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Interview with Dan Piraro!

Dan Piraro, Bizarro author

Dan Piraro, Bizarro author

Name: Dan Piraro
Born:
Mid 1900's
Spouse: Ashley Smith
Home: New York, NY
Occupation: Painter, illustrator, award-winning cartoonist, and stand-up comedian
Official website: http://www.bizarro.com 

Dan Piraro, Bizarro author

Dan Piraro was kind enough to spend some time answering a few of our questions!

Dan Piraro is best known for his syndicated cartoon, Bizarro

[See TODAY'S Bizarro comic: Seattle Post-Intelligencer]

Previous books by Dan Piraro:

 


Celebrities for Health interview with Dan Piraro! (Posted 6/4/06)

 

Dan, welcome!

"Thanks, Jeff, it's great to be here."

I understand you have a new book out!  Please tell us about it! 

"'Bizarro and Other Strange Manifestations of the Art of Dan Piraro' is a retrospective of my life as an artist of various sorts.  It inlcudes a 10,000 word autobiographical essay as well as examples of my cartoons, fine art, sketchbook art, early commercial art, and bits from my comedy shows.  It's being published by Abrams books and I must say they did a wonderful job.  It really does look good and I'm thrilled to report it's getting rave reviews."

Where can our visitors see your work?

"The best place is in your local newspaper, if they carry Bizarro. If not, you can find myriad examples of my work on the web, as well as in the 14 books I've published.  For a daily dose of what I'm doing, you can  subscribe to Daily Ink (dailyink.com) and get Bizarro in color 7 days a week, all year long. It's about $15, less than a third of the cost of a single bottle of good Tequila."

Are you vegan or vegetarian? 

"Vegan, of course.  As an avid opponent of cruelty to animals, I would never buy anything with dairy products or eggs in them as the production of these items involves a great deal of suffering.  Virtually all veal calves come from the dairy industry, even producers of so-called "free range" and "organic" milk sell their male calves to the veal industry.  If you're eating/drinking something made from cow's milk, it's because a calf chained in a box somewhere isn't."

Dan Piraro, Bizarro author

Dan Piraro, Bizarro author

How long have you been vegetarian/vegan? 

"Four years."

Why did you become vegetarian/vegan? 

"I visited a farm animal sanctuary one day and found out two things: the realities of factory farming, and the fact that so-called "food" animals are not just stupid eating machines that don't care if they live or die, which is what I'd sort of been raised to believe.  It took me one day of exposure to the truth to become vegan and i've never regretted it for a moment."

 

What benefits have you experienced since becoming veg*n? 

"I was always prudent about my diet and exercised regularly, so I can't report any dramatic changes in my health or weight, except that I used to regularly suffer from intestinal distress of various kinds: too fast or too slow. Since switching to a vegan diet, those problems are nonexistent. I have also enjoyed an unexpected spiritual benefit to my new lifestyle.  I now eat secure with the knowledge that my health is not being damaged and nothing had to suffer for the sake of my taste buds."

Are other members of your family vegan/vegetarian?

"My wife, and my two adult daughters are all vegan.  My wife has been one since she was a child, it was she who brought me to the farm animal sanctuary.  My daughters are as a result of what I've told them about factory farming."  

What do you think it will take to get more people to move to a plant-based diet?

"Humans are such arrogant, selfish, ill-disciplined apes that I fear we will never see a major shift to plant-based diets until there is a major food-related crisis resulting in huge numbers of deaths.  We already have that with heart disease and cancer and it does nothing to deter the average person.  Sadly, I think it will take something indisputable and immediate, like massive outbreaks of bird flu or mad cow."

What would you say to others to encourage them to become vegetarian/vegan?

"Look at your pets and realize that "food" animals are no less affectionate, sentient, and emotional than your family dog.  If you wouldn't subsidize cruelty to him or her, don't support it with other animals with your diet."

How and when did you first come up with the name "Bizarro"?

"21 years ago, when I was first offered a syndication contract, I came up with a list of names to call my feature. Bizarro rhymes with my last name, so it was chosen.  Not a very fabulous story, I'm afraid." 

Dan Piraro, Bizarro author

In your career, what have been your favorite projects or roles (or comics)?

"I have a lot of favorite comics, too many to remember.  One of my favorite projects by far is my live comedy show, The Bizarro Baloney Show."

Dan Piraro, Bizarro author

How much has your diet/lifestyle affected your comics? 

"I always try to bring as much of myself and my perspective on life to my cartoons as possible. So as soon as I learned about factory farming I began to try to find ways to incorporate that info and those views into my cartoons. It took a while, but I began to find a voice for it and have developed it ever since.  It was the comics I did on this subject that drew me into the AR world.  Various groups began contacting me saying, effectively, "you're one of us!"  With that came invitations to speak at conferences and festivals, for groups, etc. and before I knew it, I was a fixture of the movement."

When did you start including vegetarian/animal rights themes in your comics? Do you believe this helps raise awareness of such issues for your readers and fans? 

"Throughout my career I've drawn comics criticizing hunting and clothing made of fur.  These seemed like direct 'cruelty for fun/vanity' issues.  I think because I was so heavily indoctrinated into meat-eating all my life, the fact that my diet fell into the same category just didn't occur to me until I learned about factory farming.  The really hard-hitting cartoons about animal rights didn't start until a few months after my conversion in 2002.  It took me that long to find a way to make it funny and provocative without being overly preachy.   To my pleasant surprise, I have heard from many readers over the years that have said that the info and cartoons on my website have led them to rethink their lifestyle choices."

