Peter Steiner

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American vs. Austrian humor

Peter Steiner compares the place that caricature and humor have in America and in Austria as follows: “Cartoons are cherished in the United States and in Austria alike but have different roles in each country. Cartoons in the United States are viewed more broadly. Cartoons like those in the New Yorker and in the funny pages here don’t exist in Austria. Most Austrian cartoons have a kind of political bent, I think. They don’t have the sort of social commentary that we have. And, of course, American humor is very different from Austrian humor. A lot of things that Americans find amusing would leave Austrians puzzled. You look at the cartoons in the New Yorker, especially in the older New Yorker, and there is a specific type of American humor behind them, and you cannot translate that easily.”

 

Peter Steiner combines elements of both nations in his biography. Being the son of Austrian immigrants, who left their home in 1938, he is not unfamiliar with the Austrian mentality, although his socialization was American. He grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and went to college at the University of Miami, Florida. Following his graduation, he taught German language and literature at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. At that time, he regularly traveled to Austria and Germany. After eight years, though, he gave up his tenured position to become a painter. At the same time, he started doing cartoons to keep himself afloat financially. He moved to Georgia, and in 1979 he sold his first cartoon to the New Yorker. It was to be followed by some 400 more. His cartoon with the caption reading “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” has come to be the most often reprinted one in the history of the magazine. Aside from the New Yorker, Steiner also drew for the Washington Times for nearly twenty years. For about the same period of time, he had a weekly cartoon in the Weekly Standard. His lifework comprises more than 15,000 drawings. Apart from his impressive oeuvre as a painter and cartoonist, Peter Steiner also started writing novels in the 1980s. In Exkurs # 3, the Karikaturmuseum Krems presents 23 selected cartoons from his oeuvre together with a number of humoristic illustrations.

 

Curator: Gottfried Gusenbauer, Director, Karikaturmuseum Krems

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