Ed Subitzky

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Ed Subitzky
A detail of a self-portrait from circa 1995
A detail of a self-portrait from circa 1995
Born (1943-03-19) March 19, 1943 (age 76)
Mount Vernon, New York, United States
OccupationWriter, Cartoonist
Period1968 – present
GenreHumor and comedy, also horror, fantasy, and philosophy

Ed Subitzky, full name Edward Jack Subitzky (born March 19, 1943), is an American writer and artist, who is best known as a cartoonist,[1] comics artist, and humorist/humor writer. He has also worked as a television comedy writer and performer, a writer and performer of radio comedy, and a writer of radio drama, as well as creating comedy and humor in various other media. He is a member of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and the Writers Guild of America. He appears in the 2015 documentary film National Lampoon: Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead, and was featured on one of the posters for the film.

In the early 1970s, Subitzky became a contributing editor at National Lampoon magazine,[2] where he worked with many well-regarded humor and comedy creators including Henry Beard, Doug Kenney, Michael O'Donoghue, P. J. O'Rourke, and Michael Gross. Subitzky also worked with National Lampoon comedy performers John Belushi and Chevy Chase, both in numerous episodes of the National Lampoon Radio Hour, and on the comedy record album Official National Lampoon Stereo Test and Demonstration Record.

Subitzky went on to various other kinds of humor and comedy work, including appearing on television multiple times with David Letterman, and more work for radio.[3] He has also written broadcast horror stories.

During the 1990s, several comic strips of his appeared as "Op/Art" in the op-ed pages of The New York Times.

Since 2003, Subitzky has contributed 17 pieces (including essays, stories, cartoons, and comic strips) on the subject of consciousness to a serious science journal, the Journal of Consciousness Studies.[4]

For many years, Subitzky had a day job as an advertising copywriter.

Early life[edit]

Subitzky was born in and grew up in Mount Vernon, New York, just outside New York City. As a child, he read a wide variety of comic books and Mad magazine. He was greatly influenced by the work of Harvey Kurtzman and to a lesser extent that of Will Elder, both of whom he met briefly in Mount Vernon when he was about 12 years old.

He was educated at what is now Binghamton University, where he was a mathematics major who also took many philosophy courses.

A few years later, he moved into Manhattan, and took cartooning classes at the School of Visual Arts. The classes were taught by Bob Blechman and Charles Slackman.

National Lampoon magazine[edit]

Subitzky ended up doing a great deal of work for National Lampoon magazine. His contributions primarily consisted of comic strips, cartoons, and humor writing.

His connection with National Lampoon magazine was first established in 1972, when contributing editor Michel Choquette visited the cartooning class which Subitzky attended.[5] Choquette took a liking to Subitzky's work, and brought him over to the offices of National Lampoon.

Subitzky subsequently became a long-term contributing editor; one or more of his comic strips, cartoons, and written articles appeared in almost every issue of the magazine. In September 1974, he guest-edited the "Old Age" issue of the magazine.[6] His name remained on the masthead of National Lampoon all through the 1970s, through the decline of the magazine in the 1980s, and almost up to the point of its eventual demise.

Shary Flenniken, in the biography on her official website, describes Subitzky as "hysterically funny and unassuming".[7]

Comic strips[edit]

Subitzky's roughly 100 comic strips for the National Lampoon included “Saturday Night on Antarius! (The Planet with 12 Different Sexes)", “Two-way Comics!", "Eight Comics in One!”, and “Come Too Soon Comics!” Many of his comic strips ran to several pages, and featured numerous very small panels.

Written humor[edit]

His approximately 100 articles and written pieces for National Lampoon included “How I Spent My Summer” in the Self-Indulgence issue (December 1973, Vol. 1, No. 45)[8] and "Stupidworld" in the Stupid issue (March 1974, Vol 1, No 48).[9]


Two of the many fumetti, also known as photo funnies, that Subitzky wrote were "The Perfect Date" and "Every Red-Blooded American Boy's Dream: Three Pretty Girls Doing Just What You Want So You Can Masturbate!"

National Lampoon books[edit]

In 1974, Subitzky wrote two sections of the infamous National Lampoon 1964 High School Yearbook Parody: the first piece in the yearbook, which is the Principal's letter, and "In Memorium" [sic], which is a parody of a student In Memoriam piece.

In the same year, Subitzky wrote numerous sections of the National Lampoon book,The Job of Sex, which was a parody of The Joy of Sex.

His writing and cartooning were reprinted in many National Lampoon anthologies.

Other anthologies[edit]

Pieces of his have been included in several other anthologies, including the 1990 Harper/Collins Big Book of New American Humor, and more than one collection edited by the cartoonist Sam Gross.

