Communication and Storytelling

Communication and storytelling are foundations of business, marketing, social media, and professional success. Stories can take many forms, but they must convey a clear and distinct message. 

Our guest, Liza Donnelly, is a cartoonist and writer with The New Yorker Magazine, where she has been drawing cartoons about culture and politics for over thirty years. She truly is one of the top cartoonists in the world. We are thrilled to learn about storytelling from Liza, as she shares her work and even draws for us live!

Transcript

Michael:

(00:02) Storytelling, got to love stories. If you’re in business just about any position in business, if you’re selling, if you’re an executive, if you’re a manager, if you’re an artist it’s all about telling stories. And today on episode number 119 of CXO-Talk… starting a bit late due to technical glitches, and I’m looking at you Mr. Google or Ms. Google, today on CXO-Talk we are joined by Liza Donnelly, who is one of the top cartoonists in the world, top editorial cartoonists in the world.I’m Michael Krigsman and my co-host is Vala Afshar, hey Vala how are you?

Vala:

(00:47) Michael, I’m doing great and your second intro was great.

Michael:

(00:52) Well nobody heard the first one. We did do it but nobody could hear it. So, Liza Donnelly, you are a cartoonist for the New Yorker magazine, one of the top publications in the world. You’re literally one of the most renowned cartoonists in the world, thank you for joining us today.       

Liza:

(01:12) You’re welcome! Thank you for having me Michael. Hi Vala.

Vala:

(01:16) How are you?

Liza:

(01:16) I’m good thanks.

Vala:

(01:18) Before you – tell us a little about your background, Michael was telling us how much he loves the New Yorker, not because of the beautifully written articles but because of the cartoons. So I want everyone in the audience to know that.

Michael:

(01:35) Not all of us read, some of us just look at the pictures!

Vala:

(01:40) So Liza could you tell us a little bit about your background and how you were inspired to become one of the top cartoonists in the world.

Liza:

(01:48) Oh my! A lot of us cartoonists started when we were little because we didn’t like to read. I didn’t like to read when I was little, but a lot of us did this for coping mechanisms, because I really like to make people happy and that’s how I started.

(02:06) But I’m not going to go back to my grade school and start from there. I’ll start from where I finished college. After I went to (Earlham?) college I moved to New York City and worked at the museum there and started submitting my cartoons to the New Yorker, and within two years I sold my first cartoon. I was very very lucky. That was my dream and it happened and I’m so lucky.

Michael:

(02:29) You know, I need to tell the audience that today, we’re going to do something very special. We’re going to chat with you for a little while. Then we’re going to show some of your cartoons and you’ll interpret them and explain them for us. And finally we’re going to end up with you actually drawing a cartoon live while were talking with you.

Liza:

(02:48) Putting me to work aren’t you.

Michael:

(02:49) Yeah, we put the guests to work, that is our motto on CXO-Talk. So let’s talk about cartoons and storytelling and maybe tell us about stories. What first in general makes a good story?

Liza:

(03:07) Will Michael, you know I’m not a novelist. I don’t write that kind of story, I write a particular kind of story, a cartoon. For me I think and probably for other types of storytelling, the best things to have is people in characters and a beginning, a middle, and an end.

(03:28) So I would usually do single panel cartoons, like you see in the New Yorker where there’s just a single image. So where is the beginning and where is the end. In a good cartoon those are implied. What you’re seeing is the middle of the story and in good cartoon you can see the back story and you can see where these people came from, and where they’re going to be going.

(03:48) So a good cartoon has all of that in there. I often tell people that a cartoon is like a little stage, and the cartoonist is a screenwriter, and a set designer and a casting director – all of those things rolled into one, and a choreographer. So we have to put it all in there to make a good cartoon successful.

Vala:

(04:09) You’ve also said

Michael:

(00:02) Storytelling, got to love stories. If you’re in business just about any position in business, if you’re selling, if you’re an executive, if you’re a manager, if you’re an artist it’s all about telling stories. And today on episode number 119 of CXO-Talk… starting a bit late due to technical glitches, and I’m looking at you Mr. Google or Ms. Google, today on CXO-Talk we are joined by Liza Donnelly, who is one of the top cartoonists in the world, top editorial cartoonists in the world.I’m Michael Krigsman and my co-host is Vala Afshar, hey Vala how are you?

Vala:

(00:47) Michael, I’m doing great and your second intro was great.

Michael:

(00:52) Well nobody heard the first one. We did do it but nobody could hear it. So, Liza Donnelly, you are a cartoonist for the New Yorker magazine, one of the top publications in the world. You’re literally one of the most renowned cartoonists in the world, thank you for joining us today.       

