April 18, 2014

Icon

Icon: Mike Peters

Creator of Mother Goose & Grimm comic strip, age 65, Orlando

Art Levy | 3/1/2009

» When I was coming up with a strip, I thought I would do a dog. I’ve always related to the dog, even though there were like 1,000 dogs out there, Snoopy and Marmaduke and all of them. But when you do a comic strip, you try to do something you’re familiar with and can relate to. It’s like being married to a nymphomaniac. It’s really fun the first three weeks and then you go, ‘What, again?’

Mike Peters
Mike Peters [Photo: Jeffrey Camp]

» Growing up, I had a horrible stutter. I couldn’t pronounce anything. My mom would get me in front of people and say, ‘This is the future president of the United States. This is my son, Mike. Say hi, Mike!’ And I was like ‘h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h... .’ It was so embarrassing. That’s why I started cartooning. It was something I could do without speaking.

» I wanted a dog that would be looking and seeing things, but actually acting like a dog, like drinking out of toilets and knocking over trash cans. One thing I thought of was Robinson Crusoe and this dog living on an island, but then I could only come up with like 1,000 coconut jokes, and I could tell that wasn’t going to work.

» My mom (Charlotte Peters) had a TV show for about 25 years in St. Louis. She was an amazing lady, but also crazy. She’s the reason I am the way I am. I would wake up and if she was not in a happy mood, I would start working on my cartoons and not be involved in whatever the tornado was that day.

» I didn’t realize how much work a comic strip was. It’s unrelenting. It never stops. There’s no end. You have to do it every friggin’ day. I haven’t had a weekend off in 25 years.

» My mom sent me to an all-boys military Catholic high school. It was the kind of place that taught you to love people and then shoot them.

» We love living so close to Disney World. My wife and I sometimes go there for breakfast, at this little shop where they sell rolls and breakfast things. Then we sit at one of the tables right at the end of Main Street and watch all of the kids coming in. They’re so excited. It’s so wonderful to see their faces. They’re exactly the way I was the first time I visited — and still am each time I go.

» My dad was a traveling salesman, very quiet, very sweet, but he was gone most of the time.

» When you do this kind of job, especially when you do humor, you do it for yourself. I don’t think about anybody who reads it. I think, ‘Is this funny to me? Will I be ashamed of this a month from now, or will I be happy?’

» At school, people would laugh whenever I started saying something and so I thought, ‘Well, at least I can make people laugh.’

» I wake up whistling. I’m happy. I’m not a depressed person. I don’t wake up going, ‘Oh, God, no.’ Well, I did during Bush.

» I was too much of a ham to withdraw from people. Every Friday, I would get on the intercom, for all the classes to hear, and then the student council president would ask me what was coming up that day. And I would say, ‘T-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t ...’ and you would hear the laughing all through the school. I was kind of proud of this. I played it up a little, just for the laughs. So three weeks before I graduate, my mom gets called to the school and they tell her, ‘All of the brothers agree. Mike is retarded.’ She comes home and says, ‘What the f--- have you been doing at that school?’

» Grimmy is my inner child. I’m the dog.

» A buddy from college said he thought he could help me. He said, ‘Every time you speak, I’m going to tell you to speak lower.’ So, every time I spoke he’d say, ‘Speak lower.’ This took my attention off the word and slowed down my brain, which was going beyond where my mouth was. It was taking the attention off my fear of saying the word. It changed my life.

» I think I’m a better political cartoonist than I am a comic strip guy, but when I go into crowds, people know the comic strip. If I didn’t enjoy the strip so much, I’d be, ‘Oh God, so I’m going to be known for this?’ But I’m having a blast doing the strip.

» I get writer’s block two or three times a day.

» I don’t have fears about the newspaper business. I just know it’s changing. The papers that can stay around are going to do great. There’s still work to do. There’s just not as much money.

» As a political cartoonist, it was like Christmas every morning with Bush. He was for sure the worst president of my lifetime, if not ever.

» I’ll tell you exactly where I want my ashes spread after I die — at Disney World, right at the statue of Walt Disney holding Mickey Mouse’s hand.

» Whenever I go to St. Louis, I take two or three hours and visit Dogtown, the neighborhood where I grew up my first 10 years. I went back last year and knocked on the door of my old house to ask if I could sit awhile on the front porch. It’s an odd thing, I know. The man who answered said they’d just bought the house, and they were told that a cartoonist would come and ask just to sit and to not be afraid.

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