South Florida Writer Starts New Chapter As Cartoonist During COVID-19 Isolation
In the 1980s, while living in Poland and teaching English there, Tom Swick saw firsthand how readily people will rely on humor to get through adversity.
“Martial law was a very grim time — there were tanks in the streets. And I never heard so many jokes,” says Swick. “It was a way for them [the Poles] to survive a difficult time.”
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And now, from his Fort Lauderdale home, Swick is trying to ease the pain of COVID-19 isolation — for himself and others — by turning to one of the most streamlined forms of print satire: the editorial cartoon.
“The words plus the picture. I love the economy of it. It’s just so contained in that one little square, whereas an article just goes on and on,” he says.
He discovered his penchant for editorial cartoons after graduating from college, when he stumbled upon the work of writer James Thurber, perhaps best known for his cartoons and short stories published mainly in The New Yorker.
Swick is a former travel editor for the South Florida Sun Sentinel and the author of several travel guides. When the coronavirus pandemic struck, he began posting his own editorial cartoons every Monday on his Instagram, Twitter and Facebook feeds.
View this post on Instagram #cartoon #littleman #phonecall #intellectualizing A post shared by Thomas Swick (@thomasswick) on Jul 13, 2020 at 6:07am PDT
Most of them are capsule commentaries on the changed social landscape under the cloud of COVID-19: debates over mask wearing, the challenges of physical distancing, boredom while under quarantine.
In one cartoon, a solitary man stares bemusedly out from the panel with the caption reading: “I’m watching a lot of movies but most have subtitles, so I count it as reading.”
“I think humor is very important,” says Swick. “I think it’s very psychologically helpful to just see the humor in everyday life. Even now when we have a very serious situation.”
This interview is part of “Intermission,” WLRN’s series looking at how South Florida’s arts community is coping during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We’ve also been hearing from people who are NOT artists by trade, but who are tapping into their creative side during this time of social distancing.
If you’ve got a story to tell, please send an email to email@example.com, with the word “Intermission” in the subject line.