If you’ve been online, and especially on Twitter, then you probably know the name Eli Valley and his brushy drawings that use the grotesque and absurd to make larger points about life, culture, and politics. But it wasn’t until the Trump administration that the New York City-based cartoonist was propelled into the public spotlight. Valley was attacked by a wide range of politicians, particularly Republicans, including Meghan McCain, who called the comic he drew of her “one of the most anti-Semitic things I have even seen.” McCain is not Jewish, and Valley is, not to mention that his father is a rabbi.
In this conversation, I asked Valley to tell us about how he got his start in comics, how he builds on the long history of satire and graphic humor in the Jewish American tradition, and how he copes with the public spotlight while he struggles to survive as a full-time artist.
This podcast is accompanied by scholar Josh Lambert’s article, which explores the art historical roots of Valley’s art. Lambert writes, “Valley comes naturally by his most pressing and recurrent theme: lies told and violence committed in the name of Jewish safety and security. His cartoon jeremiads can easily enough be fit into a long history of Jewish protest, from the Biblical prophets who excoriated the sinners of Israel to modern novelists who, like the criminally under-appreciated late-19th-century San Francisco writer Emma Wolf, wrote about Jews, as she put it, ‘in the spirit of love — the love that has the courage to point out a fault in its object.’”
The music for this episode is “A Mineral Love” by Bibio, courtesy Warp Records.