Liza:

(01:12) You’re welcome! Thank you for having me Michael. Hi Vala.

Vala:

(01:16) How are you?

Liza:

(01:16) I’m good thanks.

Vala:

(01:18) Before you – tell us a little about your background, Michael was telling us how much he loves the New Yorker, not because of the beautifully written articles but because of the cartoons. So I want everyone in the audience to know that.

Michael:

(01:35) Not all of us read, some of us just look at the pictures!

Vala:

(01:40) So Liza could you tell us a little bit about your background and how you were inspired to become one of the top cartoonists in the world.

Liza:

(01:48) Oh my! A lot of us cartoonists started when we were little because we didn’t like to read. I didn’t like to read when I was little, but a lot of us did this for coping mechanisms, because I really like to make people happy and that’s how I started.

(02:06) But I’m not going to go back to my grade school and start from there. I’ll start from where I finished college. After I went to (Earlham?) college I moved to New York City and worked at the museum there and started submitting my cartoons to the New Yorker, and within two years I sold my first cartoon. I was very very lucky. That was my dream and it happened and I’m so lucky.

Michael:

(02:29) You know, I need to tell the audience that today, we’re going to do something very special. We’re going to chat with you for a little while. Then we’re going to show some of your cartoons and you’ll interpret them and explain them for us. And finally we’re going to end up with you actually drawing a cartoon live while were talking with you.

Liza:

(02:48) Putting me to work aren’t you.

Michael:

(02:49) Yeah, we put the guests to work, that is our motto on CXO-Talk. So let’s talk about cartoons and storytelling and maybe tell us about stories. What first in general makes a good story?

Liza:

(03:07) Will Michael, you know I’m not a novelist. I don’t write that kind of story, I write a particular kind of story, a cartoon. For me I think and probably for other types of storytelling, the best things to have is people in characters and a beginning, a middle, and an end.

(03:28) So I would usually do single panel cartoons, like you see in the New Yorker where there’s just a single image. So where is the beginning and where is the end. In a good cartoon those are implied. What you’re seeing is the middle of the story and in good cartoon you can see the back story and you can see where these people came from, and where they’re going to be going.

(03:48) So a good cartoon has all of that in there. I often tell people that a cartoon is like a little stage, and the cartoonist is a screenwriter, and a set designer and a casting director – all of those things rolled into one, and a choreographer. So we have to put it all in there to make a good cartoon successful.

Vala:

(04:09) You’ve also said that cartoons are innovation, something new based on something traditional. Cartoons are rebellions, and you also said cartoons are about collaboration. Can you talk to us a little bit about what you mean when you say cartoons are collaboration?

Liza:    

(04:26) Collaboration, I don’t mean in that sense. I didn’t mean that we work with other people necessarily, like I don’t have a writer. Some cartoons do, but I don’t. What I meant by collaboration is that I as a cartoonist I work with my world around me, I work with the people around me. I rely on knowing what’s going on around me and using it. I use what I see and what I sense and what I hear.

(04:51) So, you know I’m always in touch with trends and buzzwords and what people are doing and why they‘re doing it and why I think they’re doing it and what’s funny about what they’re doing, so that’s what I mean by collaboration. I work with the world around me.     

Michael:

(05:07) So for you it’s all about seeing what’s going on in the world, and somehow interpreting some sense of truth about that, almost as if you’re creating a visual poem. Is that an accurate way to look at it?

Liza:    

(05:23) Well at poem that is its well I was going to say short, but not all poems are short.

Michael:

(05:34) Are you capturing a moment, a particular – I was going to say a moment in time but it’s a moment in your own mind actually.

Liza:

(05:40) Right I created it. Rarely do we cartoonists use phrases verbatim on people. People think we go to cocktail parties and you know eavesdrop. We don’t do that. We’re like sponges in a way, we pick up what’s going on around us and soak up either knowingly or subconsciously and squeeze it back out. And not all cartoons have meanings, like you said, many of them don’t. By meaning, they don’t have a ulterior motive except to make you laugh.

(06:16) Many of mine do have an ulterior motive, I’m trying to get people to think about what they are doing, or to take note of something that they are doing that might be funny or wrong.

Michael:

(06:20) So obviously them if you have that ulterior motive so to speak as you say that kind of meaning means that you have certain focal points and themes that you like to draw about.

Liza:    

(06:48) I mean            I guess we all us cartoonists have our own themes, and I don’t like to say I have one theme or two themes. I try to draw about everything that I can, mostly about American life or about Americans, people in this country. So I draw a lot of different things.

