Cartoons On The Radio

Sep 18, 2020
Originally published on September 18, 2020 1:35 pm

Keith Knight knows cartoons better than anybody, and where better to have a quiz about a strictly visual medium than on the radio? Keith and his sister Tracy have to guess what comic strip a line of dialogue is from.

Heard on RZA & Busy Philipps & 'Woke' Creator Keith Knight & A Lizard.

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Our next two contestants are also our first sibling duo since the before times. Cartoonist Keith Knight co-created the new Hulu series "Woke," inspired by his own life. And he's playing against his real-life, quote, "evil twin sister" Tracy, who appears as a character in his strip "The K Chronicles." Keith, Tracy, welcome to ASK ME ANOTHER.



EISENBERG: Congratulations on "Woke." It debuted on Hulu - what? - Sept. 9?

K KNIGHT: Yeah. Yeah. Thank you.

EISENBERG: Love it. I feel like it already has received rave reviews.

K KNIGHT: Yeah. Yeah. I couldn't be happier with the reception and just, like, just the fact that (laughter) it finally got to the point where it came out. This is a moment right now for, you know, Black creators. The door is open to Hollywood right now. And I just - it's going to take two flops for them to close the door.


K KNIGHT: And I just didn't want to be one of the flops, you know?

COULTON: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: It's a lot of pressure where they go, this is the voice that represents all of these people.

K KNIGHT: Exactly. Exactly. The pressure is on.

COULTON: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: So, Tracy, I have to ask just so I know where you are at - you recently enrolled at the University of Hawaii?

T KNIGHT: I did. I'm taking some psychology courses and some Hawaiian history and culture courses. And, yeah, I'm excited.


K KNIGHT: See - and I - and this is what I am envious about my evil twin sister, which is...

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

K KNIGHT: ...She does so many different things and has had so many jobs. The only thing I've done is I was a Michael Jackson impersonator, and then I was a cartoonist.

COULTON: (Laughter).

K KNIGHT: Like, that's really the extent of my existence.

EISENBERG: OK. You know what? You can't really just slip I was a Michael Jackson impersonator...

COULTON: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: ...Just, like, slide that in. And then, we're all just going to be like, oh, that's interesting. OK. So anyways...


K KNIGHT: It was a very brief - there was one brief moment.

T KNIGHT: It was brief but spectacular.

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

K KNIGHT: It was brief but spectacular. So in our high school, we have a variety show every year. And the stars of the show are always the Black male dance group. And the finale of the show was supposed to be a recreation of "Thriller." And so they were going to have tryouts to be Michael Jackson. And at lunch, someone said, Keith, you'd make a good Michael Jackson. And one of my friends said, no. He's too skinny to be Michael Jackson, which is kind of a weird thing to say.

EISENBERG: How skinny were you? Yeah.


K KNIGHT: Yeah, yeah. Exactly.

COULTON: He's a pretty small guy.

K KNIGHT: I was skinny. I was skinny, though. And when I went there to try out, it turned out that guy who made fun of me wanted to do it, too. And he got it.

EISENBERG: Of course.

K KNIGHT: They wouldn't even let me try out. He - the guy just gave it to him. And here's the thing - we were both in the same dancing crew. So we practiced in our break-dancing outfits. But on the day of the show, I came not in my break-dancing outfit, but in my "Billie Jean" outfit. And I did not break dance, I did all my Michael Jackson moves.

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

K KNIGHT: And this is before the finale, so I got to do it first. And at the end of it, all these people were hiring me to be Michael Jackson at birthday parties and at fairs and events.


COULTON: This is so crazy.

K KNIGHT: And I made more money then than I make now.


EISENBERG: OK. So here's what we have for you because we decided - you know what medium works great for cartoons? Radio.


EISENBERG: We are going to give you dialogue from some of the most famous newspaper comic strips ever. All you have to do is identify the strip. Now, I know that Keith kind of has an unfair advantage in this one, Tracy.

