Paul Szep was born in darkest Canada, which accounts for the way he talks, eh? He was a hockey player and worked in the steel mills, which accounts for the way he thinks..
Two Pulitzer Prizes, Two Sigma Delta Chi Awards, a headliner, the International Thomas Nast Award, 3 Honorary Doctorates. Fellow at Harvard University and two National Cartoonists Society awards
Since leaving from the pages of The Boston Globe in 2001, Szep’s work has featured in numerous publications including The St. Petersburg Times and Reuters. He also produces a regular cartoon called “The Daily Szep” for The Huffington Post, and is syndicated by The Creators Syndicate.
In his own words:
I’m really a failed hockey player. I grew up in Canada and wanted very much to play in the National Hockey League. I did actually play. At the time, each professional team owned certain areas, and I was under the Detroit Red Wings. In those years, Detroit had very good teams, and my prospects for making the parent club were not great. Cartooning is the other thing I did fairly well. I always thought that if I could not make it into the NHL, then I would become a cartoonist.
I actually started doing sports cartoons, combining my two loves in a sense, for the Hamilton Spectator when I was in high school. That was my introduction to the newspaper business, and in doing the sports cartoons I was introduced to the political cartoons. Hamilton did not offer an intense and heavy political atmosphere–like some of my contemporaries had when they were starting out–but it did provide a nice outlet for my kind of satire. I came to view my work as primarily satire using a visual format.
I specialised in illustration for four years at the Ontario College of Art. After graduation, I freelanced as an illustrator, and then I was hired by the Financial Post to do cartoons and illustrations. The next thing I knew I received an invitation to come down to Boston to try out for this job at the Globe. They’d been looking for a political cartoonist for three or four years. The bond with the Globe worked instantly; it was just a good marriage from the beginning.
I am a very political individual and I think this is reflected in my work. Some people, a lot of people in the profession, do gag cartoons, but I always try to do cartoons that make a political comment. However, I do think that today there is a difference in the kind of comment that is effective, and I think you have to use humour much more than in the past. But I like to think of cartooning as satire, biting humour. It is very hard for me to do something trite, yet I know the American public probably appreciates that kind of humor more than they do the heavier handed type.
Getting the ideas for the cartoons is definitely the hardest part of the process. Getting up every morning and knowing that you have to make a comment, that you have to come up with something. I probably go through four or five newspapers every day. You’re always looking for something, trying to think of something, that you can comment on. You’re always looking for some basic inequity. You’re always looking for some figure in politics who is flogging himself. There’s always a plethora of subjects. It’s just a case of trying to sit down and decide which you can make work best; what subject matter will work best.
I think cartoonists should be like burrs under the saddle of some egomaniac, kind of gnawing away every day. I think the public likes cartoons because it gives them a vicarious pleasure that they normally can’t get in any other way. It must be very frustrating never to have that kind of outlet. Having said that, I must say I really enjoy what I’m doing. I take great pleasure in having that release every day.
“Paul Szep is biting, perceptive, universal… and occasionally sane.”
- BUD COLLINS
“Szep’s drunk with passion.”
- JULES FEIFFER
“Szep reveals pretentiousness, arrogance and deceit…”
- DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN
“Some lawmakers and establishment figures refer to Paul Szep as the ‘Boston strangler’ and others are less gracious.”
- ART BUCHWALD
“Szep is the best… he is the Joe Dimaggio of the editorial page.”
- MIKE BARNICLE
“Szep’s art glows, and his satire gleams, the result is a lot of light.”
- ROBERT B. PARKER