Herbert Block grew up in a family where art and politics were common subjects.  He started taking classes at the Art Institute of Chicago when he was only 11.  He was hired by the Chicago Daily News to be their editorial cartoonist after his sophomore year in college.  He never completed his degree.

Using the pen name Herblock, he became an influential voice in America.  His satirical cartoons of Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco helped the American public understand the need to join World War II.  Later, his cartoons lampooning Joseph McCarthy ended his vile attacks on public figures he accused of being communists.  Herblock cartoons of the Watergate scandal led him to being on Richard Nixon’s enemies list.  His cartoons about the Vietnam War resulted in keeping President Lyndon Johnson from awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  The award was finally presented to him by President Bill Clinton.  He also won three Pulitzer Prizes.

Bill Mauldin was another cartoonist who shaped American opinions.  His cartoons featuring two typical American soldiers, Willie and Joe, gave American citizens a humorous look at the personal side of World War II.  Mauldin was a sergeant in the military press corps.  His cartoons appeared in Stars and Stripes, the soldier’s newspaper, but were also available to Americans who were not serving in the military.  He was hated by General Patton, who called him an “unpatriotic anarchist.”  But General Eisenhower praised his work.  He won two Pulitzer Prizes, the first one at the age of 23.

Humor has often been useful to get us through tough times.  The cartoons of Herblock and Mauldin gave Americans something to laugh at when it was hard to even smile.  With the advent of TV and YouTube, humor has continued to be influential in our society.

Humor often has its place in the corporate world.  Bad policies are often rejected by the use of “What if” satires.  Humor can be used to soften the tone of pompous leaders.  Humor can bring attention to needs that have gone unmet (e.g. a rubber duck floating in an oil spill will get a lot faster attention than a memo).  Maybe we need a rubber duck for IT practices.  Humor can make tough issues easier to discuss.

Humor also has its downsides.  It can’t be abusive.  It can’t be personal.  It can’t be mean spirited.  It needs to be lighthearted and focused on positive change.  Those who use humor to call for a need to change must also be positive contributors to the change needed.

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“Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he isn’t.  A sense of humor was provided to console him for what he is.”  – Horace Walpole (English writer and politician)

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.