Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez joins RJ

Updated September 16, 2018 - 5:11 pm

In between organic chemistry and biology, there was surfing.

Ever since he was a teenager, Michael Ramirez loved the ocean.

As an undergrad at the University of California, Irvine in the early 1980s, he’d catch some waves during breaks between classes.

Though he aspired to be a surgeon at the time, Ramirez also drew political cartoons for the school newspaper as a hobby. He was a natural with pen in hand. “I’ve always had the ability to look at something and be able to re-create it,” says Ramirez, the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s new editorial cartoonist.

inline-reg

This led to Ramirez getting a cartooning gig at the now-shuttered weekly the Newport Ensign.

Their offices just happened to be on the way to the beach.

Bonus.

During Ramirez’s junior year, there was an incident where the Newport Beach Police arrested a man for drunken driving.

“He wasn’t allowed a phone call. They kind of roughed him up a bit,” Ramirez recalls. “So I did this simple cartoon where I had this guy hog-tied on the hood of a police car, he had a shoe wedged into his mouth, and the arresting officer was explaining to the sergeant, ‘I was merely re-enforcing his constitutional right to remain silent.’

“I thought it was a pretty good cartoon,” he smiles.

Not everyone felt the same.

“The Newport Beach police chief came in and yelled at the publisher, yelled at the editor and tried to find out where I lived,” Ramirez says. “It dawned on me, ‘What a profound impact this little drawing has.’ That was the trigger that made me change course in my career. I think that was the moment I fell in love with political cartooning.”

And with that, Ramirez was on his way to becoming one of the country’s most distinguished editorial cartoonists.

In the decades since, Ramirez has won the Pulitzer Prize twice, along with an armload of other awards. He has authored a pair of acclaimed books and has been published in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and hundreds of other publications.

His work also has appeared in the Review-Journal for years in syndication. Now he’s joined the RJ as a full-time staff member.

“What I want more than anything is more people involved in the political debate,” Ramirez says while soaking in the sun on the RJ patio Thursday afternoon, shirt sleeves rolled up, occasionally leaning forward in his seat to emphasize his words. “People don’t realize the impact they can have. People have far more power than they realize.”

To underscore his point, Ramirez cites a cartoon he drew when he was working at The Commercial Appeal in Memphis in the early 1990s, which critiqued state lawmakers for giving themselves a hefty pension increase by attaching the proposal to an unrelated bill, thereby skirting a vote on their pay hike.

“That cartoon had legs,” Ramirez recalls of the public outcry catalyzed by the piece, which featured a pig that just happened to bear an uncanny likeness to then-Tennessee Gov. Ned McWherter. “Within a week, they had rescinded that bill. That’s the power of journalism.”

Ramirez wields that power like a broadsword: Whether his cartoons skew toward punchiness or poignancy, depending on the topic, they’re meat-cleaver blunt, often wickedly funny and gorgeous to look at, all while scratching at the eyes of political correctness with a knowing wink.

This is a man, after all, who once drew a cartoon of Bill Clinton taking his dog to the vet with the pooch wondering if it was he who truly deserved to be neutered.

“It’s good that, naturally, I’m an evil, demented individual,” Ramirez jokes. We think.

“That helps — having a twisted sense of humor.”

As such, Ramirez tends to provoke laughter and outrage in equal measure. The very first cartoon of his to ever get published had some of his fellow students demanding an apology.

It was not forthcoming.

“I’m not into offending people just to offend them,” Ramirez explains. “I don’t draw humorous cartoons just for the sake of humor. I don’t draw controversial cartoons just for the sake of controversy. I want these ideas to resonate so that people will do the groundwork and fulfill the responsibility of being a citizen in a self-governing republic, activate them to action.”

Hate mail, then, doesn’t bother him. Indifference does.

“You have to know that people are going to be dissatisfied, because that’s the nature of politics,” he says. “I don’t want to be a bomb thrower. But I do want people to participate in the political arena. My job is just to be a catalyst for that.”

Contact Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.

— NOTE: A previous version of this article incorrectly reported editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez’s educational background.

