agreed that any self-respecting cartoonist could only take this as a challenge. “Obviously,” I said, “the premise must be, “Best Things About the Holocaust.” Without missing a beat she brightly said, “Well, it got rid of all those Jews!” Tragically, this could not be translated into cartoon form because it is only funny when said by Emily in all blue-eyed ingenuousness. This only confirms my suspicion that Emily is secretly a worse person than me, but censors herself more on paper. She dared me to draw this cartoon, egged me on to infamy, although of course there was no way she would ever do it.

My goal was to demonstrate to the world that Freedom of Speech is not just a convenient pretext to bash Mohammed. Nobody needs any pretext to insult Muslims. Shit, our government hardly needed a pretext to bomb them. I wanted to show them that we are not fucking kidding--that Americans are ballsy and funny and free enough to laugh in the face of death. Also, of course, I wanted to meet the challenge of drawing a cartoon about the Holocaust without being anti-Semitic, one that would be shocking and outrageous without being offensive, and, most importantly, one that would be authentically hilarious. It was a trick to pull off, let me tell you. All week I teetered and windmilled on that treacherous, almost invisible line between between clever and stupid. I had to regretfully rule out some brilliant ideas because they might’ve been over the line into a kind of humor to which I, as a non-Jew, may not have a right–like “Gave the Jews Something to Really Kvetch About.” I had to ignore Boyd’s telling me that I was a pussy because I resolutely resisted his pleas to draw “The Diary of Anne Spank.” It may be worthy of note that the only panel that gave me any pause or qualm at all was #3, because I do have more genuine reverence for works of literature than for any faith or ethnicity. Sincere thanks to Emily for her inspiration, Ben Walker for panel #2, and Tom Hart for his alternative Anne Frank gag, and his admiration and encouragement.

Panel 1 was inspired by Ben Walker, who once told me a story about having sex with a girl who deployed some secret sexual technique he was unable to adequately describe but which was so stimulating he could not hold back. “Even thinkin’ about the Holocaust wasn’t helpin’,” he sighed. I hope it is clear that Our Hero’s efforts to delay orgasm by thinking of the Holocaust backfire when he accidentally free-associates into sexy B-movie Nazi fantasies. A personal disclaimer: I do not really find Nazis sexy.

Panel 2, it occurs to me, is the only one in this cartoon that is patently offensive to any ethnic group—namely, the Germans. Luckily they seem to have good senses of self-deprecating humor these days and no longer attempt to conquer Europe or exterminate anybody by the millions so I am probably safe from them, at least.

Panel 3 may have been inspired by one of David Foster Wallace’s in Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, in which the nameless interviewee cites Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning as an example of some good that can come out of an atrocity. I think that most people would gladly sacrifice all the great works of Holocaust literature in exchange for the life of even one person who died in the camps. Art is meager compensation for suffering. I fear that “Faith Factor: The Diet of Worms!” may be too obscure and complex a joke for anyone to get. The Diet of Worms has always struck me as the funniest phrase in all of world history, in a purely stupid juvenile way, and I was imagining that PBS might try to misleadingly market it to unwitting viewers as a sensational bug-eating show like Fear Factor. In reality this was the church council that took Martin Luther to task for his writings on reformation. This is where he supposedly said, “Hier stehe ich; ich kann nicht anders.” [Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise.]

Panel 4 is actually rather grim and unfunny, although a nice drawing. It sometimes seems to me that the only lesson the world learned from the Holocaust—and all of World War II, actually—is that it’s just bad business for the industrialized world to self-destruct. So we resolved that genocides would never again occur in “civilized” countries---i.e., where white people live. Thus we finally got around to saying enough’s enough in the Balkans while I’m still not 100% clear on where Rwanda is. Genocides in countries we’ve never heard of that are hard to pronounce aren’t even front-page news (please note that the story on Negrobia is on the back page of the paper).

