Celebrating 20 Years of Frazz by Jef Mallett

We are so excited to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Frazz this week! With comics that are stacked full of versatile topics and engaging characters, Frazz has created incredible content with us at AMU over the years.

What do you think it is about Frazz that has made it so popular with readers – and editors – for so long?

While it’s up to the readers to say what they like about Frazz, here’s what I hope they like: I give them credit for smarts, thoughtfulness and curiosity. While I like a good fart joke as much as anyone (this is an elementary school, after all), I’m not at all afraid to give my readers credit for some smarts and stray well away from the lowest common denominator. And I’m not afraid to send them running to the reference stacks or a search engine, because they’re curious enough to look something up and learn a few more things while they’re doing it. And I’m not afraid to prompt them to think in other ways about the world, about behavior, about their own lives and biases.

I hope the same is true for the editors, but with just a little more. I’ve tried to be reliable, to meet my deadlines comfortably (sorry for that dicey stretch of the past few years), and I’ve tried to send in my work clean, so that my editors don’t dread the cleanup when my stuff comes in. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure the fact that my editors send my work on even cleaner than I send it to them is one of the things that makes Frazz popular with readers.

As for longevity, I know I’m not the kind of writer who can just make something up 365 times a year, so I steal liberally from my own life. And my own life keeps changing and it keeps challenging me, which turns out to be a pretty good recipe for keeping a comic strip from getting stale.

What has been your favorite part about creating this strip and these characters and for 20 years?

So many possibilities: The doors it’s opened, the friends I’ve made. The way it lets me share my life with friends I’d never be able to keep up with enough doing it any other way. But since you asked for my favorite thing, singular, let’s go with the way it’s kept me on my toes. If you’re going to steal your material from your own life, then you’d better make it an interesting one.

How has your experience working with Andrews McMeel been?

I cannot say enough nice things about Andrews McMeel. Everyone there, everyone I’ve worked with and a few I haven’t even met, has given me a humbling amount of support, encouragement and genuine friendship. In fact, if I have any regrets, it’s for my determination not to be a pest. I wish I’d spent more time bothering everyone there, because I don’t get the impression anyone there considers that pesky. I should go about fixing that starting now.

Is there anything else you would like to add about the strip, or about your life as a cartoonist?

Just a few days ago, I was being interviewed for a swimming podcast. The best interviewers teach you new things about yourself, and we were talking about inspirations. And it occurred to me that my inspirations and heroes weren’t people who did things I couldn’t. They were people who were doing things I wanted badly to do, whether I knew it yet or not. And who said, “Come on, let’s do this together.” And I thought, you know, that’s what I’ve been trying to do with Frazz all along. To show my readers a world and say, “Come on …”