A detail of a self-portrait from circa 1995
March 19, 1943|
Mount Vernon, New York, U.S.
|Period||1968 – present|
|Genre||Humor and comedy, also horror, fantasy, and philosophy|
Ed Subitzky, full name Edward Jack Subitzky (born March 19, 1943), is an American writer and artist, who is best known as a cartoonist, comics artist, and humorist/humor writer. He has also worked as a television comedy writer and performer, a writer and performer of radio comedy, and a writer of radio drama, as well as creating comedy and humor in various other media. He is a member of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and the Writers Guild of America. He appears in the 2015 documentary Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon, and was featured in one of the posters for the film.
In the early 1970s, Subitzky became a contributing editor at National Lampoon magazine, where he worked with many well-regarded humor and comedy creators such as Henry Beard, Doug Kenney, Michael O'Donoghue, P. J. O'Rourke, Michael Gross. He also worked with National Lampoon comedy performers including John Belushi and Chevy Chase on the Radio Hour, and on comedy albums.
Subsequently Subitzky went on to various other kinds of humor and comedy work, including appearing on television multiple times with David Letterman, and more work for radio. He has also written broadcast horror stories.
Since 2003, Subitzky has contributed 17 pieces (including essays, stories, cartoons, and comic strips) on the subject of consciousness to a serious science journal, the Journal of Consciousness Studies.
Subitzky was born in and grew up in Mount Vernon, New York, just outside New York City. As a child he read a wide variety of comic books and Mad magazine. He was greatly influenced by the work of Harvey Kurtzman and to a lesser extent that of Will Elder, both of whom he met briefly in Mount Vernon when he was about 12 years old.
National Lampoon magazine
Subitzky ended up doing a great deal of work for National Lampoon magazine. His contributions primarily consisted of comic strips, cartoons and humor writing.
His connection with the magazine was first established in 1972, when contributing editor Michel Choquette of National Lampoon magazine visited the SVA cartooning class that Subitzky was part of (p. 47, Levin, 2009). Choquette took a liking to Subitzky's work, and brought him over to the offices of National Lampoon.
Subitzky subsequently became a long-term contributing editor; one or more of his comic strips, cartoons, and written articles appeared in almost every issue of the magazine. In September 1974 he guest-edited the "Old Age" issue of the magazine. His name remained on the masthead of National Lampoon all through the 70s, through the decline of the magazine in the 1980s, and almost up to the point of its eventual demise.
Shary Flenniken, in the biography on her official website, describes Subitzky as "hysterically funny and unassuming".
Subitzky's approximately 100 comic strips for the Lampoon included “Saturday Night on Antarius!”, “Two-way Comics!", "Eight Comics in One!” and “Come Too Soon Comics!” Many of his comic strips ran to several pages, and featured numerous very small panels.
His approximately 100 articles and written pieces for National Lampoon included “How I Spent My Summer” in the "Self-Indulgence" issue (December 1973, Vol. 1, No. 45) and "Stupidworld" in the "Stupid" issue (March 1974, Vol 1, No 48).
Two out of many fumetti, also known as photo funnies, that Subitzky wrote were "The Perfect Date" and "Every Red-Blooded American Boy's Dream: Three Pretty Girls Doing Just What You Want So You Can Masturbate!"
In 1974, Subitzky wrote two sections of the infamous National Lampoon 1964 High School Yearbook Parody: the first piece in the yearbook, which is the Principal's letter, and "In Memorium" [sic], which is a parody of a student In Memoriam piece.
His writing and cartooning were reprinted in many National Lampoon anthologies.
In 1972, a comic of Subitzky's, Two-headed Sam in the singles bar! was drawn especially for the comic book about the 1960s entitled The Someday Funnies, which was put together by Michel Choquette during the 1970s, and which was finally published in 2011.
Works for radio
National Lampoon radio
Subitzky was a writer for and an occasional performer on The National Lampoon Radio Hour, which ran for a little over a year in 1973 to 1974. He conceptualized, and wrote all, or nearly all of, the “Public Disservice Announcements” (which were parodies of public service announcements) as well as a number of other pieces. Some selections from the Radio Hour work appeared on the CD album Gold Turkey.
He also conceived, wrote, and starred in a one-hour, two-episode radio play for The National Lampoon Radio Hour. The play was a spoof of popular science fiction/horror dramas, and it was entitled The Sluts from Space. The two episodes aired on May 25 and June 2 of 1974. Subitzky voiced the part of the science-nerd hero, Timmy Johnson, who, by clever control of the supply of deodorants, manages to save the world from alien invaders disguised as beautiful and seductive women. The Sluts from Space episodes of the show are listed in detail at: and .
