'Closet cartoonist' finally lets us see what's so funny

 

Craftsbury's Skip Sedore has seen humor all around him in his 80 years. It's in the way we talk and the absurdities of life, and especially in human nature. Since semi-retiring here nearly 20 years ago, he's been turning a lifetime of observations into 1,500 homegrown cartoons, many with a self-deprecating honesty that feels distinctly Vermont. There's the ice fisherman who admits: "If the shop boss sent us out in this weather for five hours, we'd file a grievance with the union!" A game warden observes a poacher who must be the dumbest he's ever seen: "First he shoots our decoy deer, an' now he's tryin' to butcher it!" An outspoken short-order cook asks: "Okay, who ordered these two little innocent embryos and bacon?" But the thing that most often tickles Sedore's funny bone is the English language and the absurdities he can create from a literal reading: Fresh vegetables stick out their tongues; a crop duster wields a plume of feathers; and an antisocial fruit is banished from the strawberry social. For years, Sedore drew mostly for his own amusement (he has told other interviewers that his late wife, Peggy, used to facetiously warn him that he was having too much fun as he laughed and drew in another room). But almost by happenstance, many of his cartoons have now been published as a book, "Wicked Good Humor." As Sedore tells the story, Bill Wereley, a Web designer and one of the directors of the nonprofit arts organization The Common Place in Craftsbury Common, first saw the cartoons while fixing a computer at Sedore's house. Sedore says Wereley suggested publishing his work as a fundraiser for the group's efforts to support literature and arts for teens and adults in the Craftsbury community and beyond. Sedore agreed and did the initial winnowing of his vast collection. Although he is a New Jersey native and owned a textile-related business there for 50 years, many of his drawings reflect a country sensibility. He and his wife looked to Vermont for their retirement because one of their sons was living here. Now, he says, "I keep busy for an old guy." Besides drawing cartoons and writing poetry, Sedore likes to carve birds and animals; practice pyrography (burning designs into wood, although he uses cowhide instead); and create what he calls cowshaw - like the old sailors' scrimshaw but on cow horns. He also plays banjo with the Bobbin Mill Players, who perform "old-timey" music. Sedore's sense of fun comes through in an e-mail interview about Vermonters and their humor: Q: Do most Vermonters have a good sense of humor? Why do you think that is? A: Absolutely. I don't know why it is, but it is Vermonters that laugh at my cartoons. Q: Many people have tried to define Vermont humor - sly, dry, deadpan, etc. How would you describe it? A: I don't believe you can categorize humor. What's truly funny is just plain funny. I have talked to my neighbors and if I said something funny they laugh, they don't analyze it. Q: How did you get into drawing and cartooning? Have you had any training? A: I have been drawing all my life. At one point I decided that if I ever became a cartoonist, I would draw like Al Capp of "Li'l Abner" fame. Then along came Gary Larson of "The Far Side," who was more like me than me. I never had any training to become a cartoonist. I just did what comes naturally. Q: What do you find is the hardest thing to draw? A: An isosceles triangle intertwined in a DNA helical phosphate à la (M.C.) Escher! Q: You've said that you I don't like to make fun of people, but to portray people in humorous situations. Why do you think that Vermonters - and particularly those in the Northeast Kingdom - are often the butt of jokes? A: Many people think Vermonters who live in the so-called boonies are uneducated dolts. On the plus side, besides the folks I have met and talked to, I have four granddaughters who have graduated from schools that have (only) 14 graduates who are college grads and teachers or RNs. Q: Is there one subject on which you think Vermonters just need to lighten up - where we're too serious? A: No, I have friends who still have cellars full of Y2K dried food they're going to have to eat and others who are still trying to take back Vermont, but of course they're Abenakis. Q: Which public figure in Vermont has the best sense of humor? The worst? A: Ed Koren. "Fred Farkle." Q: Do you have another project in mind, and what would it be? A: I would love to finish my children's book about the Vermontus Leprechaunus and their part, with Ethan Allen, in the Revolutionary War.

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