(07:10) But in the last five or so years or maybe 10 years actually now, I’m focusing more on women’s rights because I feel like the kind of cartoon I do can get at things going on in our culture that you might not be able to get from an article or a political cartoon or perhaps a traditional political cartoon.

(07:35) Because the kind of cartoons I do are real slices of life, about interactions between people. So you can get at what’s going on between two people in their bedroom, or two people at a cocktail party, or two people at a restaurant, or three people at a sports event and make them say things that exposes this silliness of certain cultural trends. So that’s how I use my cartoons when I’m trying to get at something.

(08:0 full) in that way I feel the kind of cartoons I do are political, because politics seeps into our daily lives, and particularly for women, so that’s one reason why I do a certain number of cartoons in my weekly batch about women’s rights because I think it’s important to write about that and to draw about that.

Vala:

(08:27) When I watch TV now it’s norm, you know the television is on and I have my laptop, and I’m streaming the hashtag for the show that I am watching, especially if it is prominent shows like the Oscars, the Emmys , or the FIFA women World Cup, and I love that you draw these events in real time. I have particularly enjoyed the FIFA drawings as we saw the championship game, and certainly in that first 60 minutes my mind was at ease because I knew the game was over. But it was pretty amazing, but can you talk to us about now you are not only a sponge, and you are soaking all of these events but you’re doing it in real time and you’re producing content, and your delighting your fans. How do you do that, like how do you put your mind at a place where you can watch a high-speed event like a FIFA championship and draw at the same time where your capturing those magical moments.

Liza:    

(09:30) I drink lots of coffee Vala!

Vala:

Me to, I do that to!  

Liza:    

(09:37) Thank you for that, I love doing that. That sort of came about a couple of years ago. I was watching, I think it was (unclear 09:45) and I started to draw, I got an iPad as a gift. My first iPad and I was just playing around with the app and I was drawing what I was seeing, and then I thought oh, you can Tweet this out.

(09:54) So I tweeted it out and I realise I’d, you know on a thing, a thing – I don’t know what you call it, that nobody else was doing. And like I was commenting on what I was visually seeing and also I was writing visually, like (Banner, ties? 10:16) like you know a stranger color, or (unclear 10:20) or something like that I would comment on in the Tweet as well, so it was a combination. So it was a new form of cartooning. These drawings and not my traditional cartoons, they’re more like my impressions of who and what I’m seeing on the screen.

(10:36) Now I’ve been hired to do this at events. So now I go to conferences and I love to draw, what I’m saying, and who I’m seeing and I comment on what’s being said. So it’s really fun, I love being innovative and I like to try and use the new tools that are out there just to see what I can do with them, and my skills.

Michael:

(10:58) So when you’re thinking about cartoons, and you’re thinking about stories, what is the elements for a successful story.

Liza:

(11:10) You’ve got to have interesting characters, compelling characters and a story even in a cartoon has to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. I’m not a novelist, but in a cartoon in the single panel cartoons the kind I do for the most part, that is the middle of the story and a good cartoon implies is the beginning. You know where these people came from by a seeing how they’re dressed, where they’re standing, sitting and you know who these people are and then the cartoon happens and then you know where they’re going to go and there’s an ending. So a cartoon is like a sort of mini stage and the cartoonist is the set director, the screenwriter, the choreographer, so their little stories.

Michael:

(12:02) You know I’m a photographer, not necessarily a good photographer, but my photographs have been published in a lot of places, and I’m always trying to figure out how do you tell a story in a photograph. What advice do you have of what thoughts to you have for people like myself or photographers who want to tell a visual story, or business people who need to tell a visual story. How do you do it?

Liza:    

(12:33) That’s a tough question Michael.

Michael:

(12:37) Maybe it just means basic talent which some of us have like a few and others like myself don’t have.           

Liza:    

(12:47) I don’t sit down and think, I’m going to tell a story today and you know these are my characters and this is my setting. Although I do it intuitively and I go to the same people, characters that I feel comfortable with that I know something about. I mean that’s why most of my cartoons are making fun of my demographic, because I know my demographic and you have got to draw or write about what you know otherwise it might ring false.

(13:16) More and more I’m trying to draw and write about political events or cultural events outside of this country and I’m testing those waters. I draw and write about women in other countries for example, but it’s easier just to stick with what you know and it’s probably more successful ultimately. Because you don’t want to falsely portray people in your stories.

Vala:

(13:43) Well when I think about just the last couple of weeks in terms of the you know political changes you know whether it’s the flag or the Supreme Court decisions, how do you choose the topic and how do you deal with the tremendous amount of sensitivity that lies with all of these topics. I mean some can be super polarizing and is there a filtering process, or how do you test an idea or do you before you know hit that print button.

