Lisa Franklin on Expressing Her Most Irrational Thoughts in Ant Form

Lisa Franklin. Photo: Sandy Honig/Courtesy of Lisa Franklin

Lisa Franklin (@lesbiants) is a writer and comedian from New York. She has been published on the Toast and Eidolon Literary Journal. If you’re in New York, you can check out her monthly stand-up show, Runnin’ on Empty With Yotam & Lisa, at (Le) Poisson Rouge in Greenwich Village. If you’d like to admire Franklin’s comics in print, they’re now on sale here!

This week, Franklin talked with me about her favorite subjects to draw about and how her comics have changed over time.

This one’s an oldie but it cracks me up. I really like jokes referencing past events that happened entirely offscreen. Also proud of the visual gag that in Angie the ant’s imagination, cars are large enough to take up both halves of a two-way road.

How do you feel like your comics have changed over time?
The writing is more character-driven than it was when I started. Also, we gained a small audience over the past year, so whenever a strip gets a nice response I’ll try to write on that topic again soon. I write a lot about crushes and dating now because people keep commenting on those comics whilst happily ignoring my jokes about The Flash.

This is by far the comic’s most popular strip. I wrote the joke a couple years ago but never could find a way to phrase it as a good one-liner for stand-up. It’s a better fit here than if I said it onstage, I think, because in person I’m not really that self-deprecating.

What is your overall process like, and how long does it take from coming up with the idea to posting?
My writing process consists of isolating my most irrational thought from the day (“It’s been two hours at my new job and already everyone here hates me,” “I wonder what the NYT wedding announcement will say about me and this pretty girl I just met,” etc.) and then have an ant react in an even more heightened way to the same situation. Generally, comics take me an hour or two in total, from vague idea to posting.

Thank God for NBC. Generally when I mention a TV show in the comic it’ll be one of the rare times that a strip gets more of a reaction on Twitter than Instagram. The other kinds of jokes that do better on Twitter are ones where the characters are very sad.

Who are some cartoonists/illustrators that you admire?
All of them? I consider myself a serious impostor in the cartoonist community. My favorite webcomic is Close Your Eyes, Look at the Mountains — it’s so funny and bizarre and the author, Juniper, is a true peach. When I was a kid I was very into Foxtrot and Calvin and Hobbes and spent years reading and rereading their print collections until I had all of the jokes memorized.

This inspired a visceral love/hate reaction in people that was hilarious to me. Genuinely did not expect Maureen to strike such a chord. Now I have to keep writing jokes about fact-checking to appease the masses. (“You don’t have enough readers to call them ‘the masses.’” —Maureen)

Ooh, tell me more about the distinct reactions you get from Twitter versus Instagram. How are they different?
Across the board the comic is more popular on Instagram, but the audience feels different between the two. I think Twitter folks prefer dry satire, TV commentary, and jokes that feel more sad/relatable than funny. Instagram readers are more into comics that are cute, colorful, and very silly. I never make a strip specifically for one of them, but sometimes I know that a certain person or show mentioned will probably attract a handful of retweets so it’s not surprising when later the strip does better on Twitter.

What subjects do you like cartooning about the most?
I love talking about the weird and specific stuff I’m obsessed with, whether that’s a TV show, person I know, or just a concept that’s been in my head for a while. It’s comforting that people apparently relate to parts of myself that I’m usually too sensible to share with the outside world. And I always have the most fun drawing the strips with any kind of art in them, but they take a long time so I can’t do it too often.

Karen Chee is a Brooklyn-based comedian who writes for The New Yorker, McSweeney’sand Shondaland, among other cool websites.

Lisa Franklin on Expressing Herself in Ant Form