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Duke to Host Political Cartoon Festival Sept. 22-24

The three-day festival includes cartoonists talking about their work, improv, sketch comedy performances, art exhibitions and live cartooning.

Duke University and the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) will jointly host a political cartoon and satire festival on Duke’s campus Sept. 22-24. 

The three-day festival will feature panel discussions in which leading cartoonists will talk about their work on such topics as North Carolina’s bathroom bill, police shootings and, of course, the election. There will also be sessions with writers and producers from “The Simpsons,” “The Daily Show” and “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.”

“This is going to be fun, but political humor is serious, too,” said Duke public policy professor Frederick “Fritz” Mayer, director of POLIS: The Center for Political Leadership, Innovation and Service, a lead organizer of the festival. “Given the state of American politics, satire may be the only way to spark an honest conversation about the issues at stake in this election.”

The festival also features student-cartoonist improv and sketch comedy performances, art exhibitions and live cartooning on the Bryan Center Plaza.

All of the activities are open to the media and the public. Most of these events are free.

One of the festival’s events, "Bathroom Banter: National Cartoonists Take on HB2," will feature a collection of cartoons that comment on sexual identity, gender stereotyping, the right to privacy and government intervention in such matters. The collection will be shown at Horse & Buggy Press in downtown Durham Aug. 19-Sept. 30 and in Duke’s Bryan Center Sept. 20-25.

In addition, a panel featuring editorial cartoonists discussing their satire on HB2 will occur at 2 p.m. Sept. 23 in Reynolds Theater in Duke’s Bryan Center.

Another highlight will be live cartooning on the Bryan Center Plaza, 12:30-2 p.m. Sept. 22 and 23.

“It is the best of times and the worst of times for the world’s satirists,” said Kevin “Kal” Kallaugher, a political cartoonist for The Economist and the Baltimore Sun and one of the festival’s organizers. “The most bizarre of elections grips the United States, migration burdens Europe, terrorism torches the Middle East, and Russia and China grow bolder. This is a target rich environment for today’s growing band of satirists.

“At the 2016 Political Cartoon and Satire Festival we aim to celebrate satire’s combustible cocktail of humor, commentary and politics. Satire is a delicious combination of the three, and is on the front line of freedom of expression around the globe today. We want to explore the benefits, challenges and chuckles that political cartoons and satire brings to our curiously crazy world, and have a few laughs along the way.”

Two featured evening performances in Page Auditorium require tickets. They are:

-- “Sketchy Comedy!,” Thursday, Sept. 22, 8-9:30 p.m. Live sketch comedy and cartooning performances at Duke’s Page Auditorium. Hosted by Duke improv group “The Inside Joke,” the show will feature editorial cartoonists performing on stage while meeting deadlines. Cost: $8.

-- “Night of The Simpsons,” Friday, Sept. 23, 7:30-9 p.m. Writers, directors and producers will share their stories and insights from the long-running comedic show. Cost: $10 for students; $15 for the general public.

Visit the Duke Box Office at or call (919) 684-4444 to purchase tickets.

Other panel presentations are free and open to the public and, unless stated otherwise, will be held in Duke’s Reynolds Theater. They are:

-- "Making Satire Great Again," Thursday, Sept. 22, 10-11:15 a.m. A discussion of the challenges, joys and oddities of covering the first celebrity billionaire nominee and the first female nominee.

-- "Likes, Loves and Lynch Mobs: Cartooning in the Digital World of Social Media," Thursday, Sept. 22, 11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m. Panelists will share their experiences of viral cartoon controversies from the past year.

-- "Black and Blue: #BlackLivesMatter and Modern Policing," Thursday, Sept. 22, 2-3:15 p.m. Cartooning on the #blacklivesmatter movement and the issues of police brutality, race and social justice.

-- "Finding the Elephant's Funny Bone," Thursday, Sept. 22, 3:30-4:45 p.m. A discussion among some of the nation's funniest conservative cartoonists.

-- "Small Hands and Big Hair," Friday, Sept. 23, 10:30-11:45 a.m., will explore the art of political illustration and caricature in this crazy election year.

-- "Bathroom Banter," Friday, Sept. 23, 2-3:15 p.m. A hard look at both sides of NC’s HB2 controversy.  

-- "International Ink," Friday, Sept. 23, 3:30-4:30 p.m. International satirists and cartoonists present their work and the issues they face from their readers, editors and, in some cases, government.

-- "Facts and Comedy," Saturday, Sept. 24, 2-3:15 p.m. Bill Adair, a Duke professor and founder of Politifact, will moderate a talk with Adam Chodikoff, senior producer of “The Daily Show” and Naureen Kahn and Ishan Thakore of “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.” Location: White Lecture Hall, Duke’s East Campus.

There will also be several art exhibits associated with the festival, including:

-- On loan from the ToonSeum in Pittsburgh, "This Campaign is Yuuuge: Cartoonists Tackle the 2016 Presidential Race," a collection of election-year cartoons by American political cartoonists whose work regularly appears in major daily newspapers and online. On display starting Sept. 21 from 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m weekdays at the Sanford School of Public Policy’s Rubenstein Hall.

-- The work of cartoonist Cullum Rogers who, under the signature V.C. Rogers, has been skewering Triangle area politicians since the mid-1970s. Horse & Buggy Press, downtown Durham, Aug. 25-Sept. 30.

-- "Dwane Powell: The Art of Politics -- 40 Years of Editorial Cartoons & Then Some." The work of the News & Observer cartoonist will be on display at the Power Plant Gallery, American Tobacco Campus, Sept. 13–Oct. 8.

Powell will deliver an artist’s talk at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 16 in the Power Plant Gallery at American Tobacco Campus.

Also on Sept. 16, a reception featuring live music will be at Horse & Buggy Press, 401-B Foster St., 6-9 p.m.

The Duke Political Cartoon and Satire Festival is co-psponsored by AAEC, POLIS: The Center for Political Leadership, Innovation and Service, the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy, the Sanford School of Public Policy and Campaign Stop 2016.

A full schedule of events is here.