Liza:    

(14:19) Well yeah, I do have an internal sensor of people. Other cartoonists in other countries always asked me do have freedom and do you self-censor and I say yes I do self-censor, mostly because I want to be careful not to hurt other people unnecessarily. So I can’t always know what it’s like to be then so I have to be careful. I don’t want to caricature them or make fun of their world without knowing enough about it, and if I don’t think that I can then I just don’t do it.

(15:07) This conversation has been in my community ever since the Charlie Hebdo cartoonist was killed in January was it? What are the limits of self-censorship, and I think we are divided the cartoonists are divided on this.

Michael:

(15:23) Shall we take a look at some of your cartoons?

Liza:

(15:26) Sure! I like to tell the viewers that I work for the New Yorker but I also work for some online sites, so there’s a different process for both places, so I don’t know if you want to get into that or not.

Michael:

(15:40) Yeah, actually yes tell us about the process and then we’ll look at your photos.

Liza:

(15:44) Well the New Yorker is a weekly issue as you know and I send in my cartoons every week and they either by them or they don’t. And often times those cartoons are less political because of the timing of it, you know it’s a weekly so you have to think about what political event is going to have legs as it were if it’s got to stick around for another week and how to approach it if the New Yorker might want it.

(16:10) Then places like Medium where I’ve been publishing political cartoons that can be very quick. My cartoons can respond in an immediate political event.

Michael:

(16:22) When you’re publishing on Medium which I’m assuming is your publishing for yourself, you’re making the selections and it’s basically all you.

Liza:    

(16:32) Well I have an editor there and we are working together. He would sometimes give me feedback.

Michael:

(16:37) Is there a difference in the way that you approach the cartoons when you’re working for Medium to say the New Yorker. Just to open up a curtain, especially of the New Yorker a little bit because it’s so famous and everybody wants to know.

Liza:    

(16:54) Well the New Yorker where I still draw with pen and ink and I scan the drawings and send them in, and sometimes I go in and show the editor and show them in person. And as I says the cartoons are less political and they are more about general life, and sometimes indirectly political.

(17:13) And for Medium I often use as you will see in some of the drawings that I’ll show you, I will use my tablet to draw. And some cartoons are not chosen by the New Yorker and they chose not to print them, so I just use them elsewhere on my own site and whatnot.

Vala:

(17:32) Do you remember the first cartoon you sold and could you describe it to the New Yorker.

Liza:

(17:41) Yes of course I do! The first one I sold was not the first one they printed, but the first one I sold was a caption less cartoon, all my cartoons didn’t have words back then because I didn’t like words back then as much as I do now. But Paul Cezanne, the artist has a theory of three elements in nature a cone, a sphere, a cylinder. That’s what he bases his art theories on, and so I just come out of art school, you know art school, so I drew a cone, a sphere, and a cylinder that’s the given, and I added to the picture a TV set.

Vala:

(17:57) A TV set!

Liza:    

(18:26) So that’s often what cartoon is, it’s a twisting of reality, it’s taking what we know and it makes it different and that’s why you laugh, so that’s good. It was a weird one to sell for my first cartoon, because people were like what is that? They didn’t understand it.

Vala:

(18:41) Did you get a big reaction to it?

Liza:    

(18:50) No. This was pre-Internet to  so back then you didn’t get reactions to anything. But it was embarrassing because it fits the New Yorker stereotype like, I don’t understand that cartoon, what were you saying, what we are doing.

Michael:

(18:57) Well obviously it worked because you have been doing this now for 30 years over there.

Liza:    

(19:10) Yeah, I found a way to make more relatable cartoons.

Michael:

(19:16) Well let’s take a look at some of your cartoons right now and then you can talk us through. So let’s see here, can you see my screen?

 

Liza:

(19:29) Yes, so I chose this one because we were talking about storytelling and I did this cartoon and the New Yorker didn’t buy it, but it ran in the Southampton Review, which is a literary magazine and it’s just saying that there’s a story everywhere. There is a poem or a painting in everything, that was the joke there.

Michael:

(19:48) Okay, let’s go to another one.

Liza:    

(19:55) Again, this is another one, this is one that I love and people seem to like a lot, but the New Yorker didn’t go for it. This was in response, I think about last year or two years ago – two years ago or more and this phrase was being bantered about on the War on Women, so I just wanted to use it and put it into a typical, what did you do in the war Daddy, and I made it a woman of course.

Michael:

(20:22) Do you know why the New Yorker didn’t pick it up?