In 1980 Subitzky wrote numerous pieces for a nationally-syndicated series of five-minute horror stories, which were broadcast on radio. The series was entitled The Nightwatch. Some of these stories were also made available on an album by Clack, Inc., called Ten Horror Stories: For Radio.
National Lampoon comedy albums
Subitzky was the sole author of two National Lampoon comedy albums:
- Official National Lampoon Stereo Test and Demonstration Record, 1974, voiced by John Belushi and Chevy Chase, among others.
- The Official National Lampoon Car Stereo Test & Demonstration Tape, 1980, on cassette tape for car stereo.
Television work with David Letterman
Comedy writing and performing
Subitzky was a comedy writer on The David Letterman Show for its first season on the air in 1982, and he also appeared on the show many times, in variations of a sketch which is sometimes referred to as “the imposter".
In these sketches, Letterman starts by introducing Subitzky as someone else altogether. In the earliest of his "Late Night" appearances, the person supposedly featured was often a minor celebrity, such as an author. After a few minutes of interviewing, Subitzky breaks down and admits to Letterman that he is not that person, and had only pretended to be that person so that he could be on television. He then runs out through the audience apologizing abjectly.
Subitzky reprised this role in twelve more appearances on Late Night with David Letterman. Although he wears a tuxedo as James Clavell, a motorcycle jacket as Don Henley, and a wig and women's clothing as "Elizabeth Callahan", there is usually no attempt to make him look more like the people he is pretending to be.
As Rolling Stone writer David Browne explained:
"One night, Letterman introduced Don Henley – and out came Ed Subitzky, a balding, overweight staff writer who answered all of Letterman's questions as if he actually were the Eagles drummer. At the end of the segment, Subitzky broke down and confessed "I'm not Don Henley – I'm just a sick man!" before running offstage. Then, a few weeks later, Letterman would repeat the gag all over again with another celebrity name."
- March 25, 1982, the imposter as Martin Cruz Smith, author of best-selling novel Gorky Park
- April 22, 1982, the imposter as Don Henley, founder member of the rock band "the Eagles"
- June 4, 1982, the imposter as James Clavell, author of best-selling novel Noble House
- June 30, 1982, the imposter as "the mattress thief"
- July 9, 1982, the imposter as "Santa Claus"
- July 29, 1982, the imposter as "Elizabeth Callahan" a viewer from Champion, Pennsylvania, who had written in to warn Letterman about the imposter
- October 4, 1982, the imposter as Bob Hope
- December 20, 1982, the imposter as "US Air Force Academy Choir"
- Also on December 20, 1982, the imposter as "the Brooke Shields doll"
- February 1, 1983, 1-year anniversary special of the show: Ed getting out of a car at this Gala event is announced as "the Rock superstar himself, Bruce Springsteen!"
- September 6, 1983, the imposter is seen in a supposed flashback, having been shot through by an arrow (by an audience member?) while on stage
- February 4, 1984, at the end of this episode, which was the 2-year anniversary special of the show: the imposter (or possibly just Ed Subitzky himself) is seen from behind, attending the anniversary dinner party
The New York Times Op-Ed page, and magazine work
During the 1990s, Subitzky had seven cartoons published as "Op-Art" on the Opinion-Editorial page of the New York Times: February 22, 1997; June 27, 1997; September 27, 1997; November 22, 1997; February 16, 1998; August 15, 1998; and October 9, 1998.
Subitzky has created a number of science-related pieces. Starting in 1997, but mostly since 2012, he has had ten letters, some humorous, and some serious, primarily about ideas in physics and cosmology, published in the international science magazine, New Scientist, and he has also had one letter published in Science News.
Journal of Irreproducible Results
In 1991, Subitzky co-wrote a science humor piece for the science humor magazine Journal of Irreproducible Results entitled, “A Call For More Scientific Truth in Product Warning Labels”, by Susan Hewitt and Edward Subitzky. This piece was subsequently quoted by both New Scientist and Atlantic Monthly. Over 20 years after the piece was first published, it was still featured (both with and without its title, attribution and introduction) on hundreds of websites, including versions translated into Dutch, French, German, Hungarian and Spanish.
Journal of Consciousness Studies
Subitzky has a life-long interest in both science and philosophy, and he is especially fascinated by the very challenging "hard problem" of consciousness, i.e. why there is a subjective component to experience. Because of these interests, in 2003 Subitzky started contributing to the Journal of Consciousness Studies (JCS), an interdisciplinary peer-reviewed academic journal that is dedicated entirely to the field of consciousness studies. JCS is published by Imprint Academic, out of Exeter, England.
