MINNEAPOLIS - When you hear the word cartoon I bet you think, funny, right?
You aren't wrong. That's what I think when I hear the word, too.
Unless I think of one particular brand of cartoons; those done by the Star Tribune's Steve Sack.
“I always say my job description is to read the paper, crack a joke, draw a picture and turn it in,” Sack told me, trying to give his best pitch at a "what do you do" question.
But with further prodding Sack admits he fell into the job of editorial/political cartoonist when he was hard up for work in college.
As Sack tells the tale, he took a job as an illustrator at the Minnesota Daily, when he got word that the staff cartoonist made more cash. So, when that job opened up, he moved into it and has been doing it ever since.
For nearly 40 years.
And if that isn't impressive to you, well, consider how few peers he has left in the industry.
“I’m part of a dying breed, there is fewer than 50 right now full-time, on-staff newspaper cartoonists," Sack said. "When I started in the business 40 years ago, there were maybe 350. So the trends are not good."
So why did his ink not dry up?
Simply stated, he is one of the best in the business.
Sack won the Pulitzer Prize, the most prestigious award in American journalism, in 2013.
“I guess I look at myself more as a reader – just a typical reader who happens to be a smarty pants and know how to draw,” Sack says, wryly explaining he’s not a traditional journalist, nor did he got to journalism school.
Sack’s work appears on the Opinion pages of the paper, so his work is not to be confused with that of a traditional journalist.
“My cartoon is like a signed column, like a signed opinion column," Sack explained. "It doesn’t express the official views of the Star Tribune; it expresses my own views. That’s why my name is on it."
Steve says he spends more than half of his workday reading the news to narrow down what is the biggest story of the day.
And the biggest story isn’t typically a laughing matter.
“One example is the Wetterling case," he said. "That was very traumatic for this state and this country and I did cartoons on that and none of them were in any way humorous or amusing, but I hope touched people and tapped into our shared anguish about what happened.”
Those drawings were some of his most memorable – in a field of more than 8,000 drawings completed.
Steve’s book, “The First and Only Book of Sack,” will be available beginning Aug. 17 at events and on the Star Tribune shop website.