Liza:    

(20:24) I don’t know, you never really know. Don’t know.

Michael:

(20:30) Let’s look at another one.

Liza:    

(20:32) These are all non-New Yorker ones. This one I did back when the Arab Spring was just starting and Twitter was just starting and I was just starting on Twitter and making fun of middle-class Americans who picked up on Twitter and got sucked into all the tweeting going on over in the middle east. So I was making fun of this woman, and she’s got involved in the revolution.

Michael:

(21:03) This one has a pretty harsh social commentary actually.

Liza:

Is it?

Michael:

(21:06) I think so

Vala:

(21:08) I don’t know, you said in a Ted talk woman plus humor equals change. I kind of see that you know, I see there is a drinking a martini and talking about revolution with the high heel.

Liza:    

(21:23) I mean one of my favorite topics is women and to make fun of women because women are, we are part of the problem also in terms of women’s rights. It’s a cultural thing, so I poke fun at men and women and how we are part of the problem, and what you said about my Ted talk when I said that women plus humor equals change, what I meant by that was that humor is a powerful tool. If you go to anybody doing stand-up, they are in a powerful position. They’re standing on that stage and they have control of their audience. So it’s a tool to make people laugh or to make people not laugh, and women don’t use it enough. They don’t use humor enough.

(22:11) They may use it among other women, but they they don’t – and this is changing now, I did my Ted talk five years ago and more and more women are getting into humor as we know, and using it as a tool to expose stupid things.

Vala:

(22:25) Let me ask you something about humor, you watch the FIFA World Cup and the woman’s team is often referred to by the TV station as girls, and you don’t find that humorous. I don’t ever recall men playing professional sports being referred to as boys. So you know things may have changed in five years, but have they really changed?

Liza:    

(22:50)Not in some places no, I think it’s important to change the big things, you know it’s important to get the legislation for equal rights whatever realm you’re talking about. It’s also important to change the little things, the cultural things, because that stuff is ingrained and it’s passed on from generation to generation and and people I think you know, for example people think, well if we have like 10 CEOs, women who were CEOs in this country, things aren’t great, you know. But yet there are still women that are not able to get equal pay for working at the Walmart or whatever. Or they don’t get equal treatment from their boss or their husband or you know the guy at the deli. So it’s a cultural thing.

Michael:

(23:47) Okay, let’s take a look at the next one.

Liza:    

(23:51) This was from the New Yorker. It’s one of those cartoons that’s kind of like vague, I think I used the word niche and the word niche was being used in politics at the time and I don’t remember the context, but I just thought that was a great word and I just plugged it into an everyday situation and that was the evolution of that.

Michael:

(24:18) And how about this one.

Vala:

(24:24) Wow, did you test this one with your international cartoon network.

Liza:

(24:28) Yeah, this was on Ted talk and it was the TED talks online and this one got some heavy conversation going on the comments. I’m making fun of the Caucasian woman you know, my demographic. I’m not trying to say anything about other people’s religions or their closings. I’m just making fun that she’s trying hard to relate to another woman in only the way she knows how.

Vala:

(25:00) Is the color pink purposeful in this?

Liza:    

(25:06) Good question Vala, because I don’t choose these things lightly. I probably gave her a pink shirt to say that she’s a bit feminized. She’s one of those women that goes for being overly feminine.

Michael:

(25:28) Okay, let’s look at the next one. ‘I’m staying together for the sake of my parents’.

Liza:

(25:36) This is a New Yorker cartoon. The other one be just so was not in the New Yorker. This is a typical switch to the cartoon of the phrase I’m staying together for the kids, you know. I just switched it to making comments like – this is a story. This little kid, I don’t know if it’s a girl or little boy it could be either. You know who that kid is, you know what they are family life is probably like and what they’re going to go home to.

Michael:

(26:06) There’s a lot of innuendo with something like this right. The story is not explicit, it’s kind of your relying on the cultural assumptions on the audience that they’ll fill in all the blanks that aren’t here.

Liza:    

(26:23) That’s right. You know, and that’s the thing about humor is that it sometimes can be an inclusive sort of force or divisive force, you know the New Yorker, many people don’t get the cartoons don’t get them and that’s too bad. But what I’m trying to say is that sometimes in many cases humor can lead people out, and I don’t think the New Yorker intends to do that, but it can keep people separated and that’s not good. It’s better to have inclusive type humor. Am I making sense?

Michael:

(27:07) Yeah, so obviously there are cartoonists who attempt to capture very divisive or to freeze very divisive feelings in time, but it seems like you are doing the opposite. You’re freezing in time inclusive perceptions, assumptions, and emotions.

