About Tom Falco

Cartoonist I do the Tomversation comic panel at TomFalco.com I also do the Tomversation blog about arts, culture, history.

He’s blue and he’s awkward, and oh yes, he’s a Yeti!

Nick Seluk has millions of fans of his comic strip, “The Awkward Yeti.” The comic is often a clever commentary on the struggle between our hearts and our brains – it always hits home and many times provokes a belly laugh. The Yeti has a running dialogue many of his body’s organs. You can read The Awkward Yeti at GoComics.com here.Nick-HB-1-v2

Nick Seluk and friends.

TOM: Heart and Brain seem to have their own spin-off from “The Awkward Yeti” how did that come about?

NICK: Brain first joined Lars (the Yeti) to help me get deeper into the anxiety-driven inner dialogue of an introvert, but it wasn’t long before Heart joined as a counterbalance. Heart and Brain found a dynamic that worked well for me and for my audience, and before too long Lars was on the sidelines (although he stars in his own self-titled series online at Webtoons and still makes cameos). I found that through Heart and Brain I could express myself better, and in a way that many people could relate.

TOM: What did you do before you became a full time cartoonist?

NICK: Before going full time as a cartoonist I was a sort of graphic designer / art director type for several years. I worked in corporate America with tons of huge brands, a job I ended up hating enough to want to start my own business instead. I needed to do things my own way, but more than anything needed to escape the constant meaningless small talk.awkwardyeti1

Lars, the Awkward Yeti, courtesy GoComics.com


TOM:
 At what point did you first realize you were famous?

NICK: There are over six billion people who have never even seen my work, so fame is pretty relative. But, having a line of people waiting, actually WAITING for me write my name on a book is very humbling. I guess you could say I was humbled first at San Diego comic con a couple years ago, when I was signing books with my publisher and they had to close off the line. But other than that, it’s not like people recognize me on the street or anything.

TOM: What bores you?

NICK: Conversations about sports. (but not the sports themselves).

TOM: Favorite tv show?

NICK: I have lot of favorites, but I think Louie is one I especially look forward to. I’m a sucker for most of the popular action-heavy shows, too (Marvel Netflix series, Game of Thrones, etc., etc., etc.).

TOM: What famous artist, dead or alive, would you want to paint your portrait?

NICK: Picasso, but during his blue period.

TOM: What are two things you would do if you woke up to find yourself completely invisible?

NICK: Hide from my responsibilities, then go back to bed.

TOM: What song would be the theme of your life?

NICK: Do You Realize by The Flaming Lips, but, like, in a good way.

TOM: Superpower if you had one?

NICK: The ability to make other people fly. Whether I would use this for good or for evil is TBD.

TOM: Other than your own, what comic strips are your favorites? Past and/or present?

NICK: I was always a big fan of Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield, Foxtrot and The Far Side as a kid, along with almost anything else in the newspapers at the time. I read every comic strip every day for many years, even continuing on through college with titles like Pearls Before Swine. When I first got into webcomics I enjoyed two groups: the first being the established comics like The Oatmeal, SMBC, and Cyanide and Happiness (all of which I still like to read); the second being comics that I happened to find early on, whether because we started at the same time, or just crossed paths online. That list is pretty long and includes a lot of people I see regularly at comic cons (a big group of us will be at Kansas City Planet Comicon this year).

Thanks, Nick!awkwardyeti2

Heart and Brain, courtesy GoComics.com

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‘Dunce’ comic strip is in a class all its own

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Jens K at work. (Photo by Agnese Zile)

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Jens K. Styve is the creator of Dunce, a delightful Norwegian comic strip he created in 2016. What attracts you first are the drawings, each strip is a work of art; add the comic writing and quality to that, and you have an award-winning comic strip. (photo by Nicolas Tourrenc).


TOM: Is Dunce you? Why the name Dunce for the title character?

JENS: Whenever I’ve done anything autobiographical, it’s been me drawn with that pointy Dunce-cap. I think it’s all about that voice in your head, the self-evaluating critic. The voice that, each time you do more or less anything, goes “You idiot, why did you do that? Why did you say that? Write that? Draw that? Look, now you’ve made a mess.” I think this voice is pure biology, every human seem to be their own worst critic. You should probably check with a biologist, but I assume it’s how we all made it this far. I guess my inner voice is also a sarcastic, satirical writer that can add some fiction and transform these expressions into comics. When I started doing a daily strip with the pointy-hat character, the title Dunce sort of gave itself.

TOM: What is Dunce’s name? He has a son, what about a wife, I don’t remember ever seeing her.

JENS: The main character’s name is Jens K, maybe with a tiny reference to another resentful literary character (Kafka’s Josef K.). The son is named Gustav, I haven’t really figured out yet if the characters should have other names in English, I guess it’s part of the concept that this is actually in the far north of Norway, far above the polar circle. Gustav obviously has (or at least has had) a mother, many readers ask about her, but that part of the story isn’t told (yet).

TOM: Your drawing style is beautiful, is it digital, do you use pen and ink?

