O’Malley’s Alley, Part One

March 27th, 2011

Behold the humble joke.

If you can call cartoon jokes “humble,” it’s just because they’ve been reduced to essentials.  There’s nothing in a good joke — not a line, not a word, not a detail — that isn’t necessary.  To those of us who work in looser, sloppier, forms — novels, for example, although most art forms are loose and sloppy compared to a good joke — the most frightening thing about jokes is that they look easy.  And then you try to come up with one.

The cartoons of “O’Malley” have been appearing in The Independent Group Newspapers, published up and down the California coast, for about five years.  “O’Malley” is a pseudonym for my brother Michael (or “micael” as he sometimes signs himself here when he’s in beret mode), who is a well-known and prodigiously talented painter.  I thought it would be interesting to ask Mike to give a kind of illustrated  introduction to his life as a cartoonist.

By the way, these are Mike’s roughs, just as he submits them.  The captions are typeset later at the paper.  So here’s Part One of O’Malley’s Alley.

Mike: The editor knew my paintings, so that helped.  The interview went something like this:  What are your qualifications?  I answered, I can draw well and I’m a smart ass.  “That matches the job discription’ perfectly, you’re hired.”  I felt like one of those old signs that said “Two weeks ago I couldn’t even spell engineer and now I are one.”  “We need a cartoon by Tuesday,” she said, and I was a cartoonist.

I had done advertising art so I could meet a deadline and had some of the work ethic that Tim inherited from our father; although Tim inherited the lion’s share.  All I needed was a name.  I wanted to distance myself from the serious artwork that I was doing.  People paying lots of money for me to paint their children on the beach didn’t have to know I was an idiot.  They could find this out later on their own.

When I was showing my paintings at the Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach my space was next to Frank Interlandi’s.  Interlandi was a very good painter and a cartoonist for Playboy and other magazines.  People only associated him with cartooning and subsequently these good paintings were under- appreciated.

So I needed a name.  I choose the most Irish name I could, O’Malley .  The Irish can laugh at themselves

This is something that I take into account if my cartoons have an ethnic flavor.  It’s something I’ll develop later as we talk about taboos in cartooning.

But in the meantime I had settled on Canadians as a safe target.  To be specific, Canadians in Hell.  The joke was that they liked it, it was warm and they didn’t have to tip.  Later on O’Malley visits Canada and meets women that sell ice door to door, etc… plodding along until I ran out of Canadian jokes (which is surprisingly easy).

Then I discovered what I had in painting, that the real art was to find the beauty or humor in the familar; the everyday.  It’s what we know about, write about, paint about and joke about.

One more for today, possibly offensive to some:

More in the next blog or two.  If anyone has a question for Mike, please ask it.

28 Responses to “O’Malley’s Alley, Part One”

  1. Tom Logan Says:

    Just wonderful! I love reading about things I know nothing about and getting to see underneath the surface. More please. Thanks to both Tim and Mike.

  2. Sylvia Says:

    This is fascinating stuff. Hi Michael!

    I’m hoping you’ll talk about your process. How do you start?

  3. EverettK Says:

    Good God all Friday, Micael… er… O’Malley, that was enough to make me choke on my spit (imagine cartoon of Everett, run through from arse to Adam’s Apple on a spit, turning slowing over a fire…and choking).

    Very funny fellow. I can see that growing up in the Hallinan household was… was… well, all I can say is your’s and Tim’s mother has just gained a lot of sympathy.

  4. Beth Says:

    Why do you not have a national audience?

    Despite being exposed to years of Irish step-dancing, I had to look twice at the outlines. Then I realized just how clever the cartoon is.

    Some people may be offended by the mini burqa but there is always a group who are offended by everything.

    Please post more.

  5. Suzanna Says:

    Hi, Micael

    Love your cartoons! Here’s a silly question for you: Were you always someone who could “tell a joke” before you began creating cartoons?

  6. Crenna Aesegas Says:

    Isn’t it just the recipe for surviving? Driving through all the pedestrian portals with joy and a squinty eye? Thanks for making it hold still for just a moment so I can savour it. Make Merry Monday!

