Profiles

Dan Piraro, The “Bizarro” Cartoonist Who Wants Us To Stop Shitting Where We Sleep

Cartoonist Dan Piraro looks up from his drawing monitor: “You mind if I keep working a little bit on the side here while we talk?”

Piraro is a busy man.

His one-panel comic series Bizarro is featured in more than 350 daily and Sunday newspapers, which requires him to churn out a hand-cramping seven cartoons a week.

He maintains a strict routine to keep up with this level of demand so he alternates his attention between his work station and his webcam where he chats with me via Skype.

Piraro is absolutely absorbed by his literal task at hand.

He responds to each of my questions with a laid-back gusto- not dissimilar to the feel of his daily strip, although there are some topics that get him going. Take the environment for example.

“Virtually all animals know not to shit where they sleep,” Piraro said. “They try to defecate as far away from where they live and raise their families. In a local sense we do that but in a larger sense we’re poisoning the one planet that’s inhabitable to us.”

That’s one of the few riffs Piraro goes on during our 28-minute conversation.

He is a man of passion when he feels drawn to a topic.

It was the way he was raised.

His parents were Kennedy Democrats.

Public service was a big deal in their home and they wanted their children, Dan and his sisters, to show the same sense of responsibility their beloved president had.

“I was raised to believe that certain things in life are more important than your job or social standing,” Piraro said. “We were sort of raised with that notion that it’s up to everyone to build and maintain a society worth living in.”

Piraro doesn’t hide his liberal political views in his strip but he said that he doesn’t consider himself much of a political cartoonist either.

He’s different. Hard to pin down. So is his work.

In the world of syndicated cartoons, there are humorous comic strips featuring cute kids or sarcastic animals and then there are political strips that maybe feature cute kids or sarcastic animals who have a bone to pick with a specific politician or political party.

Piraro tries to keep himself within the lines but sometimes his sensibilities get the best of him.

This happened in 2005 when he drew a panel relating to gay marriage and changed it due to concerns that it would not be received well.

Piraro said that sometimes he worries that his panel will be received differently to a general audience that he wants it to be.

“My editor will call me saying that a certain cartoon might upset people in more conservative markets,” Piraro said. “It could result in losing a newspaper client and getting my strip replaced with something that doesn’t make pointed political statements.”

Piraro will sometimes side with his editor.

It’s not worth losing a client over a panel he isn’t 100% invested in.

But most of the time, Piraro said that he will take the risk of getting his point across.

Public service, remember?

“I’m not a balls-to-the-walls political activist but with my strip I have a growing audience and a sense of obligation to address some issues that seemed to me to be social injustices that could be repaired with changes in attitude,” Piraro said.

Despite the reluctance of syndicated strips to go political, Piraro says there’s one figure everyone’s making an exception for.

“When I started doing cartoons on Donald Trump I expected a similar response as to when I was doing George W. Bush cartoons,” Piraro said. “Lose a paper here or there but nothing happened. They didn’t mind I was taking these pot shots at Trump even though I’m technically not allowed to delve into politics.”

Readers don’t seem to mind either.

Dan claims his readership has actually gone up since Trump took office but he’s not allowing for “anti-president” material to dominate his strip any time soon.

He limits himself to one Trump cartoon for every seven panels he produces.

For now, Bizarro is more focused on the patented absurdism that makes it unlike anything else in the funnies.

Whether it’s a crossdresser lamenting the pointlessness of cross dressing in the Middle East or God creating mankind when he was piss drunk over a wild weekend, Bizaroo is the product of Dan Piraro’s hypernormal imagination.

It’s not die-hard political satire but it’s not exactly a cat who for some reason enjoys lasagna.

“My cartoons are an artistic representation of the way I think and imagine things,” Piraro said. “That’s one of the reasons I’m not a millionaire.”

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New Jersey Girl Lacey Caroline Tries To Break Into Country Music Scene

Lacey Caroline is a Nashville transplant, originally hailing from Sussex County, New Jersey. She says that she lived “a very country lifestyle” growing up, despite being from up North.

