A few months ago, we started running a one-panel comic called Open Letters (check it out on page 8). Since then it’s been picked up by numerous other publications, impressive considering most cash-strapped newspapers (also known as: all newspapers) are cutting comics (along with reporters, copy editors and foreign bureaus) to save money.
Recently, the guys behind Open Letters—Jory John and Avery Monsen—wrote and illustrated a book called All My Friends Are Dead, which was published by California-based Chronicle Books. They sent us a copy, and we thought it was hilarious. So hilarious, in fact, that we decided to ask Jory and Avery a few silly questions about it.
If you want to read the book for yourself, it’s available on Amazon or at chroniclebooks.com. You can check out more of Jory and Avery’s stuff at bigstonehead.net.
How did this strange little book come to be?
Sit back and relax. Take off your coat and get comfortable. This is a true story, which occurred over a period of about seven years: First off, we bought a button-maker, because we decided that the quickest way to become rich would be by selling $1 buttons to our friends. We got a bunch of old magazines, which we proceeded to cut up and turn into wearable buttons with snarky little phrases on them. At some point, we found a dinosaur pictured in a National Geographic and we quickly wrote, “All My Friends Are Dead” on it and gave it to some guy standing nearby, who liked it. Later, we decided to take the dinosaur and phrase and put it on a black and white T-shirt. We printed 50 and they sold out within a couple of weeks, which was surprising. So we printed up some more, this time in color and in different designs, milking the idea for (what we thought, at least) was all its worth. The shirts kept selling and this improved both our self-esteem and PayPal accounts. At one point, we decided to expand our clothing line and considered printing up a shirt with a tree, reading “All My Friends Are Endtables.” We ultimately concluded that this idea didn’t really work out of context, though—that is, the shirt-wearer would need to be standing by somebody wearing an “All My Friends Are Dead” shirt for it to make sense, or at least for it to be funny—so instead of creating another shirt around the idea, we went ahead and made a 12-page DIY mini-book at Kinko’s in the “All My Friends Are…” theme. First page: a dinosaur, proclaiming, “All My Friends Are Dead.” Next page: a dodo bird, saying the same thing. Third page, an old man saying, “Most of my friends are dead.” And so on. The laugh-to-page ratio was, we thought, pretty darn good. Twelve laughs in total. We started selling this book in a couple places, including our Web site and a paper goods store in San Francisco, where it was fortuitously discovered by an editor from Chronicle Books, a fine publisher of fine things, who later approached us about turning our mini-book into a 96-page maxi-book. We said yes on the spot. The rest, including this interview, is history.
What’s your target demographic?
The elderly. Just kidding. Definitely not the elderly. Probably toddlers. Kidding again! But seriously: our target demographic for this book is mostly convicted felons between the ages of 35 and 42. (God, it’s exhausting talking to us.)
We tried to think of a single word to describe your humor and couldn’t. Can you?
Enchanted. Or possibly: enchanting?
How confident are you that yours is the first book to feature a one-sided friendship between an end table and a tree?
We have the copyright certificate to prove it, notarized by Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was born on March 15, 1933.
What do you have against clowns and ventriloquists? Don’t they have it bad enough?
We’ve spent a lifetime amongst the clown and ventriloquist communities, so we feel entitled to make fun. Jory’s father, in fact, was a clown. By “clown,” we mean, “absent father.”
Also, mimes. Talk about fish in a barrel.
Mimes can’t talk about fish in a barrel. It’s against mime regulations.
Is there a sequel in the works? Even if there isn’t, what’s it called?
All My Friends Managed to Milk One Good Idea From 2003 to 2013: A Decade of Coasting