Remembering Cartoonist John Callahan

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">
  • Transcript

Cartoonist John Callahan has died at age 59. He spent the last three decades of his life in a wheelchair, the result of a car accident, and created often tasteless and offensive cartoons dealing with people with disabilities.


Cartoonist John Callahan took humor to the edge of tastelessness. The artist, who died over the weekend at age 59, pushed the limits of what most newspapers would tolerate.


His cartoons portrayed the invalid, the suicidal, the blind, the deaf, the mentally unstable. No one was safe from the humor of John Callahan. In one cartoon, a cowboy posse in the desert finds an abandoned wheelchair and the sheriff declares: Don't worry; he won't get far on foot. And that's a mild example.

SIEGEL: A 1970s car accident left Callahan unable to walk and with only limited use of his arms. He drew with his left arm, steadying his right. It's perhaps understating things to say that Callahan had a rather dark sensibility. In another cartoon, a man plunges from a skyscraper, talking on his cell phone. He says: Hello, suicide hotline, I've changed my mind.

NORRIS: Callahan's work attracted the attention of now-retired fellow cartoonist Gary Larson, the creator of "The Far Side." Larson told us today that he considered Callahan a kindred spirit because he wasn't afraid to find the joke where others might find embarrassment.

Mr. GARY LARSON (Creator, "The Far Side"): I bet most people have laughed the hardest in their lives when they've only been around, like, one other person. You know that time when you're laughing so hard that your stomach hurts. And it's probably laughing at something that you both know you really shouldn't be laughing at - and that just fuels it even more, and you can't stop. I think that's the kind of stuff he toyed with a little bit.

SIEGEL: Gary Larson, remembering fellow cartoonist John Callahan, who died Saturday in Portland, Oregon.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.