“Danny Shanahan, a Mirthful Cartoonist Who Had a Stand-Up Comic’s Gift for One-Liners”

From a New York Times obit by Richard Sandomir headlined “Danny Shanahan, Cartoonist With an Absurd Touch, Dies at 64”:

Danny Shanahan, a mirthful cartoonist who had a stand-up comic’s gift for one-liners but whose long association with The New Yorker ended last year under a cloud, died on Monday  in Charleston, S.C.  The cause was multiple system organ failure, his wife, Janet Stetson, said.

From 1988 through last year, Mr. Shanahan published about 1,000 cartoons in The New Yorker. Drawn with a casual style and an absurdist’s eye, they were populated by a panoply of characters, including clowns, snowmen, praying mantises, cats, dogs, cave men, elves, monkeys, athletes, businessmen, politicians, Santa Claus and Elvis.

In one cartoon, a dog looks up from his menu in a restaurant, and asks the waiter, “Is the homework fresh?” In another, titled “Mr. October,” a headless New York Yankee reaches into his locker for his pumpkin head….

But Mr. Shanahan’s long run at The New Yorker ended with his arrest by the New York State Police in December on a charge of possession of child pornography. Citing “deeply disturbing” accusations against him, The New Yorker suspended his contract.

Mr. Shanahan pleaded not guilty. His lawyer, Phil Smallman, said the case had not been resolved at his death, adding that a conference with the presiding judge was scheduled for Monday.

Michael Maslin, a fellow New Yorker cartoonist,said of Mr. Shanahan: “He was like a human Pez dispenser of humor, his mind always working. He was funny, like his work. He was never off.”

He was invariably silly. In the first half of a two-panel cartoon, Mr. Shanahan depicted a drowning boy screaming to a famously helpful dog: “Lassie! Get help!” In the second panel, Lassie reclines on a therapist’s couch — getting help….

Bob Mankoff, a former cartoon editor of The New Yorker, described Mr. Shanahan’s humor as universal. “People will be laughing at some cartoons in The New Yorker next week and next month, but they won’t be laughing at them 10 years from now,” he said. “But 10 years from now, they’ll be laughing at Danny’s cartoons. He was a master of the cartoon joke.”…

“He was always drawing,” Ms. Stetson, his wife, said. “His parents had a large family with a modest income, but they always had lot of books and lots of paper on the table. And he was always funny. He had a unique way of looking at the world.”

Mr. Shanahan was largely self-taught; he took one or two courses at Paier College of Art. He worked as a bartender while selling cartoons, mostly to small magazines but also to TV Guide.

“I’ve been cartooning for over 30 years,” he told the website A Case for Pencils. “I started, back in the ’80s, as the unofficial cartoonist for the United States Tennis Association, thanks to a good friend who was an editor for World Tennis magazine. Thankfully he saw a glimmer of possibility in this Bleecker Street bartender’s Kliban and Larson knockoffs,” referring to B. Kliban, known for his one-panel cat cartoons, and Gary Larson, the creator of “The Far Side.”

By 1988, Mr. Shanahan and Ms. Stetson were married and seeking a less expensive place to start a family. They moved from Rhinebeck, N.Y., to Corrales, N.M. Soon afterward, he sold his first cartoon to The New Yorker….The family lived in New Mexico for seven years, time that Ms. Stetson called “the best thing that could have happened” to her husband “because he was able to develop his style.”

In addition to The New Yorker, Mr. Shanahan’s work appeared in Time, Esquire, Playboy, Fortune, Newsweek and The New York Times.

He published several collections of cartoons and two children’s books: “The Bus Ride That Changed History,” about Rosa Parks’s refusal to surrender her seat to a white person on a bus in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955; and “Buckledown the Workhound,” which he both wrote and illustrated. He also illustrated “More Weird and Wonderful Words.”…

Mr. Shanahan’s final cartoon for The New Yorker appeared in November. It shows one pilgrim woman holding a cooked turkey on a platter and telling another pilgrim woman, “He says my eagle tastes fishy, so this year I’m trying something new.”

Richard Sandomir is an obituaries writer. He previously wrote about sports media and sports business. He is also the author of several books, including “The Pride of the Yankees: Lou Gehrig, Gary Cooper and the Making of a Classic.”



  1. Pick em better says

    Danny Shanahan was arrested for CHILD PORNOGRAPHY before he died. Hope his flesh is burning in Hell. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9039263/Renowned-New-Yorker-cartoonist-64-arrested-child-porn-charges.html

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