Comic Relief: The Art of Pat Byrnes

Byrnes01 © Pat Byrnes

Since 1998, Pat has been a regular contributor to The New Yorker. He is also a staple in Reader’s Digest, Wall Street Journal, Barron’s and America Magazine. For three years, he created the syndicated comic strip, “Monkeyhouse.” He has won one National Cartoonists Society “Silver Reuben” Award for advertising illustration (out of ten nominations in various categories, including five for Best Gag Cartoonist).


The theme for these cartoon selections is “2017.” That is the year they were all published. Sorry, not a lot of deep thought in that. Some ran in The New Yorker, others Barron’s, Wall Street Journal, and Narrative Magazine.

© Pat Byrnes


There’s nothing out of the ordinary in the technique of the drawings. Pen and ink, with a watercolor wash for most of them, and a splash of digital color for one. Just pen and ink for the WSJ ones.


© Pat Byrnes

What makes this past year an unusual one for me is the inclusion of political and extremely topical cartoons. I was never one for that in the past. It’s not that I was afraid to tackle issues, but they were more social issues or moral issues.



© Pat Byrnes

The social issues have lots of potential for self-satirical fun, and the moral issues come with a built-in emotional charge.


© Pat Byrnes

My first anthology of gag cartoons was called, What Would Satan Do? So you should get the drift of how that worked, or you will after looking at a few of these cartoons.


© Pat Byrnes

The thing is, last year political crossed over onto my turf. So I couldn’t not engage it as subject matter. I did still try to wrench some laughs out of it, though.

© Pat Byrnes

Editorial cartoons can remain entirely political and incite outrage, but gag cartoons have a different mission. They still need to provoke laughter, which I enjoy because it’s a sign of resilience and hope.


© Pat Byrnes

Speaking of hope, I hope that intellectualizing this hasn’t taken any of the fun out of this batch of cartoons. Enjoy.

© Pat Byrnes


© Pat Byrnes


© Pat Byrnes


Pat’s gag cartoons appeared for the first time in book form in What Would Satan Do? (Harry N. Abrams, 2005), and again in Because I’m the Child Here and I Said So (Andrews-McMeel, 2006). He illustrated Eats Shoots & Leaves — Illustrated Edition by Lynne Truss (Gotham 2008). He wrote and illustrated Captain Dad: The Manly Art of Stay-at-Home Parenting (Lyons Press, 2013) and the Captain Dad blog, praised by The New York Times as “part Dave Barry, part Erma Bombeck and all Pat Byrnes, illustrator, cartoonist and social commentator.”

He is married to Lisa Madigan, who, in addition to being brilliant and charming, is also the Attorney General of the State of Illinois. They live a surprisingly quiet life with their delightful daughters, Rebecca and Lucy, on the banks of the Chicago River.

You can check out more of his work at his website.