An interview with editorial cartoonist Michael Egan
Humor Times: What the fuck? It says here you’re a terrorist from South Africa.
Michael Egan: Well, I was born there in the 1940s, when apartheid started up. Soon as I figured out what was going on I became a revolutionary, which in South Africa meant supporting one person, one vote.
Then as a Political Science student at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg I secretly joined the underground African National Congress. Later I worked with many of its greatest leaders, Mandela, Tutu, Sisulu, Bram Fischer and others.
I often hid out at the Fordsburg home of the Pahad brothers, Essop and Aziz, who under Mbeki became senior government ministers. I also knew them in London.
H.T.: So how did you all get out of South Africa?
M.E.: In my case it was fucking scary, man. The cops were onto us all, of course, but I was partly protected by being white and because my father was a famous radio personality in a country that had no TV (for political, not technological reasons).
In 1963, soon after Mandela’s arrest and the Rivonia trial began, the Pahads helped me escape disguised as a nun. I’m quite short and cute so that helped. From what was then still Rhodesia I managed to fly into London on a fake passport provided by the South African underground.
H.T.: Then you went to Cambridge and got a PhD.
M.E.: Yeah, I went to Cambridge, and afterwards became an English professor. But I always wanted to be a political cartoonist. I used to doodle my way through all those boring faculty meetings. I did caricatures of my colleagues and some even bought them.
H.T.: You also published a bunch of academic books and discovered a forgotten Shakespeare play, and have created a website devoted to it.
M.E.: Yeah, four heavy volumes and still no one believes me. You have no idea how fucked-up Shakespeare studies is, it’s another world. Maybe I’ll get the recognition I deserve after I’m gone. That’s how scholarship works.
H.T.: You also became a member of the National Cartoonist Society (Texas Chapter) in 2017. And in addition to your cartoons and graphic books you also write humorously bitter ‘faux news’ satires. Is there a connection?
M.E.: Sure. I think of cartoons as visual satires, and the fake-news stories as verbal cartoons. By the way, interested readers can look them both up on the Humor Times site, The stories are under ‘Faux News.’ I choose to work one way or the other depending on what I want to say.
H.T.: For example?
M.E.: Well, my story interviewing Christopher Hitchens in the afterlife couldn’t have been dome as a cartoon.
On the other hand, Putin weeping crocodile tears isn’t a fake-news story. It’s a cartoon.
H.T.: Do you have any unrealized ambitions?
M.E.: Yeah! I’d love to be Tom Toles, or Tom Tomorrow, or even Tom the Dancing Bug. Maybe I’ll change my name to Tom.