In 1972, a comic of Subitzky's, "Two-headed Sam in the Singles Bar!", was drawn especially for the comic book about the 1960s entitled The Someday Funnies, which was put together by Michel Choquette during the 1970s, and which was finally published in 2011.

Works for radio[edit]

National Lampoon radio[edit]

Subitzky was a writer for and an occasional performer on The National Lampoon Radio Hour, which ran for a little over a year in 1973 to 1974. He conceptualized and wrote all, or nearly all, of the “Public Disservice Announcements” (which were parodies of public service announcements), as well as a number of other pieces. Some selections from the Radio Hour work appeared on the CD album Gold Turkey.

He also conceived, wrote, and starred in a one-hour, two-episode radio play for The National Lampoon Radio Hour. The play was a spoof of popular science-fiction/horror dramas, and was entitled The Sluts from Space. The two episodes aired on May 25 and June 2 of 1974. Subitzky voiced the part of the science-nerd hero, Timmy Johnson, who by clever control of the supply of deodorants, manages to save the world from alien invaders disguised as beautiful and seductive women. The Sluts from Space episodes of the show are listed in detail at: [6] and [7].

Horror stories[edit]

In 1980, Subitzky wrote numerous pieces for a nationally syndicated series of five-minute horror stories, which were broadcast on radio. The series was entitled The Nightwatch. Some of these stories were also made available on an album by Clack, Inc., called Ten Horror Stories: For Radio.[10]

National Lampoon comedy albums[edit]

Subitzky was the sole author of two National Lampoon comedy albums:

Television work with David Letterman[edit]

Comedy writing and performing[edit]

Subitzky was a comedy writer on The David Letterman Show for its first season on the air in 1982, and he also appeared on the show many times, in variations of a sketch which is sometimes referred to as “the imposter".

In these sketches, Letterman starts by introducing Subitzky as someone else altogether. In the earliest of his Late Night appearances, the person supposedly featured was often a minor celebrity, such as an author. After a few minutes of interviewing, Subitzky breaks down and admits to Letterman that he is not that person, and had only pretended to be that person so that he could be on television. He then runs out through the audience apologizing abjectly.

Subitzky reprised this role in 12 more appearances on Late Night with David Letterman. Although he wears a tuxedo as James Clavell, a motorcycle jacket as Don Henley, and a wig and women's clothing as "Elizabeth Callahan", usually no attempt is made to have him look more like the people he is pretending to be.

As Rolling Stone writer David Browne explained:[11]

"One night, Letterman introduced Don Henley – and out came Ed Subitzky, a balding, overweight staff writer who answered all of Letterman's questions as if he actually were the Eagles drummer. At the end of the segment, Subitzky broke down and confessed, "I'm not Don Henley – I'm just a sick man!" before running offstage. Then, a few weeks later, Letterman would repeat the gag all over again with another celebrity name."



  • February 1, 1983, one-year anniversary special of the show: Ed getting out of a car at this gala event is announced as "the Rock superstar himself, Bruce Springsteen!"
  • September 6, 1983, the imposter is seen in a supposed flashback, having been shot through by an arrow (by an audience member?) while on stage.


  • February 4, 1984, at the end of this episode, which was the two-year anniversary special of the show: the imposter (or possibly just Ed Subitzky himself) is seen from behind, attending the anniversary dinner party

The New York Times Op-Ed page, and magazine work[edit]

During the 1990s, Subitzky had seven cartoons published as "Op-Art" on the Opinion-Editorial page of The New York Times: February 22, 1997; June 27, 1997; September 27, 1997; November 22, 1997; February 16, 1998; August 15, 1998; and October 9, 1998.

His cartoons have also appeared in Natural History, The New Yorker, and Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, and some written pieces of his appeared in Cracked.

Science-related work[edit]

Subitzky has created a number of science-related pieces. Starting in 1997, but primarily since 2012, he has had 12 letters, some humorous, and some serious, primarily about ideas in physics and cosmology, published in the international science magazine, New Scientist, and he has also had a letter published in Science News.

Journal of Irreproducible Results[edit]

In 1991, Subitzky co-wrote a science humor piece for the science humor magazine Journal of Irreproducible Results entitled, “A Call For More Scientific Truth in Product Warning Labels”, by Susan Hewitt and Edward Subitzky.[8] This piece was subsequently quoted by both New Scientist and Atlantic Monthly. Over 20 years after the piece was first published, it was still featured (both with and without its title, attribution, and introduction) on hundreds of websites, including versions translated into Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, and Spanish.

