If you think Louis CK is funny, you'll probably get a major kick out of Cathy CK, a clever Tumblr created by Brooklyn-based artist Eric Simmons, which pairs Cathy comics with quotes from everybody's favorite ginger comedian. While it's delightfully absurd seeing the normally innocuous, mom-friendly Cathy with a talk bubble full of foul-mouthed rantings floating above her head, it's kind of eerie how Louis CK's words seem like they could actually be coming from the emotive and anxiety-ridden comic strip character.
I reached out to Eric Simmons to ask him about how he came up with this brilliant concept of a Tumblr and what Cathy Guisewite, Louis CK, and his mom think about the project.
Where did you get the idea to combine Cathy comics with Louis CK quotes?
I think the idea was kind of floating around for a while. I get all kinds of silly ideas and I don't always pursue them for a multitude of reasons, but this one I was really excited about, and sometimes when I really fully commit to my sillier ideas, something worthwhile comes out of it. I've been told that my "commitment to stupid" is impressive. I'll take that. I'm a huge fan of Louis CK – not just his comedy, but his whole career and the determination and commitment to his vision that's gotten him where he is. It's hugely inspirational to me. My mom had Cathy calendars and day planners, and I remember the comics being pinned up in her cubicle at work when I was a kid, so that was my exposure to Cathy. I guess you could say I was more of a Calvin & Hobbes and Far Side kinda kid, growing up.
I don't remember when exactly I made the connection between Cathy and Louis, but it had been percolating around in my head for a while... the self-loathing, the body shame, the anxiety... (stuff that I can assure you that I relate to). I just at some point pictured those frames in Cathy, where she's just rupturing, and screaming, and sometimes someone's just standing next to her, kind of just absorbing the shock, but I wanted it to be where she's saying something that's truly shocking or out of left field, which is Louis' bread and butter. I really love the illustrations of Cathy just LOSING IT, just vibrating with anger. The minute I started making them it was so much fun. Instantly. It took me years to have that kind of fun in making my own artwork (non-Cathy CK stuff). I used to make really serious, sometimes embarrassingly angsty stuff that's kinda hard to look at now. So I had to learn to lighten up a little bit. But that moment when you've made something and you know what it is – you've been there for the whole process, but you kind of see it from outside of yourself and it still surprises you into laughter – that's just a really great moment to have. Whether you share it with anyone or not.
I'm guessing you're probably familiar with Lauren LoPrete's Tumblr This Charming Charlie, which combines Smiths/Morrissey lyrics with Peanuts comic strips? Were you inspired by it, or did Cathy CK come about independently from that?
I think the first time I had seen anything of the whole displaced comics idea was The Nietzsche Family Circus, which is AMAZING, and then Garfield Minus Garfield at some point. Obviously my thing is not an original idea, but that's not something I really much care about. The overall response is generally overwhelmingly positive, but I think it's really funny some people kind of sniff at it, like, "CLEARLY it's not an original idea" – Who the fuck cares about that? It either works or it doesn't. It's obviously not a sustainable thing, and I don't think I'll do it for much longer, but I do think it's funny and it seems like a lot of people do as well, so that's nice. Anyway, I think the thing that catalyzed it was I had just finished with True Detective, and somebody sent me a link to Time Is A Flat Circus, a Tumblr with quotes from True Detective that's pretty perfect. I didn't know of This Charming Charlie, or several of the other things that people have done with the premise, until after I did The Cathy CK thing, and people brought them to my attention.
Have you heard from either Cathy Guisewite (Cathy comic strip creator) or Louis CK about what they think about your work?
I haven't heard from either Louis CK or Cathy Guisewite. I'm somewhat fearfully curious about what either person would think. I hope they'd both see humor in it. I mean no disrespect to anybody, and I have no intention of trying to profit from the thing in any way, I just thought it was a funny thing I'd like to share with people. I think making people laugh is one of the nicest things you can do as a person.
On your Tumblr you apologize to Cathy, Louis, and your mom. What does your mom think about the Tumblr?
My mom is an incredibly sweet and wonderful lady. She's always been hugely supportive of most things I've ever wanted to do. My brother and I were always pushing her to the limits of her patience and sanity and she's suffered us with the kind of love only a mother with self-imposed obligations of unconditional love can. And she's gotten delightfully salty as she's advanced through this world, which is fun – so I wouldn't call her a prude by any means. That being said, she didn't have a lot to say about Cathy CK. I think she just said something to the effect of "I guess I'd get it better if I watched Louie." I don't know if she thinks it's not nice to Cathy, because that's somebody that she really probably still identifies with to this day; or she thinks it's a tad too vulgar, or maybe she would rather people know about the nice paintings of mine that she has in her house that are of nice things. But it's totally fine with me. She's proud of her son for other things. Haha.
h/t: A.V. Club