News Videos
Report knocks Las Vegas for ozone, but local officials cite improvement
The American Lung Association says Las Vegas has some of the highest ozone levels in the nation, but Clark County air quality officials insist the community is improving when it comes to the smog-causing pollutant. (Michael Quine)
It's Rattlesnake Season
As temperatures start to rise in the Las Vegas area, people are heading outside for various activities. Possibly hiking and maybe with a dog. People and pets aren’t the only creatures coming out of their winter homes – so are snakes. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NHP Trooper sustains dog bite during rescue
A small dog loose on the freeway bites the hand of an Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper that saved it.
Henderson fails to investigate the drug overdose death of one of its officers
Henderson Police Department's internal affairs did not investigate the 2014 drug overdose death of an officer. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NHP trooper and good Samaritans save a life
Nevada Highway Patrol trooper Jacob Fisher and a group of good Samaritans performed lifesaving CPR on a driver suffering a heart attack last month in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Syphilis Awareness Day
Dr. Joe Iser, District Health Officer of the Southern Nevada Health District, discusses the effects and issues with syphilis in the Las Vegas community on April 16, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas diocese IDs 33 ‘credibly accused’ of sexual abuse
The Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas released a list on Friday of 33 “credibly accused” of sexual abuse who at some point served in the Las Vegas Valley. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CCSD Arbor View meeting
The Clark County School Board hears from the public about racial tensions at Arbor View High School on Thursday, April 11, 2019. (Amelia Park-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Parents of autistic student battle Clark County School District
Joshua and Britten Wahrer, parents of a special education student, are battling the Clark County School District for the right to equip their son with a monitoring device. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Metro homeless outreach a shift in strategy
Lt. Joe Sobrio discusses the new homeless outreach team for Metro. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Prayer for Opportunity Scholarships
Las Vegas students and adults hold a prayer meeting about the Opportunity Scholarship program on Thursday, April 4, 2019. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Solar scams on the rise in Nevada
As Nevada’s solar industry has made a resurgence, solar scammers have followed suit.
Clark County schools and the late bus issue
Year after year, late or no-show buses in the Clark County School District draw the ire of parents and students alike. One year the problem even prompted a parent to crack a school bus window in frustration over a late drop-off. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
I-15 southbound congested near Primm Sunday afternoon
Drivers heading toward California on Interstate 15 should expect heavy traffic and a 13-mile backup Sunday afternoon.
Learning lifesaving skills in advance of fire season
Students and firefighters attend a training session at Fire Station 80 in Blue Diamond, Saturday, March 30, 2019. The training session helps volunteer firefighters obtain necessary annual certification to work wild fires.
Car restoration behind prison walls
Inmates share their experiences working for the Southern Desert Correctional Center auto body shop in Indian Springs while learning valuable skills.
Parent remembers Las Vegas boy killed by car
People visit a memorial at the intersection of South Fort Apache Road and West Arby Avenue at at Faiss Park Wednesday, March 27, 2019, where Jonathan Smith, 12, of Las Vegas, died after he was struck while crossing Fort Apache Monday. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Couple left with surprise medical bills after visit to the hospital
Michael Pistiner took his wife, Marta Menendez-Pistiner, to the ER in January after she fainted twice and appeared to be having a seizure. Despite paying $856 monthly for health insurance, the two, self-employed musicians, were stuck with more than $5,700 in hospital and doctor bills after than hour-and-a-half visit. Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Las Vegas police brief the media on fatal crash
Metropolitan Police Department Capt. Nick Farese addresses the media about a car accident at South Fort Apache Road and West Arby Avenue that left one minor dead and one hospitalized on Monday, March 25, 2019. (Mike Shoro/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Arbor View parent talks about racial issues at the school
Lawanna Calhoun, a former Arbor View parent, talks about the state of the school. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jim Foley talks about 30 years of living HIV-positive
Jim Foley, who was diagnosed as HIV positive 30 years ago, talks at his home in Las Vegas on Wednesday, March 13, 2019. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Traffic Slows to a Crawl on I-15S Near Primm
Traffic slowed to a crawl around 2:30p Sunday, on I-15S near Primm, Nevada.
Homeless residents speak about safety
The homeless residents living at the corner of Owens Ave. and Main St. reflect on how they feel about their safety after two homeless men died, one was hit crossing the street and another was beat to death by another homeless man. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
CCSD Superintendent address alleged racially motivated threats at Arbor View
CCSD Superintendent Dr. Jesus F. Jara gives update on alleged racially motivated threats against Arbor View High School, and says such threats will not be tolerated. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Super Bloom Near Lake Elsinore, California
Crowds packed the hills near Lake Elsinore on Saturday to capture a rare selfie amidst the super bloom of poppies turning the landscape purple. The super bloom was caused by the larger rainfall this year. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Fiery accident in Las Vegas
A three-car accident on Spring Mountain Road around 6:30 pm on Monday night
A bipartisan coalition holds simultaneous rallies to promote criminal justice
A bipartisan coalition holds simultaneous rallies to promote criminal justice. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Stardust implosion anniversary
Twelve years ago today, the Stardust Resort and Casino was imploded. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Lawsuits filed against security contractors at Nevada National Security Site
Two lawsuits were filed today against the current and former government security contractors for the Nevada National Security Site, one on behalf of Jennifer Glover who alleges sexual discrimination and assault and the other on behalf of Gus Redding who alleges retaliation after he gave statements supporting Glover’s claims. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New housing option helps Las Vegas moms keep kids while kicking drugs
WestCare Nevada Women and Children’s Campus in Las Vegas has added a new transitional housing wing for women who have completed the inpatient treatment at the behavioral health nonprofit to help them as they go through outpatient treatment, shore up their finances and prepare to secure long-term housing. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
TOP NEWS
Home Front Page Footer Listing