Drew Friedman is not just one of America's most well-known and widely respected illustrators, but his work is arguably the most identifiable. Having worked for counterculture bibles over the years like National Lampoon, RAW, Screw, SPY and Mad, Friedman has, in the past fifteen years, garnered mainstream respectability with onslaughts of work for Entertainment Weekly, Mother Jones, Newsweek, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, The New Republic, The Weekly Standard, Time and countless others. Friedman has also published several entertaining books, including his two critically acclaimed collections of portraits titled Old Jewish Comedians. I spoke with Drew Friedman recently in anticipation of his new collection, an overview of those last fifteen years of mainstream respectability: Too Soon? Famous/Infamous Faces 1995-2010 from Fantagraphics Books.
Kliph Nesteroff: I heard that you were recently at a party with Albert Brooks. Had you met Albert before?
Drew Friedman: No, that was the first time. It was a recent party in Los Angeles and Albert was a guest at the party. I'm a huge Albert Brooks fan, dating back to the early seventies - seeing him on The Flip Wilson Show and Saturday Night Live, even Ed Sullivan. It was a treat to meet him. I'm not sure if he knew who I was, but I gave him a couple copies of my Jewish comedian books, which he enjoyed. He asked if his dad was in there because his dad had been a comedian called Parkyarkarkus. His father was actually named Harry Einstein and as a joke named his son Albert. Albert Brooks' real name is Albert Einstein, he changed it to Brooks when he became a comedian. I said, "No, your father died a little too young." His dad actually died on the dais at the Friar's Club in nineteen fifty-eight at a tribute to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. He died right on the dais right after doing his act, when Albert was twelve. This is all incidental. When I was talking to Albert at this party he said, "Drew, did you know that Harpo's ex-wife married Frank Sinatra?" I said, "No, it was Zeppo's ex-wife." He said, "No, no, it was Harpo's ex-wife." I said, "No, it was Zeppo's ex-wife. Look, we have Andy Marx, Groucho's grandson standing right here. Let's ask him." I said, "Andy, which one of your uncles married Frank Sinatra's wife?" He said, "Well, that was Zeppo's wife." That's why I love L.A. It's handy to have Groucho's grandson [around] when you need him.