  7. Lil Gluckstern Says:

    Just wonderful! A different mindset from your paintings, but charming. There’s a little bit of irony in there. What does it say about me that I like the guillotine one the best-mindboggling. I agree with Everett, the Hallinan household must have been a lively place. Thank you indeed.

  8. Glenn Says:

    Hello Michael,

    Such fun to see you so funny, talented, and successful. Also a real joy to witness the wonderful relationship between you and Tim.
    I have three sons and now that they are grown, (two in college, one out in the world) I’m just beginning to see signs of their being good buddies. It’s every parent’s great hope that their children will set aside all the crap from childhood and go into the future as friends. It seems that you and Tim have done so. Bravo to you both.
    What is really fun is to remember you from high school when I’d come over to roust your brother, Tim, out of bed to go do something other than what he was doing at the time. Usually, along with a couple others, we’d convince him that a day at the beach beat anything he was doing at the time.
    Had I known then that the Hallinans would evolve into adults with such wit and talent and charm, I’d have come around more often and just hung out. To hell with the beach!
    Keep up all that good work you’re doing. And thanks for sharing. Brings a broad smile to the half-Irish in me.


  9. John Lindquist Says:

    Hi Micael. Those samples of your cartoons really resonate with me – and the same goes for the vibrant paintings on your website.

    I can recall that a good part of my very early indoctrination into the world came from cartoons, and I would devour the daily installments of “Pogo” and “Li’l Abner” back in the early 1950s. Unfortunately I didn’t appreciate the political subtleties (one-sided as they were) but went for the more obvious instead – figuring those characters were a reflection of real life. Accordingly, I told my elderly neighbor that she was a “nice ol’ bat” which she readily took it as a compliment, although my Mom and Dad were sorely convinced that they had gone wrong somewhere.

    Chickens and parakeets were used as the protagonists in my early cartooning efforts, but more lately I’ve found that photos can substitute such as what I came up with here. How I miss those characters.

    I’m really looking forward to more of your work on Tim’s blog, and I’m happy to have found your website. Thank you!

  10. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Hidey ho, all — Mike will come by later in the PM to chime in, but I’m just jumping in line to thank all of you for responding and to say how happy I am you like his work, which I think is hilarious.

    This is probably going to end up as a three-part blog with the next one in a couple of days, in keeping with my new leisurely scheduling approach. He’s got some really riveting (and practical) things to say about his creative process, and I may save those for the third one.

    In the meantime, tell all your friends to take a look so that Mike’s really snowed under when he logs on.

  11. micael hallinan Says:

    Thank you everyone for your kind comments. One drawback to a nom de smart ass is that no one knows the work is yours, consequently you don’t get much feedback. Tom and Sylvia, more to come. I will discuss the creative side as well as the mechanics of cartooning. Everett, always glad to get a laugh even a life threatening one.We got our sense of humor from our mom. As you can see she needed one. Congratuations Beth, most people that I showed the clog dancing cartoon didn’t get it at all. As far as national exposure I wouldn’t know where to begin. Anybody? Yes Suzanna I could always tell a joke. What I couldn’t always get was a laugh. Crenna you get it exactly, just a light hearted twist on how we live. The guillotine was my favorite too, thanks Lil. Hi Glenn,yes Tim and I are good friends and he has always been a great brother. The sweetest thing he ever did was to bring Munyin into our family. John, we are probably the same vintage if we both remember Pogo and Li’l Abner. I think Pogo stands the test of time and Walt Kelly would still be relevent today. thanks again for the responses. Michael even though my evil computer spells it Micael.

  12. micael hallinan Says:

    Hello again Glenn, Tim just confirmed what I thought that you are Glenn Jolley who I remember well and fondly. Mike

  13. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    I’m right behind Mike with the thanks, and I agree with all of you about my bro’s talent. He’s always been funny, verbally one of the fastest people I know.

    There was a lot of laughter in our family. It’s sort of odd — Pat writes and illustrates children’s books, Mike paints and does cartoons, and I write books. My mother sporadically turned to oil painting — only one, thank heaven, on the front of a sombrero — and my father told the most astonishing continuing bedtime stories, huge epics starring Pat, Mike, and Tim that stretched over months at a time. He’d come in and ask, “Now where were we?” and then he’d be off and running. God, I wish we’d been able to tape those or record them somehow. So anyway, here we are, all doing something creative. Not a regular job in the family.

