Last week, I had the great good fortune to attend a terrific conference. It was the Association Media & Publishing annual event, and I even was invited to present on a topic (more on that later).

One of the hallmarks of this national conference is their spot-on selection of keynote speakers, and this year was no exception. (Though when I first scanned the conference brochure and saw the content about those three keynotes, my first thought was: “Hey, they’re all white men; it’s good we’re finally giving a leg up to that underrepresented group!” My second thought was: “None of them is smiling in their photos; maybe what has been holding my career back is my willingness to smile in my pix – I’ll have to scowl more to get ahead.”)

Despite my initial concerns (see above), I ended up being extremely pleased by the content the three speakers provided. Good stuff all around.

Nick Galifianakis (and Zuzu)

Today being Change of Venue Friday, let me talk for a moment about one of those presenters: syndicated cartoonist Nick Galifianakis.

If his surname sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because he has an actor-cousin who’s been rather successful recently (Google to find out more). But from this print-guy’s vantage point, the cartoonist is the smashingly successful one in the family.

Simply put, this guy is a hoot and a half. He was paired with Greg Fine, AM&P’s president, in a rousing Q&A format, and they played off each other well.

(That was evident early on when Fine told Galifianakis that attendees take association publishing very personally. In response, the cartoonist snorted in disbelief; it was clear he thought no one could ever do such a thing. The audience laughed, and Fine punctuated the exchange with a smiling “Screw you!”)

In a generous gesture, Galifianakis and his publisher provided each attendee a copy of his book “If You Loved Me, You’d Think This Was Cute.” Nothing secures the attention better than free, valuable content. But the value that morning went way beyond a free book.

During the hour-long exchange, Galifianakis spoke about his creative process, which tracks what any committed writer must do to develop her work. But even given hard work, there’s no guarantee that busy readers will pay attention: “Content is mental furniture. The most you can hope for is that it’s interesting enough that people pause to consider it.”

He also touched on his characters (yes, he uses real friends and acquaintances in his sketches, so be careful) and what it’s like to date when you are a “relationship cartoonist” (“I’m expected to be evolved, to listen, to make eye contact”).

Clearly, he practices the adage he mentioned: Laughter is the shortest distance between two strangers.

The audience was attentive, but it grew even more quiet as Galifianakis talked about the day his dog Zuzu died. Zuzu appears in many of his cartoons, and was “my muse, my conscience.”

Finally, he talked about another project on his horizon: a book (available this fall) on the World War II Battle of Crete, when German forces invaded the island.

Want to know more? Well, follow his work online—I’m sure he’ll tell us all when his new book is out!

Back to his work published in The Washington Post and elsewhere, below is one of his cartoons (and about the closest he comes to “legal” content!).

Afterward, the author kindly sat and signed books for a long line of attendees. As I chatted with him, the efficient Galifianakis read my name tag and began inscribing. I blurted out that the book was for my wife, but that I would gladly buy another. Ever so kindly, he inscribed another to her—gratis—but made me pay in another way: “Kathy, Tim thinks you need this. Best, Nick.”

More of his work is available here.

And to buy his book and offset some of his generosity in giving me an extra free one, click here.

And here are a few more of his cartoons. Have a great weekend.

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