The letter I sent to Hamshahri to accompany this cartoon follows:

To the Editors:

I hesitated to enter your contest because your choice of the Holocaust as a subject seems to reveal more about your own bigotry than about Western taboos. Being offended by Danes and retaliating by insulting the Jews seems suspiciously misdirected--sort of like being attacked by al Qaeda and retaliating by invading Iraq. As I hope you can see from my entry, I do not share in the mean spirit of your contest. My intention in drawing this cartoon was to call your bluff--to prove that we in the West can, as we say, take it as good as we dish it out. We are not kidding about Freedom of Speech. We truly believe that nothing is off-limits to question or ridicule. We can find the punchline in anything—the Holocaust, 9/11, the Bush administration. As an American humorist and heir to the greatest comedic tradition on Earth, I believe there is nothing so sacred that it cannot be further consecrated—nor anything so monstrous it cannot be redeemed--by laughter. Laughter is sanity; it is strength; it is fearlessness in the face of hatred and death. Laughter is how we get through this life without faith. It’s the wine we make from rage. We Americans are braver and freer and funnier than you can begin to understand. I genuinely pity your humorlessness. We have a saying that I offer you not as a rebuke but as friendly advice: “Lighten up.”


Tim Kreider

P.S. In the unlikely event that you print this cartoon, I would ask that, in the spirit of free speech, you also print this accompanying letter to make my intentions clear.

I’ve also learned, to my dismay, that some Israeli cartoonist has responded to the Iranian contest by sponsoring his own contest for Jews to draw anti-Semitic cartoons. This genuinely worries me, because the Jews are nothing if not funny, and the subject on which they are funniest is themselves. If anybody can draw a funnier Holocaust cartoon than me, it’ll be a Jew. They are serious competition. The field is getting crowded. Although I am not Jewish I am also submitting my cartoon to them anyway. My accompanying letter reads:

To the Editors:

I am an American cartoonist who drew this entry into the Iranian Holocaust cartoon contest. My intention in submitting it was, obviously, not to offend Jews, but to call their bluff--to prove that we in the West can take it as good as we dish it out, that we are not kidding about freedom of speech. I was cheered when I heard about your competing contest, and I applaud your defiant good humor. In the same spirit, I would like to send you my cartoon as well. I regret that the cartoon is not really anti-Semitic. I also regret not being Jewish, but this could not be helped. I am circumcised, and also anxious and guilty, if those count as credentials. I hope you will enjoy my submission.


Tim Kreider

I do not actually believe Hamshahri will run this cartoon, if for no other reason than because there are people fucking in it. If there were any justice in the world, which there isn’t--and if there is it’s definitely not in Iran--I would win this contest. Because the Iranians, for all of what I’m sure are their many other virtues, do not have a reputation for hilariousness, and Americans, whatever their many, many other faults may be, are still the funniest fucking people on Earth. Ideally I would get to attend an awards luncheon in Iran. Maybe a luncheon and beheading! I wonder whether they’d have lunch first or the beheading. I hear the prize money is to be given out in the form of gold coins, a unit of currency I have not used since Dungeons & Dragons. Perhaps I can spend it among pirates. If I do win it I intend to either donate the money to the Holocaust museum or blow it all on beer. More likely the Jews will issue the Jewish equivalent of a fatwah, and by this time tomorrow the world will be clamoring for my head on a stick. My friend Myla advises me that some conservative Jews in Israel reprimand sinners by throwing stones at them. She could not say for sure how large these stones typically are. Myla also warns me that the percentage of the humorless is high among Jews, but I assured her that in my experience this percentage was fairly high all across the ethnic board. I have no doubt that this cartoon will be misconstrued as hateful by the simple-minded, but this is an occupational hazard I accept every week. The sensitivities of the humorless cannot be my concern, anymore than composers should worry about how the deaf will respond to their music. Most likely of all is that absolutely nothing will come of this like it always does. Whatever happens, I am currently feeling extremely good about getting into the thick of this absurd fray. It’s like one of those scenes in a Western where everybody in the saloon is fighting and you joyfully throw yourself into the melee and smash a chair or a whiskey bottle over some guy's head. Yee-haw!



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