T KNIGHT: Yeah. This is going to go well for me.

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

T KNIGHT: I can tell (laughter).

EISENBERG: But I think it's going to be fine because you're going to work together as a team on this one.


K KNIGHT: Oh, that's easy.

EISENBERG: On this one. OK. Where did this quote come from?

Spaghetti, beans, egg, peanut butter and avocado should make a good sandwich.

K KNIGHT: This is from a cartoon.

EISENBERG: Yep. And...


EISENBERG: And actually, there is a sandwich that is a huge...

K KNIGHT: Oh, a giant sandwich. Oh, OK.

EISENBERG: A giant sandwich named after...

K KNIGHT: So, Tracy...

T KNIGHT: Oh, Lord.

K KNIGHT: This is a very old-school cartoon. This is one of those cartoons where the creator has died decades ago, and they put somebody else on it. And any new cartoonist who tries to get in is - gets completely frustrated because they have cartoons from 75 years ago.

T KNIGHT: (Laughter) I don't know.

K KNIGHT: It's "Blondie," right? "Blondie?"

EISENBERG: Yep. Blondie and - yeah.

K KNIGHT: Blondie, Dagwood - you know Dagwood Bumstead with the giant sandwiches?

T KNIGHT: Oh, yeah. But...

COULTON: Tracy's like, I don't even like comics.


K KNIGHT: I know. I know. That's true. That's true.

COULTON: All right. Here's another question for you. This comes from a groundbreaking strip from the early 1900s.

Oy, Ignatz, angel, look; a nice, little love tokens I got for you, a nice, new, fresh 1918 models brick.

K KNIGHT: So this cartoonist actually was a Black man passing as a white man to get into the newspaper and stuff like that. But he is known as one of the greatest cartoonists of all time. Are we guessing the cartoon or the cartoonist?

T KNIGHT: It doesn't matter.


EISENBERG: So for - you know, yes. Give me the - give us the cartoon.

K KNIGHT: OK. It's my initials, Tracy.

T KNIGHT: Oh, you're expecting me to guess?


K KNIGHT: Yeah. I'm just throwing them out there for you. Come on.

T KNIGHT: Yeah. It's not - it's - you're throwing up - you're lobbing them up, and you're expecting me to hit them?


T KNIGHT: Do you remember me in Little League? It's not going to happen.

COULTON: (Laughter).

K KNIGHT: Well, it is "Krazy Kat." And it's - the cartoonist is George Herriman.

COULTON: That is correct.

K KNIGHT: George Herriman.

COULTON: All right. Here's a quote from a beloved comic strip that wrapped up 25 years ago.

I like to verb words. I take nouns and adjectives and use them as verbs. Remember when access was a thing? Now it's something you do. It got verbed (ph).

K KNIGHT: "Calvin And Hobbes." That's what I would say.

COULTON: Yeah, you're absolutely right.



COULTON: "Calvin And Hobbes."

K KNIGHT: Yes. "Calvin And Hobbes" is, like - that is the ultimate - every cartoonist - if we could get anywhere near what Bill Watterson created - because he's one of those rare combinations of - you know, cartoonists either - they're really great writers, or they're really great artists. And he's that perfect combination of both.

EISENBERG: And artistic integrity.

K KNIGHT: Yeah. He's, like, the punk. He's, like, the only cartoonist punk out there. He's like, no. I don't want product, you know? I'm going to go out - I don't - you know, I don't want to be some old man doing the same thing. Like, he was definitely punk rock, so good for him.


EISENBERG: Is that a cuckoo clock?

K KNIGHT: That was the cuckoo clock. I am married to a German from the Black Forest, which is where they were invented, and we have to have a cuckoo clock...


K KNIGHT: ...In the house at all times.

EISENBERG: My mother is Dutch, and I grew up with that sound. That is a very familiar and homey sound to me.

T KNIGHT: (Laughter). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.