    And Glenn, if I was in bed, what I was doing was more important than anything anyone else had in mind.

  14. EverettK Says:

    Tim said: And Glenn, if I was in bed, what I was doing was more important than anything anyone else had in mind.

    Good God, the possible replies to that straight-line so boggle my mind that I am unable to speak.

    I know. Enjoy. It won’t last.

  15. Debbi Says:

    Great stuff, Micael! (spoken with terrible imitation of Irish accent)

  16. Robb Royer Says:

    I think what else is funny is changing your name from Hallinan to O’Malley to get Irish.

  17. Laren Bright Says:

    Tim — This is the best blog you’ve ever written…oh, wait

  18. Glenn Says:


    I highly doubt that anything Timothy was doing in bed at sixteen on a sunny southern California late morning was more important than climbing into our friends convertible ’57 Chevy and heading to Zuma Beach. Please, don’t suggest he was
    THAT precocious!

  19. Rachel Brady Says:

    Um, does Mike do beaurocracy satire? I need an O’Malley desk calendar.

  20. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Gee, it’s really thrilling to see that I’m, or rather Michael, is on the way to setting a new response record. Really, no jealousy at all, although I may have to delay parts 2 and 3 indefinitely. And I obviously missed a cue in not saying how much I loved what Mike said about my wife, whom I actually prefer to myself anyway.

    Part 2 will be up tomorrow. I’m still scanning cartoons.

  21. EverettK Says:

    I’m curious, Mike: about how many of these have you done over the 5 years? And do you still have copies of all of them? Are they sold to the paper on a one-time user basis, or as “work for hire?”

    Rachel’s question about a desk calendar brought these questions to mind.

  22. michael hallinan Says:

    Debbi, great brogue, you had me fooled. The only beaurocratic cartoon I can remember doing was a bored woman answering the phone saying”emergency suicide hotline can you hold; its yours Rachel. Hallinan is Irish; who knew? Robb you have the makings of a cartoonist. And Laren its not often that I agree with someone completely.

  23. Larissa Says:

    Bravo! (c:

  24. micael hallinan Says:

    Sorry Everett,I missed your question. For better or for worse the cartoons belong to me. This is true with sold paintings and reproduction rights too. Unless you specifcally assign the reproduction rights they remain yours

  25. EverettK Says:

    That’s great! Perhaps an book is in order? Or a web page? Fortune and fame… you’ve got to stay ahead of Tim, you know…

    [Sent from my new Motorola Xoom as I sit at my leisure in our newly refloored living room. Ah, life is good. Big boys and their toys…]

  26. Fay Moore Says:

    Wow! So this is what the world of a real writer looks like! I am excited to learn about your web site and take advantage of all the helpful tools and inspiration for wannabes like me. I am working on my first novel. My background is as a technical writer. As a wannabe novelist, I have entered a new world and am learning to speak the language. It’s a challenge. In all seriousness, I invite you to take a peek at my space and hope that you may consider offering a guest appearance via comments (or a guest post) to share tidbits to help those of us who aren’t yet on the ladder of success, but merely jumping at the first rung. If you choose to stop by, visit fay-moore.blogspot.com. Thanks for creating Blog Cabin to guide those who dream of following in your footsteps! I will point my visitors your direction, too.

    PS- In the first month of being on-line, I have almost 300 hits on the site. I bet you remember the thrill of watching your first statistics,too. If the numbers go up next month, it means that someone out there is reading my stuff. That’s what it is all about, isn’t it?

  27. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Hi, Fay —

    Sorry to have taken so long to respond — working with my brother to get these up and writing a book (and life, too) have distracted me.

    Best of luck with your site. It takes a long time to build traffic (if one ever actually does) and I think the jury is out as to whether it’s a wise investment of time for most writers, especially when writing time is sometimes hard to come by. But it’s an adventure. Will check out your site.

  28. RJ Baliza Says:

    hi mike,

    i love it! 🙂 you should definitely compile these into a book!


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