Philosophy-related work[edit]

Journal of Consciousness Studies[edit]

Subitzky at his drawing table in 2012, working on a JCS comic strip

Subitzky has a life-long interest in both science and philosophy, and he is especially fascinated by the very challenging "hard problem" of consciousness, i.e. why there is a subjective component to experience. Because of these interests, in 2003, Subitzky started contributing to the Journal of Consciousness Studies (JCS), an interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed academic journal that is dedicated entirely to the field of consciousness studies. JCS is published by Imprint Academic, of Exeter, England.

Since 2003, Subitzky has had 9 drawn pieces and 10 written pieces published in the Journal of Consciousness Studies. All the pieces make serious points, although some have a humorous perspective. The pieces include an essay, a visual essay, cartoons, comic strips, science-fiction short stories, a poem, and a fictional research paper. All of the pieces contain philosophical commentary on theories concerning the nature of consciousness.

In chronological order, Subitzky's JCS pieces are:


  • "I am a conscious essay", an essay, Volume 10, No. 12, December, pp. 64–66 [9]


  • A single-panel untitled cartoon (man enclosed in his own thought balloon) was used as a frontispiece for the journal, Volume 11, No. 9, September, frontispiece


  • In 2005, the same untitled cartoon about consciousness (man enclosed in his own thought balloon) was used as cover art for What does it all mean? A humanistic account of human experience by William A. Adams, 2005, 250 pages, published by Imprint Academic
  • "Inkland", a 4-page comic strip, Volume 12, No. 12, December, pp. 80–83 [10]


  • "The Voyage", a science fiction short story, Volume 13 No. 9, October, pp. 87–89 [11]


  • none


  • "The Experiment", another science fiction short story, Volume 15, No. 4, April, pp. 83–85 [12]


  • "Mirage", a poem, Volume 15, No. 12, December [13]


  • A single-panel cartoon on the subject of the Turing test was used as the cover art for a double issue of JCS, and a more complete version was printed inside: Untitled cover art ("A man gives himself the Turing test ... and passes"), Volume 17, No. 1–2, January–February, cover and p. 228 [14]
  • "Consciousness Puzzle Page" (part 1) cartoon page, Volume 17, No. 9-10, September–October, p. 229 [15], [16]
  • "Consciousness Puzzle Page" (part 2) cartoon page, Volume 17, No. 11-12, November–December, p. 180


  • "Consciousness Puzzle Page" (part 3) cartoon page, Volume 18, No. 3-4, March/April, p. 234 [17]


  • "The Big Question", a single-panel cartoon, Volume 19, No. 3–4, March–April, p. 244
  • "A Man of Letters", a two-page comic strip, Volume 19, No. 9–10, September–October, pp. 237–238


  • "Consciousness Puzzle Page" (part 4) cartoon page, Volume 20, No. 1–2, January–February, p. 226
  • "Report from the Future", an imaginary research paper entitled, "An examination of conscigenesis in an artificially created quantum mechanical universe: a physical perspective" by Kranz Tullen, Bvorn Ellin & Shan Tavid, Volume 20, No. 3–4, pp. 230–232
  • "Where am I?" a two-page visual essay, Volume 20, No. 9-10, September–October, pp. 206–207


  • "Th-ink", a two-page comic strip, Volume 21, No. 5-6, June–July, pp. 218–219
  • Marooned, a three-page science fiction story, volume 21 No. 11-12, pp. 155–57




  • "The Reader", a two page comic strip, Volume 23, No. 3–4, pp. 264–265
  • "Word Play", a two-page comic strip, Volume 23, No. 9–10, pp.pp. 254–255

Film-related work[edit]

Subitzky conceived, wrote, and did the original drawings for, a short animated film which was then produced, and subsequently bought by Saturday Night Live, but was not aired. He co-wrote a screenplay, which was bought but not produced. He also wrote the lyrics for a country song which appeared as background music in a bar scene in another film (Kandyland, 1987).[12][13]

Character modeling[edit]

Subitzky appeared in National Lampoon magazine as a character model in editorial photographs 54 times. In 1977, he appeared on the cover of the book National Lampoon The Gentleman's Bathroom Companion as the Ty-D-Bol man (a spoof of commercials for a blue-tinted toilet bowl cleaner).

In 1988, he was featured on the cover of the March–April issue of National Lampoon magazine, as a disappointed television viewer [18].

During the 1990s, Subitzky occasionally worked for the modeling agency FunnyFace Today, appearing in a few publications, including Redbook.

In the 1980s, Subitzky was the sole actor in a television commercial for a video game called Mountain King.

2006 parody in POX[edit]

In 2006, an Australian magazine, POX, ran a multipage National Lampoon magazine parody, which included a take-off of Subitzky's comic strips.