Sussex County hosts an annual Farm and Horse Show, and Lacey’s first job at the age of 14 was helping to take care of the horses on a nearby farm.

“I will say the biggest difference from New Jersey to Nashville is that I find Southerners have a greater restraint when it comes to ‘telling what you really feel,’” Caroline said.  “I’m not sure if it’s a flaw or a gift, but Jerseyians are known for not holding back their feelings about situations.  With that aside, I always try my hardest to be extra polite. Oh, and the food! Man, is the food good. The biscuits and gravy, fried chicken. The only one who isn’t a fan of the food down here is my bathroom scale.”

Caroline loves the country lifestyle, which is what brought her to Nashville.

“I knew the only way to get better at the art of songwriting and crafting those lyrics would be to live in the thick of it all. I wanted to be able to go out any night of the week and hear great songs, and have the opportunity to write and learn from the people in this town.”

She found a great support system in Nashville in a 24-hour space on Music Row called The Workshop.

Read More: Aaron Parker Is The Next Big Thing in Country Music

“I have the most amazing group of friends, and every day, they motivate me to not only work harder at music, but work harder at being a better person,” Caroline said. They’re all amazing songwriters, artists, and singers. They’ve taught me so much about music, writing, crafting songs and digging deeper.”

Despite being a country singer, she attributes much of her understanding of music to growing up listening to emo music.

She said that she grew up as a kind of loner in school, “because I was quiet didn’t mean I didn’t have feelings or emotions, and I felt like even though kids in my school picked on me, the emo songs I listened to made me feel like I was accepted, like I wasn’t alone. It gave me hope, and in that, happiness.”

She wants to evoke that same hope and happiness in other people who may be quiet but still feel strong emotions.

Lacey’s EP,“Songbird” was released in October 2013, and it helped her find some great opportunities, such as playing the famous Bluebird Café in Nashville.

“It was a great introduction to the country music community as an arist,” Caroline said. “And it also gave me a great starting point to grow from in terms of songwriting.”

“It’s better than a dream to me; in fact, sometimes I feel like I’m dreaming.”

Caroline said that she pulls inspiration and influences for her songs from musicians like Will Hoge, Brandi Carlisle, Eric Paslay, David Nail, and The Milk Carton Kids. She says that she always looks for “inspirational triggers in words, melodies, and structures,” and she also pulls inspirations from real life events.

Her song “Mason Jar,” which she thinks is one of her best, was written after a conversation at a bar.

“I was eating dinner at a bar by my house, coming up with song titles, when a very old Alabama man leaned over and asked what I was writing. The conversation turned into him telling me stories about his life, including a particular story about his wife and mason jars.“

WATCH: Caroline perform “Mason Jar”

“You have two minutes to tell a story,” says Lacey. “So every word has to count.If I don’t “feel” what I’m singing or writing, then I need to rewrite and rethink it; if the listeners don’t feel anything, then I need to do a better job at relating what I’m personally feeling.”

Her latest single, “Girl Like You” is based off of her personal experiences, and was a very quick write.

Read More: Could Abi Ann Be The Next Breakout Country Music Star?

“This girl was in love with my then boyfriend and doing everything to get him to dump me for her. I went to my mom asking what to do, and her advice to me was not to do anything,” Caroline said. “I was pretty dumbfounded, but she went on to explain that the issue wasn’t between me and her, it was between my boyfriend and her, and she said ‘If he’s not willing to stand up for you, and show respect for you and your relationship with him, then he’s not someone you should waste time on at all.’”

LISTEN: Lacey Caroline’s “Girl Like You”

Caroline said that she loves every part of the songwriting and recording process, but that her favorite part is performing live.

“I still get butterflies sometimes when I sing, but there is no feeling that compares to losing myself in a song, reliving the moment I’m singing about, and creating that moment for the audience,” Caroline said. “It’s better than a dream to me; in fact, sometimes I feel like I’m dreaming.”