Since 2003, Subitzky has had nine drawn pieces and ten written pieces published in the Journal of Consciousness Studies. All the pieces make serious points, although some have a humorous perspective. The pieces include an essay, a visual essay, cartoons, comic strips, science fiction short stories, a poem, and a fictional research paper. All of the pieces contain philosophical commentary on theories concerning the nature of consciousness.
In chronological order, Subitzky's JCS pieces are:
- A single-panel untitled cartoon (man enclosed in his own thought balloon) was used as a frontispiece for the journal, Volume 11, No. 9, September, frontispiece
- In 2005, the same untitled cartoon about consciousness (man enclosed in his own thought balloon) was used as cover art for What does it all mean? A humanistic account of human experience by William A. Adams, 2005, 250 pages, published by Imprint Academic
- "Inkland", a 4-page comic strip, Volume 12, No. 12, December, pp. 80–83
- A single-panel cartoon on the subject of the Turing test was used as the cover art for a double issue of JCS, and a more complete version was printed inside: Untitled cover art ("A man gives himself the Turing test ... and passes"), Volume 17, No. 1–2, January–February, cover and p. 228
- "Consciousness Puzzle Page" (part 1) cartoon page, Volume 17, No. 9-10, September–October, p. 229 ,
- "Consciousness Puzzle Page" (part 2) cartoon page, Volume 17, No. 11-12, November–December, p. 180
- "The Big Question", a single-panel cartoon, Volume 19, No. 3–4, March–April, p. 244
- "A Man of Letters", a two-page comic strip, Volume 19, No. 9–10, September–October, pp. 237–238
- "Consciousness Puzzle Page" (part 4) cartoon page, Volume 20, No. 1–2, January–February, p. 226
- "Report from the Future", an imaginary research paper entitled, "An examination of conscigenesis in an artificially created quantum mechanical universe: a physical perspective" by Kranz Tullen, Bvorn Ellin & Shan Tavid, Volume 20, No. 3–4, pp. 230–232
- "Where am I?" a two-page visual essay, Volume 20, No. 9-10, September–October, pp. 206–207
- "Th-ink", a two-page comic strip, Volume 21, No. 5-6, June–July, pp. 218–219
- Marooned, a three-page science fiction story, volume 21 No. 11-12, pp. 155–57
- "The Reader", a two page comic strip, Volume 23, No. 3–4, pp. 264–265
- "Word Play", a two-page comic strip, Volume 23, No. 9–10, pp.pp. 254–255
Subitzky conceived, wrote, and did the original drawings for, a short animated film which was then produced, and subsequently bought by Saturday Night Live, but was not aired. He co-wrote a screenplay, which was bought but not produced. He also wrote the lyrics for a country song which appeared as background music in a bar scene in another film (Kandyland, 1987).
Subitzky appeared in National Lampoon magazine as a character model in editorial photographs 54 times. In 1977 he appeared on the cover of the book National Lampoon The Gentleman's Bathroom Companion as the Ty-D-Bol man (a spoof of commercials for a blue-tinted toilet bowl cleaner).
2006 parody in POX
2010 book Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead
A chapter about Ed Subitzky (pages 208 – 213) forms part of the 2010 coffee-table book about the early years of National Lampoon magazine, Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Writers and Artists Who Made the National Lampoon Insanely Great by Rick Meyerowitz.
2011 book The Someday Funnies
A one-page comic strip by Subitzky is included in the book The Someday Funnies, a collection of original comics about the 1960s, edited by Michel Choquette, which was released by Abrams on November 1, 2011.
2011 Lynda Barry book Blabber, Blabber, Blabber
On page 13 of her 2011 book, Blabber, Blabber, Blabber: Volume 1 of Everything, American cartoonist Lynda Barry lists Ed Subitzky as one of her early influences:
"By the time I graduated from high school I knew about bitter and sweet, but thanks to cartoonists like M.K. Brown, Gahan Wilson, and Ed Subitzky, I also knew about weird and rare and hilarious ways of changing one into the other. These three cartoonists taught me to watch the people around me and listen to how they talk and to write down what they say. But I learned the most by copying their drawings, and these three were especially good teachers." And on page 114 of the same book, Barry says, "...the first drawings I copied would leave traces in my work and drawing style that were unshakable and strong."
2013 Black Eye 2
A one-page comic strip by Subitzky was featured on page 18 of Black Eye 2, a limited edition anthology of black humor.
2013 book That's Not Funny, That's Sick
In June 2013, That's Not Funny, That's Sick: The National Lampoon and the Comedy Insurgents Who Captured the Mainstream, by Ellin Stein was published. Subitzky is mentioned on pages 172 and 174 of the book.
