Jules Feiffer

2006 Laureate Prize Winner

Jules Feiffer

2006 Benjamin Franklin Creativity Laureate in the Arts

Jules Feiffer, one of American's most influential editorial cartoonists, is also a playwright, novelist, screenwriter and author of children's books. His Pulitzer prize-winning trademark cartoon style, widely imitated by younger generations of political cartoonists, typically features sparely drawn, neurotic characters, appearing against blank backgrounds and emoting or agonizing over news events and personal problems. His cartoon strip, Feiffer, appeared in the Village Voice from 1956 to 1997, as well as a host of other publications.

Mr. Feiffer's work in other genres is characterized by the same talent for social satire and commentary. His 1967 play Little Murders is a brutal black comedy that examines one New York City family's encounters with random and senseless violence. The play received a number of prestigious awards, including the London Theatre Critics, Outer Circle Critics and Obie Awards. Mr. Feiffer's other plays include the Obie-winning White House Murder Case (1970), Knock Knock (1976), Elliot Loves (1989) and Anthony Rose (1990). He also wrote the screenplay for Carnal Knowledge.

Mr. Feiffer was born in the Bronx, N.Y., in 1929. At the age of five he won a gold medal in an art contest, a reward gained so effortlessly that it immediately decided him upon a career. After high school, he enrolled at the Art Students League of New York and attended drawing classes at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.

After a stint in the Army Signal Corps (which he described as his passive resistance period), Mr. Feiffer drifted from one job to another and turned out a book of cartoons called Sick, Sick, Sick. A year later in 1958, his cartoon, Sick, Sick, Sick, was awarded the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Oscar as the best short-subject cartoon.

Mr. Feiffer’s cartoons, appeared in the Village Voice and in The New Yorker, Esquire, Playboy, and The Nation, and have been collected into 19 books. He was commissioned by The New York Times to create its first op-ed page comic strip, which ran monthly until 2000.

Mr. Feiffer decided to start off the new millennium by giving up cartooning. In his seventies he reinvented himself as a children’s book author. His first book, The Man in the Ceiling, was selected by Publisher’s Weekly and the New York Public Library, as one of the year’s best children’s books. He has since written a dozen books for children.

Feiffer himself has been the subject of many TV interviews and documentaries, including a PBS biography, Feiffer’s America. He has been honored by exhibitions at the Library of Congress and the New-York Historical Society, to which he donated his manuscripts and cartoons, and has produced plays commissioned by Lincoln Center.

Mr. Feiffer taught at Southampton College, Yale School of Drama, Northwestern University, and Columbia University’s National Arts Journalism Program. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild Council and has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Mr. Feiffer and his wife have three daughters and live in New York City and Martha's Vineyard.

The Medallion

The Creativity Laureate Prize medallion, after Jean Baptiste Nini’s 1777 pot metal and terracotta medallions, now cast in silver using old lost wax techniques at the British Royal Mint. The award includes a silver medallion, which replicates Nini’s 1777 “Benjamin Franklin in Fur Cap,“ and a cash award.

Baird Auditorium

Baird Auditorium

Baird Auditorium, the Natural History Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Past Winners