You can check out Lacey Caroline’s music on her Youtube channel or on iTunes, or you can keep up with Lacey herself on Facebook and Twitter.

Like this piece? Rise News just launched a few weeks ago and is only getting started. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date with global news. Have a news tip? (No matter how big or small!) Send it to us- editor@risenews.net. 

Could Abi Ann Be The Next Breakout Country Music Star?

Across America, a new song about female empowerment is starting to gain traction in the most peculiar of places- on Radio Disney.

“Slide over, I’m driving, I ain’t just another cliché riding,” Abi Ann’s song “Truck Candy” commands.

A catchy tune poking fun at some of the more ridiculous tropes in country music, “Truck Candy” is enjoying a run on the kids centric radio network and on iTunes Radio where it is featured.

Rise News recently spoke to the 18-year-old rising star via phone from her apartment in Nashville, TN about her upbringing, her music and what she hopes to accomplish in the changing country landscape.

“I think that history repeats itself,” Ann said when asked about changes in the genre. “I see country music becoming more open to seeing more unique changes. A good twenty years ago that may not have happened.”

Abi Ann was born in Texas but raised in Los Angeles.

“I was an extremely ADD kid, my parents threw me into a whole lot of different activities. Music was the only thing that really stuck,” Ann said. “I grew up with very strong country roots.”

She attended Campbell Hall School where she said that she was encouraged to try to strike it big.

“I grew up in LA and my friends called me Hannah Montana growing up,” Ann said. “I went to a very understanding school and they were very helpful with everything.”

One of her first big breaks came when she was able to join Kelly Clarkson on tour, performing before the superstar in 36 cities in the US and Canada. She said that she learned a great deal from the experience.

“It was my first major tour. Kelly really runs a very loose camp and there is like no tension on the tour. It was just really eye-opening and I learned about my craft,” Ann said of Clarkson. “She really plays with her sound. I have so much more respect for her because of how versatile she is.”

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Abi Ann, an 18 year old rising star in the country music world.

After graduating from high school, Ann enrolled in Belmont University in Nashville where she is studying entrepreneurship, not exactly a major for those who wish to skirt through school.

She has a strong business sense, learning from her small business owning father the importance of being self-reliant.

“I’ve always been very much a believer in a separation of church and state in my life. I really like school and music,” Ann said. “I’m going to school for business because I want to be self-sufficient. I’ve just always had a knack for business. And I’ve always loved academics as much as music.”

The Clarkson tour wrapped up on September 20, which cut into the start of the fall semester. As a result, Ann is taking classes online but she hopes to take on campus classes in the future.

In terms of her sound, Ann said that she is very willing to mix different influences into her music from current pop and country music to some older legends that helped define the genre.

“My main influences were Johnny Cash and Shania Twain. That’s a weird combination for sure,” Ann said. “Shania, I look up to as a very strong woman figure.”

And that brings us back to her hit “Truck Candy”, a song that could easily be seen as a modern-day feminist ballad.

“It’s not that intense,” Ann said. But I’m very supportive of female empowerment.”

Saying that she views music as a form of therapy, Ann indicated that the song was more a direct response to the default masculinity that exists in much of country today.

“I wrote it with Walker Hayes. This was before Maddie and Tae and we were concerned about the gender imbalance in country music,” Ann said. “I definitely think it is an acquired taste. Country is not something that everybody loves.”

Ann made it clear that she deeply loves country music and sees it as one of the most vibrant music scenes going today.

Having only turned 18 a few months ago, Ann is still very young.

“I’ve had instances where I couldn’t go and do the typical teenage thing but I keep a pretty tight circle,” Ann said of some of the challenging aspects of fame. “But I have the best friends. My roommate is with me now and she’s smiling [listening to the interview].”

Like this piece? Rise News just launched a few weeks ago and is only getting started. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date with global news. Have a news tip? (No matter how big or small!) Send it to us- editor@risenews.net. 

Photo Credits: Submitted

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