Keeping up with Karasik

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Paul Karasik and Lizzie Bradley performed "Asparagus/Let the Sunshine In" in last year's 1960's themed auction. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Karasik-man. He’s leaping over Islands, rocking auctions, and drawing through the night while mortal men sleep. This fall, West Tisbury resident Paul Karasik served as Program Director for Comic Arts Brooklyn, where he interviewed cartoonist luminaries Charles Burns, Richard McGuire, Art Spiegelman, and Roz Chast. Then, he wrote an article, Anatomy of a Gag, published in The New Yorker — he also contributes cartoons to the magazine. One of his cartoons was chosen for the cover of The New Yorker’s cartoon-a-day calendar. To top it all off, Karasik had an exhibit of his work in Brooklyn, New York.

On Saturday, December 13, Karasik will shed his cartoonist’s cape and emerge as a rocking 80’s auctioneer (along with Laura Sargent Hall) at the MV Charter School’s annual fundraiser. For the past decade, Karasik (in Clark Kent/Bruce Wayne mode) has served as Development Director of the M.V. Public Charter School. In a recent email exchange, Karasik answered a few questions about his work and the upcoming auction.

Kate Feiffer: In the New Yorker’s new “Cartoons of the Year” bookazine, you deconstruct the 1940 Charles Addams cartoon of a downhill skier whose tracks travel around both sides of a tree.  Are you ever concerned that in your analysis of cartoons that you are, in effect, exposing the magician’s tricks?

Paul Karasik: I concur with the magicians Penn and Teller on this. Exposing the systems does not make the effect any less magical. In fact, it tends to deepen the appreciation of the magician/cartoonist’s craft.

KF: When you are creating a cartoon, which comes first for you, the gag line or the drawing?

PK: The egg.

KF: Are you still submitting ten cartoons to The New Yorker every week?

PK: Yup. For about 12 years, I have sent in a batch (cartoonist’s nomenclature for a group of drawings), and I’ve had about 12 drawings published by The New Yorker.

KF: Does the cartooning influence the other, seemingly non-related, work you do?

PK: One thing that will always separate me from becoming a great cartoonist is that I need to be with people, while many great cartoonists are quite happy to primarily socialize with their drawing boards.

I am the Development Director for the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School, a part-time fundraiser for a great public school option on the Vineyard that needs a fundraiser because, unlike the other public schools here, the Charter School cannot go to Town Meeting to ask for funding above and beyond our operating costs.

KF: What is the Rock Auction?

PK: The Rock Auction is the Charter School’s annual dance party held this year at Dreamland on December 13. The theme changes each year and this year’s decade in Rock is the 80’s. So if you like to dance to the Talking Heads, the B52s, Madonna, and Men at Work, get your big-hair teased and come on down, ’cause girls (and boys) just wanna have fun!..and it’s more of a FUNraiser than a fundraiser.

KF: What are a few of the items you’ll be auctioning off?

PK: An authentic clambake for 12 on Hancock Beach, summer 2015, a half day tree work or stump removal, a two night stay in any U.S. Marriott, and a plane ride from Katama airfield with Capt. Livingston Taylor. The live auction is snappy and wild and unlike any other auction in pure zaniness. I will be the auctioneer along with Laura Sargent Hall and the chances run high that I may get a pie in the face before the evening is over if enough bidders want to see that sort of thing.

KF: I understand the auction will raise money for a new science center for students.

PK: This past spring the school received a $200,000 grant primarily from the Mass. Life Science Centers for science equipment. We began to build a new science and tech lab this past summer. To be able to open the facility in fall 2015, we need $300,000. All proceeds from the Rock Auction will go towards the lab project.

The Rock Auction takes place on Saturday, December 13, at Dreamland in Oak Bluffs. Doors open at 6:30. $20 admission.