In honor of the 2015 Internet Cat Video Festival, we reached out to Garfield creator Jim Davis and his cartoon cat creation to discuss the world of Internet cat videos.
The Garfield strip debuted on June 19, 1978 in 41 newspapers. By 2002, the Guinness Book of World Records named Garfield the “Most Widely Syndicated Comic Strip,” with an estimated readership of 263 million people.
Bianca Pettis: What about your cat drew you to cartoon about him? How do you link that with the Internet Cat Video phenomenon?
Jim Davis: I fully understand the enthusiasm for cat videos. Cats provide endless hours of entertainment — that is, when they’re not sleeping. When Garfield came out, in 1978, Time magazine did a feature story about “Cat Chic.” There seemed to be a surplus of cats in the media — Kliban’s Cats, Morris the Cat, Heathcliff , and of course, Garfield. I guess you could say cats had taken over dogs. There even became as many cat owners in the United States as dog owners. This surge in the popularity of cats seems to have continued and its latest permutation is the Internet cat video. I admit I’ve watched a ton of them myself.
Pettis: Is it weird for you to see a contemporary art museum put on the first ever cat video festival?
Davis: Karl Lagerfeld’s cat made $3 million dollars modeling last year; New York opened its first Cat Café; Diane Lovejoy, an art historian, penned the book Cat Lady Chic. It seems entirely appropriate for the Walker Art Center to host a cat video festival.
INTERVIEW WITH GARFIELD THE CAT
Pettis: Garfield. Garfield. A cat. A comic strip cat. Orange. Fuzzy. Tabby. Born June 19, 1978 in Mamma Leoni’s Italian Restaurant. Adopted by Jon in 1979. Tell us about your humble beginnings. Now that you’ve hit the landmark age of 37, do you feel older and wiser?
Garfield: Older, yes. Wiser, maybe. Hungrier, definitely!
Pettis: Well, you still look great. How do you stay so young? Surely it can’t be diet or exercise.
Garfield: It’s mirrors and formaldehyde.
Pettis: Let’s talk for a moment about your creator, Jim Davis. How old is he now?
Garfield: Let’s just say he’s chronologically challenged. His first pet was a brontosaurus.
Pettis: How are you and Jim alike, and how are you different?
Garfield: He’s a farm boy at heart, and I’m a big-city kitty. He wakes up at the crack of dawn; I wake UP at the crack of noon. But we both enjoy life’s simple pleasures: eating, sleeping, and scratching ourselves.
Pettis: Well, it’s certainly been an eventful 37 years! What do you see in your future?
Garfield: Incontinence arthritis, dementia … you know, the usual geezer stuff. Actually, I’m just gonna keep doing my thing: eating, sleeping, and kicking some major dog butt!