Monday, October 13, 2014

The 11 Question Interview Presents Bill Griffith

Hello and welcome to the inaugural edition of The 11 Question Interview, wherein I pose eleven esoteric questions to various equally esoteric personalities. Here we go...

I admit that I was a bit of a latecomer when it came to discovering the wonders that are Bill Griffith's Zippy the Pinhead. Even though Griffith began writing and drawing his enigmatic pinhead back in 1971, I did not come across his creation until 1988, already old enough to drink even. I had just gotten a job at a local bookstore (back when the world had such things as local bookstores) and I was goofing off one day, as I am prone to do, and found myself browsing through the comic strip section. It was a goddamn revelation. A goddamn one, indeed. Quite esoteric (Griffith included himself in the strip, as the character of Griffy), and quite confusing to anyone who is on what one would call a normal mindset (damn Plebeians!), Zippy made his first appearance in Real Pulp Comix #1, back in 1971, before becoming a regular in The Berkeley Barb, a seminal underground rag of the so-called counter-culture era, before becoming what one might call a cultural phenomenon. Yeah, I said cultural phenomenon. Whatchya gonna do about it!? But yes, a phenom he was. So much so that Hollywood even wanted to make a movie version once upon a time. Of course that would have ruined the essence of Zippy, so Griffy gave an emphatic hell no - eventually.

Anyhoo, Mr. Bill Griffith, the creator of all the dementia that is Zippy and his fellow Dingburg denizens, is sort of a legend in the underground comix and cartoonist world, so it is with great pride, and great pleasure that I have him be part of the brand new regular feature, The 11 Question Interview. And to have him as the inaugural questionee at that! Mr. Griffith has had work published in a myriad of publications, from The New Yorker to High Times, from National Lampoon to The Village Voice. All things Zippy can be seen at this here website. He really is quite famous ya know. To be honest (full disclosure and all that) this is not actually my first personal experience with the great Bill Griffith. Not my first time at the Zippy rodeo, so to speak. Back during the Summer of 2013, I was trying my hand at being a cartoonist. I had created a strip called La-La & Lu-Lu. One of the biggest influences on said strip, was Bill Griffith and his Zippy the Pinhead. So, that being the case, I drew up a strip that is directly Zippy inspired. I dedicated it to Bill and Zippy, and sent it off for a possible endorsement from the legend himself. I figured nothing would come of it, but lo and behold, Griffy said he liked it. Imagine that? So, with all this in mind, I sent my 11 questions off to Mr. Bill Griffith, and here be his replies. Have at 'em! Are we having fun yet?


If you were told you had to have a spirit animal, even if you didn't want one, which animal would that be, and why?
  • As long as we're in the fantasy realm, I'd like to be a woolly mammoth. Because I would be at the top of the food chain.

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
  • First a scientist, then an inventor, then a writer. I never wanted to be a cartoonist as a kid. I thought comics were created by printing presses, with no human input. (See "Nancy" by Ernie Bushmiller)

If you could choose one person from throughout history, real or fictional, to have a beer with, who would that one person be, and why?
  • Ernie Bushmiller, the creator of the "Nancy" comic strip. I recognize him as a comics genius today, but I'd like to know if he understood the depth and importance of his creation or if he was some kind of naive folk artist. I suspect I would be surprised at a third possibility I'd never imagined.

What is the most bizarre experience of your life?
  • In 1975, after drawing my Zippy character for 4 years, a friend showed me a book on circus history. My Zippy was partly inspired by the Barnum &  Bailey Sideshow pinhead, "Zip the What-is-it?", but I knew nothing of his past (he died in 1926). I opened the book to a section on sideshow freaks, and there was a short bio of Zip---I saw that his birth name was William Henry Jackson. My full name is William Henry Jackson Griffith. A small explosion went off inside my brain. I guess I was meant to do Zippy.

If you had to live the rest of your life inside a comic strip (other than the obvious one), which comic strip would it be?
  • "Nancy". We live in a messy, chaotic world. But life is reduced to its never-changing, basic essentials in Bushmiller Country. Three rocks. Plopped perfectly on a manicured lawn. A fence. A tree. A sidewalk. A curb. What more do we need?

If you were to choose one movie, song, or book title that best describes your life, what would that movie, song, or book title be?
  • "Being and Nothingness" by Jean-Paul Sartre

What is the best present you have ever received?
  • A Jerry Mahoney ventriloquist's dummy when I was seven.

You are a new addition to the crayon box, what colour would you be, and why?
  • Plaid. Because it clashes with everything.

If you were on that proverbial desert island, and could bring just three things, what would those three things be?
  • Joan Rivers, Donald Trump and a jar of Vaseline.

What would you expect to see written on your gravestone?
  • Am I dead yet?

I know that Zippy once ran for President, but if you had to vote for any other cartoon or comic book/strip character to be Commander-in-Chief (maybe as a follow-up to Zippy's 8 year run in the White House) for whom would you cast your vote, and why?
  • Woody Woodpecker, because he'd drive the Tea Party insane with his incessant yammering and then it would be revealed that Woody was just a puppet President, controlled by Judge Judy.

So there ya have it. I would like to thank Mr. Bill Griffith for taking part in this, the inaugural edition of The 11 Question Interview. It has been an honour to have him around. I will return soon with a brand new interview and a brand new interviewee. That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.


  1. I had always assumed that Griffith "borrowed" from the real-life pinhead to create Zippy. Fascinating to discover the truth to the matter.

  2. I had a feeling Zippy was from the freak shows as they used to be called. Love the colour plaid:) I am also frightened about Rivers, Trump and Vaseline...this may give me nightmares

  3. Bill Griffith is a fascinating creature, indeed!

    Next up will be either a kooky neighbour from a 1970's/80's situation comedy or a young woman who sings about having sex with famous authors.

    See ya 'round the web.