Liza:

(27:26) Well thank you I hope so

Michael:

(27:30) Let’s look at the next one.

Liza:    

(27:34) Again this is a couple I’m sure that you know, and hopefully it’s not you and your wife. It’s a cliché, I think I’d look better without who. In this case she’s saying she’s look better without you, so it’s a little story and you can imagine these people and what’s going on in their marriage or their relationship.

Vala:

(28:00) You’re married to a cartoonist is that right?

Liza:

(28:01) I am. I’m very happily married.

Vala:

(28:06) That’s great, our audience is happy that you said that.

Liza:    

(28:09) And I love my husband and I like him and he’s my best friend, and we go places together. Actually, I suppose this is slightly self-preferential because I go out more. I go to events more, and I travel more, and he stays at home.

Michael:

(28:31) I was going to say, you’re basically just making observations about slices of life.

Liza:

(20:39) Right, and I imagine these people, I can imagine a woman saying that stuff. I wouldn’t necessarily say it, but I could imagine a woman who might say it.

Liza:    

(28:50) This one is very different as you can see. I did this right after the cartoonist that was killed, called Charlie Hebdo, and my inspiration for this was that immediately after the deaths there were cartoonists from all over the world, an outpouring of cartoons drawn in response to the deaths. And many of the cartoons were drawn of cartoonists holding their pens as swords or guns attacking other people. I thought to myself, well I don’t see my pen as a sword. I see my pen as an olive branch, so I don’t want to attack people.

(29:29) There is a divide between many cartoonists. A friendly divide I don’t think there’s serious battles, but some of us feel that cartooning should be more of a dialogue conversation among peoples. Others think that we should use our skills to attack and injustice. Ideally I guess the best kind is somewhere in the middle.

Michael:

(29:56) Okay.

Liza:

(30:00) This one was an important cartoon to me because I did this right after 9/11. Right after that date I had a lot of trouble drawing cartoons. I didn’t really know if I wanted to do it anymore, and I drew this cartoon and the New Yorker bought it and printed it and it was a couple of months afterwards, and I was very happy to be able to contribute something.

(30:24) And this cartoon is an example of me sensing in what was going on in the country at the time, but everybody was on edge wondering what’s going to happen next. Is this going to be the way our life is going forward. So I reflect to that in the cartoon was a sense of the mood of the country.

Michael:

(30:44) So when you draw, for many of these there is a lot of a deep and heartfelt emotion and thinking that goes into it.

Liza:    

(30:57) I guess, for many of them some of them are silly, but I mean these are more powerful.

(31:04) This one was done in the 90s and it was in the New Yorker and I was using heavier washes as you can see, and I was coming on the word feminist which was still a word that you get so many different interpretations of. And this little girl obviously she is interpreted it one way, even although she is very strong enough to consider that if she punched somebody else she’s actually a feminist and she doesn’t know it.

(31:32) And this one I wanted to show because it’s my – this was a sequential one that I did for Medium and you start up on the left-hand corner and you go right. I’m trying to talk more and more about women and their cultures, and what I think is that women around the world have similar problems in terms of equal rights. It’s only a matter of degree, so we just need to be able to talk to each other and communicate with each other.

(32:05) This one was done right after Obama was elected the first time and it has been a long time since the Democrats had one. This was in the New Yorker, and I like to show this to people because it is typical that I put women in this, and it has nothing to do with women’s rights or anything. But why not make women the every man in whatever you draw or write, because women can be every man now.

Michael:

(32:34) So there’s that underlying focus on women’s issues that you just sort of bring it out in a lot of different ways, and subtle ways.

Liza:

(32:42)Right, I was talking with Gina Davis the actress, who has a foundation that talks about how many women are in movies and television, they research it, and so many times we just don’t notice the fact that there are not many women in a given film or their aren’t many women in leading roles or supporting roles. It’s just a matter of thinking it through and making slight changes and making the therapist a woman, you know you can so why not.

Michael:

(33:16) So let’s look at one or two more and let’s ask you to draw for us how that, we’ll put you to work.

Vala:

(33:24) Will you cover the election, the presidential election?

Liza:

(28:56) I will yeah

Vala:

Okay, cool.    

Liza:

I’m not sure where but I’ll figure that out. This one I really love because this was in the 90’s and it’s an example of using the woman as the speaker and making a snide remark about a man. So this cartoon was the beginning of the whole  trend of my work heading that way. I didn’t know it at the time but I started doing more and more women speaking and making fun of men in a loving way.

Michael:

How about this one?

Vala:

(34:08) Michael has a vest like that by the way.

