Humor and Satire Interview with Marty Dundics, Founder of Weekly Humorist
I spoke to my neighbor, fellow book club-member, and fellow humor editor Marty Dundics this month! Marty is the Editor-in-Chief of Weekly Humorist. He’s an illustrator, writer and comedy producer, and over at WH he hosts the Talkward podcast (which I’ve been on). He describes himself as a professional goofball and I would agree with that assessment.
Take it away, Marty!
Hi Marty! Can you talk about your educational background and career track a bit? I know you studied art, how did you come into humor editing as well?
I grew up in the suburbs of Annapolis, MD and then studied classical oil portraiture at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, (which was extracurricular type arts program in Annapolis).
My first job was at “I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt.” I drove a very old huge station wagon. Then I went to Syracuse University, studied illustration, took the painting background, and turned painting into something funny and entertaining. In college I also worked as a radio morning show host at the student run hit music station. I worked summers at a CBS Radio station in Baltimore, and then I moved to NYC after college. My first published job was for the New York Press (a Village Voice competitor)and I became their freelance weekly humor illustrator, doing mostly editorial/political type stuff.
Then I got a job at The Late Show with David Letterman in the audience department. I met a bunch of comedy people through there and built up my professional network. I eventually got a job at National Lampoon which was around the corner, through a former Late Show person, and worked my way up doing design and creative, TV development projects. I ran the NatLamp site for a few years, mostly because they were short staffed and I was the only one who sort-of had the background. It was my first time being any sort of editor. I really enjoyed it, so I started my own thing when they were sold. And that’s Weekly Humorist!
You got quite the background and training on the way! How would you describe the tone of Weekly Humorist?
I just pick things that make me laugh. Sometimes those things are subtle, other times those things really punch you in the face. There’s a variety. It’s just a fun, lighthearted silly place. Maybe we are lightheartedly silly with a dark edge — I love that unexpected edge. We’re “The Standard in American Immaturity.” Life is short, laugh more! It’s really just the writers, their creativity. After a while of running things, now I just know I’ll get great stuff and I’ll have enough for a digital issue by Friday. It just happens, because I’m lucky enough that there are so many talented writers and cartoonists who have decided they want their work living on Weekly Humorist. I want to give their work a nice home. Basically, I’m trying to cultivate a little online comedy club. I enjoy it when the writers all start to connect and become friends on Facebook and Twitter, supporting each other.
What’s your daily workload like, running a site like that by yourself?
I fall behind a lot, for example this interview is at least a week late (Ed note: I haven’t sent out this monthly newsletter in four months so no judgement on my end!!!). Kit Lively is managing editor. He’s texting me all day keeping me focused and tossing out ideas based on the news of the day. Kit is a huge talent, he writes and reads submissions and finds and recruits cartoonists. But mostly I’m doing the regular site stuff solo, so it’s the design, posting, programming, marketing, social media, podcasting, business development, producing the live shows and the merch shop. I have this huge google doc for my daily deadlines and if I don’t do it there is a empty cell of failure. I have a lot of empty cells some days. (Ed note: DON’T WE ALL, MARTY, DON’T WE ALL!!!)
What’s the part that you tend to procrastinate on the most?
Finding advertisers, cold calling sponsors. Sending invoices. Resending invoices. Business stuff.
What do you look for, when reading submissions to the site? Is there any element where if it’s good, you know the piece is likely a fit?
I try to read everything right when it comes in. I flag it so it’s marked and I can go back and read it when I have more time to give it more attention. The worst is when I miss reading something or I don’t accept it fast enough and I get scooped. I hate missing out on that great piece. It’s like FOMO but for old, grumpy comedy editors. I like more smart, abstract, evergreen stuff that has a shelf life. Everything is SO TOPICAL, too much. I think that’s what tweets are good for.
Do you consider yourself a heavy editor, or are you looking for pieces that are already a fit with the site?
I am not a heavy editor at all, I want it sent in done. Not an idea that maybe could be something. (Ed: take note, writers! Don’t send in half polished drafts hoping to skate through)
How do you evaluate cartoons?
You just know. You start laughing. I’ve been reading MAD and The New Yorker cartoons my whole life. I have my first rejection letters from both publications in my office.
Weekly Humorist goes beyond humor and cartoons — you also sell merch and produce shows. How does that fit in with the written/drawn component?
It’s a whole brand. It’s probably too much. You have to figure out all the possible angles for business success. The different platforms support each other with content. We can sell cartoons on mugs in the shop. Use performed versions of the written material as audio humor podcasts. I’ve always been a huge standup comedy fan and I have so many friends in the industry so when I had the opportunity to produce a monthly show at the WeWork in FiDi, I jumped at it. The overarching company is Humorist Media, which develops TV/streaming projects. It’s a lot of spinning plates, and I’ve dropped some, but none have shattered…yet.
Tell us a little about your mascot!
When I first launched Weekly Humorist, Bob Eckstein, (who is a main WH contributor as well as a NY Times bestselling author and celebrated New Yorker cartoonist.) Bob mentioned, a few times about how I needed a mascot. I agreed, but I said, “later, not now, I have no idea what this is yet.” So after WH sort of developed its style and voice I made up a made up an old timey founder name Benjamin Jarvis Weekly and I drew a stuffy looking gentlemen with a fancy mustache. Then I added the arrow. He’s based off a guy in my co-working space who I have lunch with often. He’s a proper Englishmen and always wears a tie and wingtips. He has the same mustache. He says funny things very deadpan. I basically just drew him and turned him into a cartoon. He seems to enjoy it.
What’s a scary goal you have for the end of the year? Put it out there!
I just launched a yet another new platform, Humorist Books! The first book will be a collection of the Weekly Humorist so far: Weekly Humorist: Bound not Gagged: Collection #1. Hopefully in time for the holidays!
ABOUT ME: Caitlin Kunkel is a comedy writer, satirist and famed pizza scientist based in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has been featured in Shouts & Murmurs in The New Yorker, The Second City Network, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Reductress, and other places across the vast internetz. She created the online satire program for The Second City and writes for Live Wire Radio, distributed by Public Radio International.
Her first book, NEW EROTICA FOR FEMINISTS, co-written with Carrie Wittmer, Brooke Preston, and Fiona Taylor, will be released by Dutton/Plume in the US and Sceptre in the UK in NOVEMBER OF 2018!!!
GUESS WHAT? Caitlin is also the co-founder and editor of the comedy and satire site for female writers, The Belladonna. Follow her musings on Twitter @KunkelTron.