 

Dan Piraro, Bizarro author

Dan Piraro, Bizarro author

Do you include these themes in your stand-up acts?

"Yes.  There's an entire section about animal rights in my comedy shows.  That, too, has been a learning process, which isn't over yet.  Finding ways to make people laugh and think, without being too preachy or making them defensive, is difficult.  I get better at it with each show."

If one of the actual "Three Little Pigs" was president, what would the White House be made of and what would they serve in the dining room? 

"I published a political satire in 2004 called, The Three Little Pigs Buy the White House in which the three pigs, Dicky, Rummy, and W, buy their way into the White House.  They take a country made of bricks, give the bricks away to their rich friends and leave a country made of straw.  The Big Bad Wolf comes along and blows the country down.   On the last page of the book I apologize to "actual" pigs and wolves, who are far less greedy and dangerous than humans."

Would you like to see more vegetarian or vegan characters on television and in films and print media? 

"Sure, but I'm not holding my breath.  Very few mainstream performers, producers, directors, or writers are willing to take chances presenting material that may dampen their popularity."

What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment in life? 

"I hope I haven't made it yet, but I think my using my moderate fame to disseminate information about kindness vs. cruelty is my most important contribution to the planet thus far."

How important do you feel organic foods are in the diet?

"Extremely important.  Toxins are what cause cancer.  Animal protein in its purest form is toxic to an herbivore, add to that the extra crap that the food industry throws into our food supply, meat and veg, and you've got the current cancer and heart disease rates that consume American lives by the millions each year."

There has been a growing movement towards raw food diets. Do you try to incorporate much raw food into your diet?

"To be honest, raw food isn't as big an issue to me as veganism in general. What really kills us is animal protein and pesticides.  If I lose a little nutrients here and there by warming my food, I'm not all that alarmed."

Do you have any pets?

"My wife, a full-time, freelance animal rights activist, and I foster animals regularly, so we don't keep permanent animals in the house except for two cats."

 Dan Piraro, Bizarro author

What are your feelings on vegan pet food?

"Cats are carnivores and have every right to eat meat.  The downside is that commercial cat food comes from factory farming, an industry we don't want to support.  As a compromise, we've found organic, raw cat foods that our cats like and we feed them that.  It's a bit of a compromise and I suppose everyone has to come to their own decisions about what to feed cats."

Dan Piraro, Bizarro author

 What are your favorite snacks? 

"Crackers, salsa, dried fruit, almonds, peanuts."

What are your favorite foods/meals? 

"Anything spicy."

Care to share a favorite recipe with our visitors? 

"My wife is a fabulous cook and I haven't the foggiest idea how she makes anything."

What is your favorite veg restaurant(s)?   

"Millenium and Herbivore in SF,  Candle 79 and Red Bamboo in NYC, Chicago Diner in Chicago."

What is your favorite quote or saying? 

"Humans aren't the only species on earth, we just act like it."

 

 

What are your favorite organizations/charities? 

"Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary.  My wife and I are founding board members and have helped build the fences and barns, taken care of the animals, etc.  There are tons of great ones, PeTA, HSUS, Sea Shepherd, COK."

Do you have favorite vegan advocates (authors/speakers/celebs)? 

"Heather Mills McCartney and Alec Baldwin are awesome because they aren't afraid to use their celebrity to speak up.  Two of my favorite speakers are Michael Gregor and John McDougall."

How do you feel worldwide veganism would affect our planet?

"Obviously many things would improve. Less pollution and less starvation spring to mind, not to mention the fact that billions of animals each year would not be tortured to death."

What are your thoughts on charities such as cancer organizations that do not promote a plant-based diet and even include animal products at their functions?

"This is clear and screaming evidence of the idiocy of the human race.  I can't state that strongly enough. For cancer and heart disease organizations to recommend that people 'reduce' their consumption of red meat but not switch to a vegan diet is like telling lung cancer patients to 'reduce' the number of cigarettes they smoke. Can you imagine Mothers Against Drunk Driving encouraging people to drive drunk less often?"

Anything else you'd like to share with our visitors? 

"I don't mean to be overly commercial, but my new book, Bizarro and Other Strange Manifestations of the Art of Dan Piraro, which is a retrospective of my career, includes a large chapter and essay about my animal rights beliefs.  The majority of the book is my artwork--cartoons, fine art, sketchbook art, bits from my comedy shows--and it's my hope that because it will appeal to a wide variety of readers, it will expose innumerable people to animal rights issues who might not otherwise have the benefit of this information. This is an excellent gift for someone in your life that you don't want to approach directly with animal rights or veganism. I've already heard from a number of people who have changed their diets after reading it."

Dan Piraro, Bizarro author

I have to say, it's a great book! Every fan should have a copy! Where should our visitors buy your book?

"The book is available nationwide at Barnes & Noble, Borders, and your local independent book stores. If you don't see it, ask them to order it. If you don't want to leave the house, you can get it from Amazon.com or http://budplant.com/product.asp?pn=BZA&bhcd2=1149093109"

 

Thank you for sharing your time with us, Dan! We look forward to more of your work, charitable and professional!

Dan Piraro, Bizarro author



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