Michael:

Yeah exactly.

Vala:

He did wear a dress to one of our shows, but we’ll talk about that later.

Michael:

That’s a whole separate story. It was actually a ceremonial African…

Vala:

Gown.

Liza:

And Vala, you have nothing that ever approaches anything that, right?

Vala:

Not live on the air!

Michael:

(34:39)Okay, tell us about – enough of my dresses, AKA or a ceremonial African robes AKA dress.   

Liza:

(34:51) This was in the New Yorker just making fun of using another cliché actually, ‘I’d invite you in but my life’s a mess’, you know instead of saying my room’s a mess, my apartment’s a mess, my life’s a mess.

Michael:

(35:05) Okay, and how about one last one and then we’ll ask you to draw for us.

Liza:

(35:10) Oh my, this one and the thing about Medium is I keep trying to push myself to be stronger politically, not quite so careful, and this was done right after – I’ve forgotten his name already, a football player who struck his wife in an elevator I believe, right. So, I don’t have to explain it but do more and more for a Medium that gets at the heart of the things that are going on in our culture.

Michael:

(35:52) I do see you by the way as a visual poet incidentally without a doubt.

Liza:

(35:58)Wow! And what do you mean by that?

Michael:

(36:02) Well you know poetry captures some sentiment, some thought and tries to distill it down to its essence, so it’s the truth so to speak of that object, thought situation for the poet. And in a similar way it seems to me that you are looking at cultural situations or social dynamics and stripping away everything except some core element of that dynamic – like with this cartoon, just getting to the essence of it.

Liza:

Thank you.

Vala:

(36:38) In a very succinct minimal way, right is that like right to the heart of it in a very effectively and…

Liza:

(36:49)Thank you. Some topics lend themselves that more than others and I  never know what they are until I try to work on them, and this I shouldn’t have titled it football culture, because it’s actually by bringing the judge into it, it’s our culture. You know it’s stepped into our culture.

Michael:

(37:12) So I definitely now will think of you as a visual poet.

Liza:

Thank you.

Michael:

(37:18) And having said that let me stop this screen share that I’ve been doing. Ahh, look I have turned all white. Don’t you love technology how that works! There we go. Now Liza why don’t you share your screen and let’s put you to work and work your magic for us.

(37:47) So it’s that green arrow in the upper left. Perfect.

Liza:

(38:05) So on Twitter this afternoon one of your followers made a request.

Vala:

I believe that was Joanna Young, CIO of Michigan State University.      

Liza:

(38:22) Right, so it may take me a minute but I come up with an idea.

Vala:

(38:28) Cool, I think Joanna’s watching, and by the way, Saul Kaplan is watching. He’s tweeting about the show live. Hello sol!

Liza:

(38:40) We could keep talking because this will take me a few minutes.

Michael:

(38:45) See, I think this is kind of – see, what I totally see, the thing for me is okay, I’m watching this and I’m seeing it take shape, and like the logical part of my mind understands what’s happening here. But yet I have yet to come to grips with the fact that this thing is taking shape. This representation of a person and it’s a story that’s happening as you’re drawing, right. Beginning with the shape of the head and then the computer and then the table, and now out of the story there’s another person. The first one, it’s hard to tell if it’s a man of a woman, and now clearly there is a woman here and she’s having some type of interaction or exchange or dynamic with this man. And this is all emerging out of your mind, and okay, it appears to be some kind of office and you know, what the hell is going on here? And this is just emerging as we’re talking and where is this coming from?

(39:57) And so what actually is taking place here. So there’s like this aspect of it that I just find magical. And you know, the story is sort of happening, okay so she’s sitting on a chair and this is definitely some type of work environment, you know the big conference table, and there’s some action happening here.

Liza:

(40:16) So I’m going to do this and you’ll know that it’s a woman right. I shouldn’t have to do that, but…

Michael:

(40:29) There’s probably parts of her anatomy that I didn’t quite get.

Liza:

(40:32)But even still if – and this tables a little funky, but.

Michael:

(40:39) Yes, and it’s also small on my screen, but you have these two women and it looks like a job interview may be. No wait, so there’s actually something else going on here.

Vala:

(40:56) He has his back to the woman.

Michael:

(41:03) Oh my, so there’s like this whole social vignette that’s taking place      .

Liza:

(41:10)This is so interesting, I’ve never done it – I’ve drawn live for people before, but I’ve never drawn live and people comment on what I’m doing.

Michael:

(41:19) The live cartoon commentary.

Vala:

(41:24) Is Michael’s commentary changing the story I hope not.            

