New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast chats about what's funny 

click to enlarge Cartoon queen: New Yorker artist Roz Chast — pictured in a self-portrait — appears in conversation Saturday in Berkeley. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Cartoon queen: New Yorker artist Roz Chast — pictured in a self-portrait — appears in conversation Saturday in Berkeley.

New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast can find something funny in almost everything — especially an evil queen’s midlife crisis.

In Chast’s “The Vain But Realistic Queen,” the queen asks, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who, if she lost 10 pounds and had her eyes done and her neck done, and had the right haircut, could, in her age group, be the fairest one of all?”

Chast will discuss her work Saturday at Wheeler Auditorium in Berkeley in a Cal Performances presentation. It’s an event not to miss: The New Yorker’s editor, David Remnick, has called Chast “the magazine’s only certifiable genius.”

Sometimes Chast starts with a doodle, but usually the words come first. Her quirky drawings show people who embarrass their children and worry about the future. Who can’t sympathize with “The Little Engine That Coulda Woulda Shoulda”?

Some ideas come straight from her own suburban backyard. Her book, “Theories of Everything: Selected, Collected, and Health-Inspected Cartoons of Roz Chast, 1978-2006” includes “Dog Day Afternoon,” a two-page spread inspired by Emmy Lou — a demanding bull terrier her family owned for six long days.

“It was really awful at the time,” she says. “In retrospect, it was kind of funny.”

Chast grew up in an apartment in Brooklyn and likes to draw interiors. Her nightmare, she says, would be to draw a scene in the woods.

“You have a sort of image bank in your mind,” she says. “For me, it’s furniture and knick-knacks. I love drawing lamps and the backs of televisions.”

She studied graphic design and painting at the Rhode Island School of Design. Two years after college, her first cartoon appeared in The New Yorker. Since then, the magazine has published more than 500 of her drawings. These days, she submits about eight a week; the rejections are filed in her studio, possibly to be reworked later.

Her recently published book “What I Hate: From A to Z” focuses on “things that trouble me around the edges.” She doesn’t like quicksand or premature burials. Same goes for balloons, which can pop at any second.

Chast, 56, lives in Connecticut with her family and her parrots, Eli and Marco. She’s now working on a graphic memoir about the last years of her parents’ lives. A woman of many talents, she’s also mastered the painstaking art of pysanky (Ukrainian Easter eggs) and recently learned to hook rugs.

On Saturday, she will discuss the evolution of her drawing style, sign copies of her books and answer questions from the audience.

“I hope they’ll find it funny,” she said.


IF YOU GO

Roz Chast

Presented by Cal Performances  

Where: Wheeler Auditorium, UC Berkeley campus, off Bancroft Way at Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $32
Contact: (510) 642-9988, www.calperformances.org

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Cathy Bowman

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