ROB ROGERS: On accepting the Thomas Nast Award

April 27, 2013

ROB ROGERS knew he would be on the clock, and he wanted to use his time wisely. But how to deliver in mere minutes?

The solution: He tapped his “cartoonist’s brain.”

Rogers was accepting the Overseas Press Club’s Thomas Nast Award for editorial cartooning Thursday night in New York — the second time he’d received the honor. So to help illustrate his short speech, he compared the cartoonist’s brain with the editor’s brain.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s political cartoonist said that in his inky line of work, the gray matter is apportioned to “toilet humor, followed by winning a Pulitzer — I guess that could be winning the OPC award — keeping his or her job, and that tiny, tiny part of the cartoonist’s brain, that is taste.” The editor’s brain, by contrast, “thinks of things like not offending readers, winning a Pulitzer, kissing up to advertisers, the bottom line and that tiny, tiny part of the editor’s brain, that is a sense of humor.”

“I suppose I was inspired by the fact that they only gave me two minutes, and I needed something that the other journalists could relate to,” Rogers tells Comic Riffs. “I drew the original cartoon for an editor’s magazine over a decade ago, but it still gets a laugh, especially if I use PowerPoint to reveal the gags one at a time.”

Rogers, who began working for the Pittsburgh Press in 1984, was honored for his artful commentary on international issues in 2012, including cartoons about matters both dire (Syria’s civil war) and lighter (the Vatican’s opening a Twitter account).

One highlight of the night “was being introduced by Richard Engel,” Rogers tells us, referring to NBC News’s chief foreign correspondent. “He said, ‘And now for something that has nothing to do with Syria.’ His hair was perfect. I was jealous.”

“When I first got up,” Rogers recounts, “I said: ‘Let’s give a hand to all the journalists who risk their lives.’ Then I said: ‘As someone who draws from the safety of my drawing table, I have one question: Richard Engel, what are you doing here. Shouldn’t you be in Syria or Egypt or Yemen or wherever?’ “

Rogers enjoyed rubbing shoulders with other fellow journalists, as well.

“It was also an honor to be on the same stage as the great Tom Brokaw,” Rogers tells Comic Riffs. “He was very funny. He made a Twitter joke at his own expense.”

Brokaw was receiving the President’s Award for lifetime achievement. The night’s other winners included Raja Abdulrahim of the Los Angeles Times (the Hal Boyle Award), for her conflict-zone coverage; CBS’s “60 Minutes” (the Edward R. Murrow Award) for “Killing Bin Laden” report; and Alberto Arce (Robert Spiers Benjamin Award), for his Associated Press coverage from the Honduras.

ROB ROGERS’S ACCEPTANCE SPEECH:

Writer/artist/visual storyteller Michael Cavna is creator of the "Comic Riffs" column and graphic-novel reviewer for The Post's Book World. He relishes sharp-eyed satire in most any form.
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