Tales from the Theme Park #7

March 6th, 2014 | Posted in Tales from the Theme Park

This story actually comes not from drawing at a theme park but from doing a state fair. I didn’t do many of those but for a couple of years in the early 90’s I would pack up my gear and a 10×10 tent and drive to Oklahoma to do a state fair. The fair lasted for 17 days, during which I became an honorary carnie… except I had all my teeth. To be fair, most carnies also have all their teeth, but they keep them in a jar on their dashboard whereas all of mine are still in my mouth… but I digress.

Doing fairs can be extremely trying on your patience. There are some days where you are slamming busy and can barely find the time to gobble down a corn dog and use the bathroom (the preferable order for said actions… the reverse is a recipe for disaster), but there are also weekdays where business can be very slow… especially if the fair is not during the school summer vacations. This one was in October, and some of the weekdays were dead. That leaves you with too much time to try and entertain yourself.

I always brought along a second artist to do these fairs with, both to share the expenses and to take advantage of the really high traffic days. One year I brought my good friend the extremely talented Eddie Pittman, who today is an animator who has worked with Disney on several features such as Mulan and Lilo and Stitch, as well as Phineas and Ferb, and does the dynamite webcomic Red’s Planet. He’s also a very funny guy, and is always up for a practical joke. Well, almost always.

As it happened, that same year another caricaturist had a competing booth on the other side of the fairgrounds. That is not unusual as there is often several different caricaturists in a single large fair, but I happened to know this guy. In fact, he’s from Minnesota and had gotten his start in caricature drawing for me in my theme park there. We chatted a bit when the fair first started so he knew I was there… but he had not seen nor did he know Eddie.

I thought it would be amusing to pull an old caricaturist prank on him…the “Draw and Dash”.

The “Draw and Dash” is when you have a ringer sit down for a drawing, obviously needing to be someone the target caricaturist does not know, and then have them take off running after the drawing is done without paying. It works best when the customer plays it up asking really dumb questions or otherwise being annoying so the crowd is interested in seeing their reaction to the caricature. There are two variations to the prank. In one, the customer just runs off and leaves the drawing behind. In the other, they steal the drawing. That second one is funnier but a little dangerous depending on the artist being pranked.

Eddie is a master of this, having pulled it or had it pulled on a few artists in his time. He’s great at playing the dumb hick getting one drawn before racing off in an exaggerated “FEETS DON’T FAIL M’NOW!” manner. I talked him into doing it to this Minnesota artist. It took some doing, as he was worried the guy might get really pissed off. He kept on asking me “He’s not going to chase me, is he?”

“Nah,” I would say. “He wouldn’t do that.”

It took a day or so, but one boring afternoon he treked across the fair to do the gag.

Maybe 30 minutes later Eddie comes stumbling up to the booth with a drawing in his hand…he wasn’t exactly a track star…and wheezed “HE’S CHASING ME!!” He ducked behind the booth out of sight. About a minute later this artist runs up to the booth.

“Did you see a guy run by with a drawing in his hand?” He asks.

“Nope,” I reply. “What did he look like?”

He describes Eddie and warns me in case the same guy comes up wanting to get one drawn by me, and then takes off to continue pursuit. Eddie comes panting from behind the booth with sweat streaming down his face, calms down, and we get a good laugh out of it. I was genuinely surprised he got chased, but that made it all the funnier anyway. Eddie didn’t think so at first, but later we were guffawing over it.

Eventually this caricaturist comes by when Eddie sitting was at the booth, and realizes it was a gag. Eddie and I laughed and I introduced them…and then this artist DEMANDED HIS PAYMENT!! Seriously, he refused to leave until he got his money. I couldn’t believe it. We paid him for the drawing and he stalked off. I don’t think we saw him again the whole two weeks of the fair. I haven’t said two words to him since.

So, if you were ever wondering if anyone can be a caricature artist and not have a sense of humor themselves, I know of at least one like that.


  1. Ed Steckley says:

    Not the Big Back!?

  2. John Deaton says:

    Great story Tom…

  3. LMAO! It surely was worth paying for the drawing considering the entertainment it brought and the great story it makes..

  4. Greggy says:

    This explains a statement from a fellow artist Dan M
    When he said to a customer if I’m drawing it you’re buying it

  5. I still have that drawing! And I’m still out of breath!


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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