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Getting Serious, Poking Fun

Winter term Montgomery Fellows address the state of the nation

If more people are getting their political updates from the Daily Show with Jon Stewart or Real Time with Bill Maher than from traditional news programs, can the Fall of the Empire be far behind? Poking fun at politics is a time-honored tradition and this winter’s Montgomery series, America in 2008: Commentators and Cartoonists, promises to deliver laughs and insight in equal measure. Three of the nation’s most astute observers of the political and social scenes—Juan Williams, Roz Chast, and Steve Kelley ’81—will be on campus as Montgomery Fellows, beginning Jan. 21 and continuing through Feb. 19.

Susan DeBevoise Wright, executive director of the Montgomery Endowment, says the program aims to “introduce some humor into this political year, while considering the relationship between social commentary, the art of satire, and the machinery of politics.”

The series begins with National Public Radio Senior Correspondent Juan Williams, on campus Jan. 21 through 23, and continues with cartoonists Roz Chast (Jan. 28-30) and Steve Kelley ’81 (Feb. 18-22).

Juan Williams

One of the most respected political correspondents in the nation, Juan Williams is the author of six books, including Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary, described by Time magazine as a “magisterial” work of American history. He is senior correspondent for NPR’s Morning Edition, host of the nationally syndicated America’s Black Forum, a political analyst for Fox Television, and a regular panelist for “Fox News Sunday.” During the presidential election season, Williams will serve as senior political analyst for both organizations.

Juan WilliamsJuan Williams

During a 21-year career at The Washington Post, he won numerous awards for writing and investigative journalism, and his television documentary writing has earned him an Emmy Award. An extensive and balanced understanding of American politics, demographics, and diversity has made Williams a sought-after moderator for political debates and forums. He is also known for his outspoken views on a wide range of issues, including contemporary African American culture.

Williams’s other books include Enough—the Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America—and What We Can Do About It; My Soul Looks Back in Wonder; Eyes on the Prize; I’ll Find a Way or Make One: A History of Historically Black Colleges and Universities; and This Far By Faith.

Williams will deliver a public lecture, “The Changing Face of America: Money, Race and Age in the New Century,” on Jan. 22 at 4:30 p.m. in the Moore Theater, Hopkins Center.

Roz Chast

In the introduction to her newest book, Theories of Everything: Selected, Collected, and Health-Inspected Cartoons by Roz Chast, David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker magazine writes, “Since she sold her first cartoon to The New Yorker in 1978, Roz Chast has won a place as one of our greatest artistic chroniclers of the anxieties, superstitions, furies, insecurities, and surreal imaginings of modern life.”

Roz ChastRoz Chast (Photo copyright Anne Hall)

With images populated by surprisingly ordinary people in the midst of extraordinary and hilarious revelations, Chast’s cartoons have become instantly recognizable. They have appeared in dozens of magazines and in her previous book, The Party, After You Left. She recently collaborated with writer and actor Steve Martin on The Alphabet from A to Y With Bonus Letter Z, and author and illustrator teamed up for an interview at The New Yorker Festival where many of Chast’s drawings were held up for critical scrutiny. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as she explained the inspiration for “At the Corner of Irate and Insane,” which depicts three urbanites waiting for the “Walk” sign. Thought balloons above their heads reveal the sources of their subterranean angst: “Mad because she isn’t Bob Dylan,” reads one. “Furious because it isn’t the eighteenth century,” reads another. “Enraged by inability to fly,” reads the third.

Martin, pausing to think for a moment, observed, “Everyone can pick one and say, ‘oh, that’s me!’”

Chast says she’s always liked to draw pictures that made her laugh—a description of her work that doesn’t quite equal Remnick’s assessment. “If The New Yorker employs an artistic genius since the passing of Saul Steinberg,” he writes, “Roz Chast is the one.”

On campus as a Montgomery Fellow Jan. 28 through 30, Chast will deliver a public lecture, “Theories of Everything and Much, Much More,” on Jan. 29 at 4:30 p.m. in Filene Auditorium. A few of her original drawings will be displayed in Baker-Berry Library in January and February.

Steve Kelley ’81

Steve Kelley’s political cartoons are distributed by Creators Syndicate to more than 100 newspapers and magazines around the country, and are frequently seen in The New York Times, USA Today, The Chicago Tribune, and Newsweek. According to one profile, “[Political cartoonist] Steve Kelley devotes his attention to public officials the way the radiator grille of a tractor-trailer might devote its attention to June bugs.”

Steve KelleySteve Kelley ’81

He began his cartooning career at The Union-Tribune in San Diego, staying there for two decades before moving to The Times-Picayune in New Orleans. A Pulitzer Prize finalist in the editorial cartooning category in 1999, Kelley’s cartoons have won the National Headliner Award, the Best of The West competition, the Los Angeles Press Club award, and six first-place California Newspaper Publishers Association awards, among others. Since 1985, he has also written and performed stand-up comedy, making appearances on The Tonight Show; at Harrah’s, the Riviera, and the Desert Inn in Las Vegas; and at Carnegie Hall.

Kelley devotes significant amounts of time and energy to charity. Funny Money, a show he was instrumental in creating, funded a San Diego Child Abuse Prevention Program, and A Thousand Laughs for a Thousand Smiles contributes to funding reconstructive surgery for Mexican children.

Kelley graduated with honors from Dartmouth where he served in student government, drew cartoons for The Dartmouth, co-founded the Dartmouth Review, and set the College's indoor pole vault record.

On campus as a Montgomery Fellow Feb. 18 through 22, Kelley will deliver a public lecture, “Art Irritates Life: Politics and Stuff People Really Care About,” on Feb. 19 at 4:30 p.m. in the Bentley Theater, Hopkins Center. Kelley’s cartoons will be displayed in the Upper Jewett Corridor of the Hopkins Center beginning in mid-February.

By LAUREL STAVIS

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Last Updated: 12/17/08