When it comes to building a creative career, we know visibility matters. So all this AAPI Heritage Month, we’re proud to put AAPI creators at the forefront of all our programming—from the teachers we feature as part of our #CreativelyClasses series to the creative work we spotlight on our social accounts, including the incredibly talented Jeremy Nguyen.
Jeremy Nguyen is an illustrator, humor writer, and cartoonist based in Brooklyn, New York. His work has been featured in magazines like The New Yorker and several books, board games, and hotels around the country.
The Savannah College of Art and Design grad moved to Bushwick in 2011 to pursue a stand-up comedy career and honed his humor with a comic strip called “Stranger Than Bushwick,” which poked fun at his gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood.
Nguyen’s sharp wit and whimsical humor gained a following and he broke through as a cartoonist for the New Yorker in 2017. He’s called their single-panel toons “the original memes.” Nguyen, who has described himself as a writer first and an artist second, finds inspiration from the world around him—jotting down dialogue he overhears in diners and coffee shops, then sketching and marrying wordplay with the art. The end result could essentially be considered an illustrated standup routine.
In recent years Nguyen has co-produced a monthly comics reading series called “Panels to the People,” and has occasionally made appearances at live comedy shows, conventions, and other special events.
You can check out their latest projects on Creatively [here]. And tap on the “AAPI Creator Spotlight” at the top of your Discover feed to see all the incredible AAPI creators we’re showcasing this month!
Meet cartoonist, illustrator, and humor writer, Jeremy Nguyen.
What is the first creative project you remember?
As kids, my brother and I would construct these really cool original Lego sets. We basically had a formula of creating five floors of a tree fort for our archers and knights to guard. As I would get older, I’d try to go taller and taller incorporating new Legos we got that year, without losing aesthetic and function. It got weird though, since we’d be forced to mix in weirder sets, and all of a sudden our cowboys are working hand in hand with our pirates to defend the fort from incoming dragons and Bionicles. Actually, that’d make a good cartoon…
Describe your aesthetic in three words.
Funny, modern, traditional.
What was the most fulfilling collaboration you’ve worked on?
My best friend from college and I made a board game in 2019 called Santa Monica. I flew out to Santa Monica and walked the boardwalk while I took a ton of pictures and made a billion observations. We stayed in a house for a week just living this board game. I was busy drawing buildings and beach activities while he refined gameplay with play-testers. And we’d hang out and joke like we did when we were in college. It was a really special week that flew by and it’s so cool to see a fully printed and playable board game as the result of it. It’s also nominated for a Golden Geek Award for Game of the Year!
What’s one creative project that taught you something fundamental about yourself?
I gave myself projects when I left college, like creating art for Tumblr. And I learned that I am fundamentally bad at making fan art. I felt desperate trying to play in that world, making art for likes. I have love for all the comics I read, TV shows I watch, but I just couldn’t channel any of that into creating fan interpretations of it.
Props to people who do, fan art can be a great way to figure out your craft. But for me, I was always interested in making original stuff, dreaming that something I created would get other people to make fan art of. I eventually found my way back because New Yorker cartoons came from all those things I love. I stuck J. Jonah Jameson into a cartoon, my favorite Spider-Man character!
Do you think creativity is something you’re born with, or something you’re taught?
Creativity is like any muscle. You can be born with better genes, but you can train yourself to be just as strong as anyone.
What’s the last dream you had?
Oh, I hate questions like these. I always forget dreams I just had, or just told someone, but I think I had a dream where Julia Louis-Dreyfuss was my mother? Or maybe I watched a ton of Veep recently and Selena Mayer creeped into my head to yell at me for something. In any case, I need to see a therapist and see what this means. My mother is not nice.
One hundred years from now, what do you hope people write about your work?
I’d love my cartoons to still be relevant in a hundred years. But I’m also realistic that humor will evolve and my cartoons will make no sense to that generation’s idea of what’s funny. Pandas might be extinct then and then all my panda cartoons featuring living pandas will be extremely offensive. But, I’d rather they say nothing about my work if they say I was a nice person. Or hot.
Follow @JeremyNguyen on Creatively
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