Liza:

No, no

Michael:

(41:33) Okay, so we have this kind of like…

Vala:

(41:36) High school lunchroom, the boys are together and the girls are together. I hope Joanna Young is watching, this was inspired by your request on Twitter which is pretty cool.

Michael:

(41:56) So there’s this whole scene taking place here. You know, it’s funny. It’s all visual but I feel like I’m reading the novel and sort of observing the story unfold and wondering what the end of the story will be.

Liza:

Right.

Michael:

(42:16) Right, even though it’s visual it’s like somehow mentally it becomes no different really than a novel in terms of the unfolding.

Liza:

Interesting. Let’s see.

Vala:

(42:34) I hope this one makes it into the New Yorker.

Michael:

(42:39) And people by the way are loving this on Twitter. Scott Allen remarks, this is emerging live cartooning…

Vala:

Joanna Young is watching that’s awesome!

Michael:

And she says fascinating. Mark C Title I’m not sure if I’m pronouncing his name correctly it says, what a cartoon can do. Thanks for creating and sharing.

Vala:

(43:06) By the way Liza, Joanna is truly one of the top CIO’s in the country.

Liza:

Oh really!!      

Vala:

(43:12) Absolutely. So hopefully at some points your paths will cross, even on Twitter.

Liza:

Where is she based?

Vala:

Her home is I believe is still New Hampshire, but she’s the CIO at one of the largest colleges/ universities in the country now.

Michael:

At Michigan.

Vala:

Yeah Michigan State. Michigan University.

Michael:

(43:39) Okay, so we have the story is – the emerging story looks like it’s coming to completion. Constance Woodstone says, fabulous live cartooning and in my opinion I see team dynamics into play.

(43:54) Hey folks that are listening on Twitter, share us your thoughts on what you’re seeing here, and by the way, sign up for the CXO-Talk newsletter, if you like these just let us send you our newsletter, we’d love to do that.

(44:10) Uh huh, so we do have this kind of lunchroom thing going on as Vala mentioned of the men hanging together and the women. And so, ‘they hired you last year and they hired me this year.’ and then the other lady responds, - this is so amazing to like watch this story unfold – ‘and they consider this doing better’. Basically yeah, so you have sort of symbolic women being hired, or left on the side where actual stuff of business is taking place excluding them.

(45:11) Which relates, Liza to what you were just talking about earlier, and by the way, Joanna, who Vala was mentioning is unique in that she’s one of the relatively few female CIO’s in the country. I mean there are quite a few but certainly at the scale of organizational size that she’s at is quite unusual.

(45:36) And this relates back to what you were saying earlier that we don’t or we’re not conscious or aware of say, when there’s a lack of female participants in movies or TV shows for example.

Liza:

(45:49)You know, we see some change happening but the change and that’s good, the hiring of women is not fast enough in many cases but it’s the culture. It’s the tone of the culture that also needs to change.

Vala:

(46:10) And in Joanna’s case, you would have to draw five more guys because I believe the ratio of female to male CIO’s is one to 10, so for every female CIO there’s   10 men. So extraordinary, thank you so much for this, I think this could be my favorite CXO-Talk of all time. Well this was pretty - It took a 119 but this was pretty amazing.

Liza:

Thank you Vala. It was really fun. It was great. I enjoyed talking to you both.

Michael:

(46:43) Well this is a very different type of CXO-Talk and I’m so glad that we did it, and Liza and by the way, Joanna Young says thank you.

(47:05) So this has been a pretty interesting CXO-Talk and a bit of a departure from our usual you know, hard core innovation and technology. But very important because I think that success in anything and success I business and innovation actually demands – absolutely demands at looking at situations from a different perspective, and Liza Donnelly, thank you so much for bringing us that different perspective today.

Liza:

(47:38)Well thank you. You know I have to say that it works both ways, as me learning about what you do is only good at what I do, so it’s helps me to be better.

Michael:

(47:52) Well this has been a pretty fascinating episode number 119 of CXO-Talk, so thank you so much and everybody who has been watching, thank you especially for joining. Sign up for that newsletter. I’m Michael Krigsman, my co-host is Vala Afshar, Vala I hope you have a great week ahead.         

Vala:

(48:16) Thanks Michael and I’m looking forward to better quality photos from you after this show.

Michael:

(48:22) Well that’s going to be a long wait!

Liza:

(48:28)I know he has a vest and I know Vala has a vest.

Vala:

Absolutely, but not a dress!

Michael:

(48: 35) Well, we’ll talk off-line, alright everybody, thank you so much. Liza Donnelly, cartoonist for the New Yorker thank you and we’ll see you again next time. Bye bye.   

                       

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