Cartoons are the real draw of Kevin Nealon’s new book – Winnipeg Free Press

“I Exaggerate: My Brushes with Fame” by Kevin Nealon (Abrams Books)

It’s no real surprise that Kevin Nealon is a talented guy.

After all, he’s an accomplished stand-up comedian, sketch player, actor and even a golfer, having played in more than a few pro-am tournaments over the years.

This cover image posted by Abrams shows “I Exaggerate: My Brushes with Fame” by Kevin Nealon. (Abrams via AP)

But one of the 68-year-old artist’s lesser-known gifts only recently became known: the art of caricature, which is the subject of Nealon’s delightful new book, “I Exaggerate: My Brushes with reputation”.

In it, Nealon shares original color caricatures of some of his famous friends as well as other famous people he knows little or nothing about.

Although the ‘Saturday Night Live’ alum says he first became interested in drawing as a child, he didn’t pursue it “with much focus or passion until recently. “.

That’s partly because, with stand-up gigs drying up due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nealon has been able to get more into this different type of artistic expression.

What were once doodles meant for drinking napkins, script margins, and airsickness bags were now painted on a digital tablet, which is how he produced the ones that appear in the book.

“Drawing cartoons has become a substitute for stand-up comedy, a form of non-verbal comedy and a great creative outlet,” Nealon writes in “I Exaggerate,” adding that he was encouraged by the support he received during of the publication of some of his works on Instagram.

Each portrait is accompanied by an essay written on the person by Nealon.

Topics run the gamut from popular culture: actors Jennifer Aniston, Timothée Chalamet and Anya Taylor-Joy; athletes Peyton Manning, Eli Manning and Arnold Palmer; musicians Lady Gaga, Freddie Mercury and James Taylor; comedians Jim Carrey, David Letterman and Steve Martin; and dozens of others.

The caricatures are a delight to watch, each capturing the spirit of the subject in a way that only a skilled artist – and someone with a keen eye for observation – could produce.

Accompanying essays are more of a mixed bag. Those that focus on friends and those that Nealon has shared experience with jump off the page and complement the designs perfectly. The others can be a little harder to read, because in some cases Nealon doesn’t really reveal much about someone who’s already well known.

Highlights include a memorable late 1980s flight that Nealon and a few friends took from Denver to Los Angeles, piloted by John Travolta; Nealon’s interactions with “SNL” host Christopher Walken, who smelled like garlic for unknown reasons; and he and fellow comedian Dana Carvey coming face to face with Arnold Schwarzenegger at the height of the popularity of the “Hans and Franz” skit, which poked fun at the muscular movie star.

If readers focus solely on the essays, they will skim over the light, funny, and enjoyable “I exaggerate.” But, if they’re anything like this reviewer, they’ll spend most of their time staring at the intricate, thoughtful artwork.

Readers may come for the stories, but they will stay for the cartoons – the book’s real appeal.

Christy J. Olson