Roz Chast: From Free Fall to Full-Time Cartoonist


The New Yorker cartoonist once saw her career going over a waterfall. Four decades as a working artist later, and still churning out whimsical and pithy cartoons, Chast sees humor everywhere she looks—especially in New York City.

Roz Chast is one of the lions of old school New York. She grew up in Brooklyn and began publishing cartoons for The New Yorker in the late ‘70s. Years and thousands of cartoons later, her loose line work, handwritten quips, and the frenetic, sometimes anxious, energy of her drawn world have become emblematic of the magazine’s cartoons, and the entire experience of New York.

Lately, she’s joined the legions of creatives who work remotely. She sends her The New Yorker pitches in as PDFs from her home in Connecticut. In the initial transition of moving out of the city, Chast worried that her family would become mall, lawn, and Republican politics obsessed. Instead, she happily reports that she still hates driving and that one of her children is a Socialist.

Days in Connecticut involve errands, drawing cartoons, and playing with her two parrots—who serenade her from the kitchen countertop with demands for waffles, toast, and apples. With her latest book, Going Into Town: A Love Letter to New York, Chast has joined a fellowship of writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald, E.B. White and Walt Whitman who capture the experience of arriving in New York City.

Chast sat down with 99U to talk about navigating a successful career as a working artist, her thoughts on the best ways to experience New York, and how to spot—and write about—the delightful in every hydrant and pigeon.

What’s a ritual you have when you’re in New York?

I love to walk. There’s something about walking around in New York. It’s inspiring for my work and as a person. I get distracted by what I see and get so many impressions. So walking is almost effortless; it doesn’t take any physical effort at all. Whereas, if I’m on a hike—not that I take many hikes—I’m very aware of walking in this boring way. I think, “Oh roots. Oh snakes. Oh bears. I hope I don’t get lost.” I don’t feel that way in the city. I’m a sedentary person, so it’s a surprise and delight how much pleasure it is to walk around New York. To read more from Emily Ludolph, click here.