Three questions to Kevin Kallaugher
Clifford Armion: You grew up in the USA and graduated from Harvard with honors in 1977. Why did you leave the US for England and how did you come to work as a cartoonist for The Economist?
Kevin Kallaugher: I left the US for a bicycle tour of the British Isles and then I got a job playing professional basketball. I played in England for three years but the team I was playing for was running out of money. I had already done cartoons and I enjoyed doing caricatures, it was something of great interest to me, and so I would go on the streets and draw caricatures of tourists and everyone going by. Finally, I started to get that interest in politics. One of the things when you’re an American living outside of America is that everybody holds you personally responsible for everything that goes on in America. So I developed an interest in politics and I thought ‘wouldn’t it be fun to do something with both politics and cartooning?’ So I started to visit all the newspapers around London and after spending about six months visiting every newspaper, the first job I got was with The Economist. They gave me a trial and it worked out: I’ve been with them for thirty-four years!
C.A.: Is drawing a politician any different from drawing a tourist or a passer-by?
K.K.: The fundamental difference is that when you’re engaging somebody you’re meeting, when you’re capturing a normal citizen, you may be having light fun with them but it’s a caricature of love. With politicians, you realise the power that a caricature can have. You take somebody very powerful and knock him down to the level of the citizens. You’re dealing with humiliation: the most important thing they have is their face, their personality, their image. Caricature is a great tool for the citizens to be able to take on the powerful and it has been this way throughout centuries. One of my favourite caricaturists of all time is Daumier, the famous French 19th century cartoonist. He was at a time of great tumult in society and the newspapers were a great occasion for the citizens to be able to take on the powerful royals. There were no elections so the only way to take them down was through satire and caricature.
C.A.: A cartoonist always expresses an opinion. Do you feel a certain degree of responsibility towards you readers? Do you sometimes hesitate to publish cartoons dealing with polemical matters?
K.K.: You have to understand that the cartoon can be very powerful, whether starting with the face (caricature) or the way you deal with messages in this very simple fashion that can be read very easily by millions, you suddenly have the potential of doing something very good but also the potential for causing a great deal of damage. I talk about cartoons as hand grenades: if you pull the pin and if you throw it in the right direction it’s great, but if you don’t it’s going to explode in your face. We’ve seen recently with the Danish cartoonist and his depiction of the prophet Mohammed just how cartoons can upset lots of people and lead, in that case, to riots and death. So when you’re sitting where I am, the whole time I would like to think that I am engaging in conversation – I consider myself a columnist trying to talk and communicate with people – but if I do something that’s so inflammatory that the people I’m talking to are not listening, then I’m not going to succeed in this conversation. As we all know there are subjects of great sensitivity around the world: issues pertaining to religion, pertaining to race, pertaining to abortion or access to guns in the US. So every time you go in those areas you have to understand the minefield that you’re walking in.
Pour citer cette ressource :
Kevin Kallaugher, Clifford Armion, "Three questions to Kevin Kallaugher", La Clé des Langues [en ligne], Lyon, ENS de LYON/DGESCO (ISSN 2107-7029), mai 2012. Consulté le 25/09/2023. URL: https://cle.ens-lyon.fr/anglais/litterature/entretiens-et-textes-inedits/three-questions-to-kevin-kallaugher