The first MacArthur-winning cartoonist, Ben Katchor has collected both cult and mainstream hat tips for his wry, poetic creations that find uncanny humor (and color) in the commonplace deeds of a bygone New York City.

Why you should listen

In the antique buildings of New York City now overgrown with tawdry fixtures and the modernized hopes of its denizens, Ben Katchor listens for the stories that fill his wry, perceptive (and slightly surreal) comic strips of urban life. Downtrodden characters and objects get equal time in a slant spotlight, and while their interplay is often pathetic, it points to profound truths about history, memory and human hopes.

Katchor is author of several comics collections, including Cheap Novelties: The Pleasures of Urban DecayThe Jew of New York, and Julius Knipl: Real Estate Photographer. He's been a Guggenheim Fellow and has also written for the stage works such as The Slug Bearers of Kayrol Island. In May, he premieres A Check-room Romance, a musical tragicomedy co-written with Mark Mulcahy

What others say

“Ben Katchor ... is the most poetic, deeply layered artist ever to draw a comic strip.” — New York Times Book Review

Ben Katchor’s TED talk

More news and ideas from Ben Katchor


Comics that tell the little stories of a big city: Ben Katchor on

April 23, 2009

In this captivating talk from the TED archive, Ben Katchor reads from his comics. These perceptive, surreal stories find the profound hopes and foibles of history (and modern New York) preserved in objects like light switches and signs. (Recorded at TED2002, February 2002, in Monterey, California. Duration: 11:17.) Watch Ben Katchor’s talk on, where […]

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