2010 book Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead[edit]

A chapter about Ed Subitzky (pages 208 – 213) forms part of the 2010 coffee-table book about the early years of National Lampoon magazine, Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Writers and Artists Who Made the National Lampoon Insanely Great by Rick Meyerowitz.

2011 book The Someday Funnies[edit]

A one-page comic strip by Subitzky is included in the book The Someday Funnies, a collection of original comics about the 1960s, edited by Michel Choquette, which was released by Abrams on November 1, 2011. [19]

2011 Lynda Barry book Blabber, Blabber, Blabber[edit]

On page 13 of her 2011 book, Blabber, Blabber, Blabber: Volume 1 of Everything, American cartoonist Lynda Barry lists Ed Subitzky as one of her early influences:

"By the time I graduated from high school I knew about bitter and sweet, but thanks to cartoonists like M.K. Brown, Gahan Wilson, and Ed Subitzky, I also knew about weird and rare and hilarious ways of changing one into the other. These three cartoonists taught me to watch the people around me and listen to how they talk and to write down what they say. But I learned the most by copying their drawings, and these three were especially good teachers." And on page 114 of the same book, Barry says, "...the first drawings I copied would leave traces in my work and drawing style that were unshakable and strong."[14]

2013 Black Eye 2[edit]

A one-page comic strip by Subitzky was featured on page 18 of Black Eye 2, a limited-edition anthology of black humor.[15]

2013 book That's Not Funny, That's Sick[edit]

In June 2013, That's Not Funny, That's Sick: The National Lampoon and the Comedy Insurgents Who Captured the Mainstream, by Ellin Stein was published.[16] Subitzky is mentioned on pages 172 and 174 of the book.

2015 documentary film Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead[edit]

On stage at the April 2015 Tribeca Film Festival, Ed Subitzky is the second on the left, in beige.

In 2015, a documentary film called National Lampoon: Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead was released. The film is about National Lampoon and its contributors and how they changed American humor. The film features clips from interviews with many of the magazine's major contributors, including Subitzky.[17]


  1. ^ "Saturday Night on Antarius! The planet with 12 different sexes)" by Ed Subitzky for National Lampoon (magazine)
  2. ^ The National Lampoon Encyclopedia of Humor, editor Michael O'Donoghue, 1973, table of contents, shown at "Mark's Very Large National Lampoon Site" downloaded Aug 9, 2009
  3. ^ section, "Theater of the Air" written 2009, downloaded Aug 9th 2009
  4. ^ [1]/Journal of Consciousness Studies December 2003, contents, listed under "Off the Page"]
  5. ^ p. 47, Levin, 2009)
  6. ^ Very Large National Lampoon Site, table of contents for National Lampoon Issue September 1974, Vol. 1. No. 54
  7. ^ Fedge.net, Shary Flenniken, Biography, 2005-2009, [2] accessed 2014-6-13
  8. ^ Marksverylarge.com
  9. ^ Marksverylarge.com
  10. ^ Amazon,com The Nightwatch - Ten Horror Stories for Radio [3] accessed 2014-6-14
  11. ^ Website: RollingStone.com, Culture, News, "David Letterman Year One: A backstage and in-depth look at how a gap-toothed failed morning-show host and a ragtag band of misfits and rejects changed television forever", issue date September 29th, 2011 [4] Accessed 2016-9-28
  12. ^ Fandango.com
  13. ^ VH1.com
  14. ^ Blabber, Blabber, Blabber: Volume 1 of Everything, Lynda Barry, 31 October 2011, page 13 & page 114, Drawn and Quarterly Comics and Graphic Novels, ISBN 1770460527; ISBN 978-1770460522
  15. ^ Black Eye 2: Anthology of Humor and Despair edited by Ryan Standfest, June 2013, Rotland Press, Detroit, ISBN 978-0-615-80156-8
  16. ^ That's Not Funny, That's Sick; The National Lampoon and the Comedy Insurgents Who Captured the Mainstream by Ellin Stein, June 2013, W.W. Norton & company, New York, London, ISBN 978-0-393-07409-3
  17. ^ Yahoo! Movies, "Check Out the "Animal House" Style Poster for the New "National Lampoon" Documentary" by Jordan Zakarin, January 24th, 2015, [5] Accessed 8 April 2015

External links[edit]

  • [20] Currently this is the major, and definitive, Lampoon information site
  • [21] Shows all the Lampoon covers
  • [22] One of many sites which show the "product warning labels" piece
  • [23] Saturday Night on Antarius! (The Planet with 12 Different Sexes), a four-page comic

Further reading[edit]


Magazines and journals[edit]