Sunday Mailbag- How many caricatures?

October 19th, 2014 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: How many persons do you caricature within a year? Now and in your theme-park time? What is your estimation: How many persons did you caricature since you started drawing? Are there persons you caricature over and over again, maybe over many years?

A: I don’t think I can even begin to answer any of those questions with any degree of accuracy, except the one about my theme park time. The first few summers that I drew live caricatures we used a system where we had paper receipts that we collected for each day and that’s how we got paid. At the end of the week we’d turn in our receipts with an invoice. That made it fairly easy to keep track of how many faces we drew. I remember I did 3,100 faces my first summer, and 3,800 my second. I got better and faster as each year progressed, and I estimated I averaged about 4,200 faces per summer throughout my years of drawing full time at theme parks. I did that for 17 seasons, which would mean I did a little over 70,000 live caricatures. Throw in the occasional live drawing I’ve done over the last dozen years or so since basically retiring from the theme park thing, I think 80,000 faces would be a conservative estimate. I think I started getting warmed up at about 45,000 faces, stopped completely sucking at 55,000, and started getting the hang of it around 68,000.

That sounds like a lot but it is nothing compared to many live caricaturists I know who do it for a living year around at parks, fairs, gigs, etc. I am sure many live caricature artists have done hundreds of thousands of faces. I’m a poseur compared to that.

I haven’t a clue how many people I caricature a year these days between MAD, other publication projects and such. In fact, just last week I was sitting on the MAD Panel at New York Comic Con and MAD editor John Ficarra turned to me and asked how many caricatures I had done in just the splash page from the parody of “Orange is the New Black” in the latest MAD. I had no answer for him. No idea. Turns out it was 25, and if you count the three on the intro page 28, but I didn’t know and don’t really have any interest in knowing. It might be better not to think about it. So, I have no answer for how many I’ve done over my career. A lot. I guess.

For your last question: “Is there anyone you’ve caricatured over and over again?” I would suspect the actors from “Married… with Children” are still the people I have caricatured the most overall simply because I drew two dozen issues of that comic book back in the early 90’s and it was nothing but caricatures of Ed O’Neil and company. I’m not sure I’d count that though, since those “caricatures” were compromised by certain limitations put on me by Colombia Television who approved the art, and my own lack of skills at the time.

Thanks to Dominick Zeillinger for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!


  1. For years I’ve said that I only began to get the hang of caricatures around the 5 year mark, around 50,000 people drawn – nice to know I’m not the only one to notice how many years and ‘drawing milage’ it can take to be able to “see” effectively… Great blog post as always – still enjoying every page of your book, Tom – thanks again!


Sketch o'the Week- Natalia Dyer! @strangerthingstv #strangerthings #nataliadyer @mad.magazine

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