Asher Perlman is a comedian and writer living in Brooklyn. He is currently a sketch writer for Slate’s Trumpcast and was recently a staff writer on The Opposition With Jordan Klepper. He co-hosts a monthly show with Chelsea Davison at Pacific Standard in Brooklyn and can be seen performing with the Improvised Shakespeare Company. (For more info, visit his website.)
This week, Perlman talked with me about what it’s like to draw cartoons specifically for Instagram and how he comes up with his ideas.
One of my favorite things about people is how personally inconvenienced they feel by an impersonal world. I’m reminded of this whenever there’s a long line at the airport, or a train delay. Everyone is so quick to be like, “Well there goes MY day,” as if there’s some cosmic plot to sabotage their commute.
What other kinds of comedy do you do, and how does drawing flex a different muscle?
I love it all! TV writing is what I’ve been doing lately, but I come from an improv/sketch background, and I love stand-up and characters. One thing that’s nice about drawing is that it’s something you can do by yourself with very few supplies, and see through to completion.
Something unique about me is that I love dogs. Dog are great. They’re loyal, reliable, and devoid of all judgment. That being said, they’re also kind of dumb, and I feel like people are quick to forget that fact. It truly breaks my heart when I see dog owners expect their pets to understand things beyond their capabilities.
What makes a premise better suited for a cartoon than, say, a tweet or a written piece?
I think that most ideas could live in several mediums, and sometimes it just depends on what I feel like in the moment. Generally, if an idea feels simple and like something I’d rather see than read, I draw it.
This is part of an ongoing series called “Modern Socrates.” Socrates was clearly brilliant, but he was also very silly and would have been infuriating to be around. Really, I just think he’s the perfect straight man, and it’s fun to imagine him trying to navigate modern life. Like, I bet he would check Instagram Stories for an hour each morning and get jealous of Plato’s nightlife.
Do you take time to brainstorm new ideas to draw, or are you more inspired by things that happen to you?
A little of both. Sometimes, I’ll be out and I’ll see a strange interaction and think, “Huh, that could make a fun cartoon,” but other times I’ll just push myself to write out ten ideas and pick my favorite.
I actually really like self-improvement, and I’m a sucker for self-help books, but it really is funny how if you stretch out the timeline long, the destination is always the same. I know this sounds like a “WHY SHOULD I MAKE THE BED IF IT’S JUST GOING TO GET MESSED UP AGAIN??” thing, and I guess it is, but also I make my bed every morning, so I guess we contain multitudes!
How long does it take you to plan, draw, and post a cartoon?
From idea to execution, it usually takes about half an hour. I used to be more precious about it, but now I focus more on just getting them out there.
What are some comics by other artists that you enjoy?
My dad is an amazing artist, and I grew up on The Far Side and Charles Addams, so they’ll always have a special place in my heart. One cool thing about Instagram, though, is that the barrier to entry is so low that there’s almost literally an endless supply of amazing art that you can see for free. Some people I follow who I really enjoy are Ross Bryant and Hilary Campbell.
Karen Chee is a Brooklyn-based comedian who writes for The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, and Shondaland, among other cool websites.