2015 documentary film Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead
In 2015, a documentary film called Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon was released. The film is about National Lampoon and its contributors and how they changed American humor. The film features clips from interviews with many of the Lampoon's major contributors, including Subitzky.
- "Saturday Night on Antarius! The planet with 12 different sexes)" by Ed Subitzky for National Lampoon (magazine)
- The National Lampoon Encyclopedia of Humor, editor Michael O'Donoghue, 1973, table of contents, shown at "Mark's Very Large National Lampoon Site" downloaded Aug 9, 2009
- section, "Theater of the Air" written 2009, downloaded Aug 9th 2009
- /Journal of Consciousness Studies December 2003, contents, listed under "Off the Page"]
- Very Large National Lampoon Site, table of contents for National Lampoon Issue September 1974, Vol. 1. No. 54
- Fedge.net, Shary Flenniken, Biography, 2005-2009, accessed 2014-6-13
- Amazon,com The Nightwatch - Ten Horror Stories for Radio accessed 2014-6-14
- Website: RollingStone.com, Culture, News, "David Letterman Year One: A backstage and in-depth look at how a gap-toothed failed morning-show host and a ragtag band of misfits and rejects changed television forever", issue date September 29th, 2011 Accessed 2016-9-28
- Blabber, Blabber, Blabber: Volume 1 of Everything, Lynda Barry, 31 October 2011, page 13 & page 114, Drawn and Quarterly Comics and Graphic Novels, ISBN 1770460527; ISBN 978-1770460522
- Black Eye 2: Anthology of Humor and Despair edited by Ryan Standfest, June 2013, Rotland Press, Detroit, ISBN 978-0-615-80156-8
- That's Not Funny, That's Sick; The National Lampoon and the Comedy Insurgents Who Captured the Mainstream by Ellin Stein, June 2013, W.W. Norton & company, New York, London, ISBN 978-0-393-07409-3
- Yahoo! Movies, "Check Out the "Animal House" Style Poster for the New "National Lampoon" Documentary" by Jordan Zakarin, January 24th, 2015, Accessed 8 April 2015
- Currently this is the major, and definitive, Lampoon information site
- Shows all the Lampoon covers
- One of many sites which show the "product warning labels" piece
- Michel Choquette (Editor), November 2011, The Someday Funnies, Abrams Books, ISBN 0-8109-9618-9 / 978-0810996182
- Rick Meyerowitz, 2010, Abrams, Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Writers and Artists Who Made the National Lampoon Insanely Great, ISBN 978-0-8109-8848-4, pages 208–213
- Josh Karp, 2004 Chicago Review Press, A Futile and Stupid Gesture: How Doug Kenney and National Lampoon Changed Comedy Forever, Chicago Review Press, 2006, ISBN 1-55652-602-4, ISBN 978-1-55652-602-2
- Matty Simmons, 1994, Barricade Books, If You Don't Buy This Book We'll Kill This Dog: Life, Laughs, Love and Death at the National Lampoon ISBN 1-56980-002-2; ISBN 978-1-56980-002-7
- Tony Hendra, 1987, Dolphin Doubleday, Going Too Far: the Rise and Demise of Sick, Gross, Black, Sophomoric, Weirdo, Pinko, Anarchist, Underground, Anti-establishment Humor ISBN 0-385-23223-3; ISBN 978-0-385-23223-4
Magazines and journals
- LEVIN, Bob, August 2009, The Comics Journal, No. 299, p. 30-81, How Michel Choquette (Almost) Assembled the Most Stupendous Comic Book in the World, Starring: Harvey Kurtzman, Jack Kirby, Federico Fellini, Art Spiegelman, Wally Wood, Bill Griffith, Don Martin, Vaughn Bodé, William Burroughs, Michael O'Donoghue, Roy Thomas, Sergio Aragones, Jann Wenner, Gahan Wilson, C.C. Beck, R.O. Blechman, Eugène Ionesco, Barry Windsor-Smith, Guido Crepax, Ralph Steadman, Steve Englehart, Salvador Dalí, Arnold Roth, Archie Goodwin, Shary Flenniken, Evert Geradts, Moebius, Denny O'Neil, Tom Wolfe, Will Eisner, Frank Zappa and many more
- COOKE, Jon B., April 2003, Comic Book Artist, 24, "Ed Subitzky Interview: A mind for mirth, the nicest cartoonist in comic book history off the top of his head"
- BUTCHER, Susan, & WOOD, Carol, 2006, POX (Australia), # 6, page 26, "Itsy-Bitsy Comics! by Izzy Bitzky"