JENS: In 2014, I came back from a 14 year long hiatus from comics. Actually I thought I had quit for good, with my steady job as a graphic designer. I did miss making comics, I guess what I missed most was working offline and analogue, with old fashioned tools like brushes, nibs, good paper and the meditative “flow” of drawing. So I returned. I decided to do a daily strip, just for myself. My days were packed, but I found that if I got up insanely early, I could sketch and ink a complete strip each day before going to work. These were self-published in small zines, and this eventually turned into my Dunce strip. The whole point then, was to do this without using any computers. After a year or so, my strip won several competitions and ended up running in Norwegian magazines and newspapers. After doing maybe 150 strips on paper, I bought an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil, curious (and a bit skeptical) if these gadgets could recreate my analogue and “inky” style. One of the really good brush-makers for Procreate (Georg von Westphalen) came by and offered to make a brush pack based on my style. That did it, I switched to iPad.

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TOM: What does your studio/workspace look like?

JENS: Since I went full time comic artist in October 2017, I’ve been working at home. I have a separate room for work, but when I have the house for myself, I move around. My dog Brego (who is introduced in the strip, and often seems to be stealing the show) keeps me company, when I move to another place to draw, he finds another place to sleep. Kitchen is for writing, I have a good chair by the large window for sketching, and I do the inking in my office. All my nibs and brushes are there, in close vicinity, and although I do most work on the iPad now, I try to keep them active. Ink on the hands, and those random accidents that can’t be undone, is still what gives the best “flow”.

TOM: Dunce is run in newspapers in Norway and that area of the world. What is the schedule like is it run daily? How far ahead do you have to have the strips in?

JENS: It is running daily, and has been doing that more or less non stop since January 2017. That means I have to produce at least five new strips every week. There has been times (up to quite recently) when I’ve been so far behind that I handed in the next day’s strip at 12 every day. That is not at all recommended. I’ve now been able to build up a buffer of around four weeks. Also, I now try to make six or seven strips weekly, so that I can have a vacation one day, or even be able to get sick.

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TOM: I’ve read various quotes comparing your work to others but I don’t see it, I think you are totally unique. But who are your comic/cartoon influences?

JENS: My influences are pretty widespread, and they also change a lot. Some people mention Quentin Blake and Ralph Steadman, I admit those two have been great inspirations. I grew up loving French and Belgian comics like Asterix and Franquin, in the 90s I was hooked on Fantagraphics stuff (Hate, Eightball etc), and strips like Peanuts and Calvin & Hobbes have always been with me. Lately I’ve been looking into manga comics, working quite hard to find something to get hooked on. I’ve found a few gems, last one was The Girl From The Other Side, which I think everyone should read. Another artist who’s books I keep close these days is the Italian cartoonist Gipi.

TOM: What was the first thing you would seriously draw? I mean, I would draw Fred Flintstone, I always remember as a young child doing that. Did you draw a character or have a favorite subject at a young age?

JENS: Ah, I remember copying Beetle Bailey in very early years. I was maybe 12 when I decided I wanted to become a comic artist. My theory was that I had to draw every day, so that’s what I did. Much of the daily grind at that time was copying whatever I could find. Some comics were almost impossible to copy, and those were often the ones I liked most. I think I was early aware of the mystical quality in a line/stroke and how some drawing styles had more of a “soul.” Early on, I found it hard to do comics, because I was more into drawing than writing. In my recent comics hiatus I wrote and published two novels, so that was pretty much turned around in time.

TOM: What famous artist, dead or alive, would you want to paint your portrait?

JENS: I think Quentin Blake could do a good one, probably also Richard Thompson. Those would probably be ink drawings. If I was to be painted in oil, it could maybe be by Australian comic artist Ashley Wood. Or Norwegian Edvard Munch, he would have painted me as some sort of devious villain.

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TOM: Who is your favorite super hero?

JENS: Ouch, I don’t mean to be cocky, but I’ve never been enthusiastic about any superhero comic (or superhero movie). Guess my reply just has to be «blank» on this one.

TOM: If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be?

JENS: I would have started doing this Dunce-strip in 1995, when all newspaper editors were happy and positive people with an optimistic outlook for the future.

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10 things you didn’t know about ‘Trading Spaces’ Paige Davis

Trading Spaces is coming back! Yup, the granddaddy of DIY shows! Paige Davis is back along with most of the designers you might remember from the popular show that ran from 2000 to 2008. Along with Paige, returning are Doug Wilson, Genevieve Gorder, Hildi Santo-Tomas, Vern Yip, Frank Bielic, and Laurie Smith. Carpenters Ty Pennington and Carter Oosterhouse are back too!

As you may remember, two sets of neighbors redo a room at each others houses over a weekend with the help of two designers for that week.

The new version premiers Saturday, April 7 at 8 pm on TLC.

I had the chance to ask Paige the 10 With Tom Questions. Here we go . . .

TOM: How did the idea for the reboot come about?
PAIGE: I’m not 100% certain, but I believe TLC felt it was good timing on the heels of the nostalgia wave that is sweeping television right now. There are currently so many reboots of old shows. It’s comforting and fun. Waiting for Trading Spaces to air is like saving the best for last.

TOM: Had you kept in touch with any of the cast/designers over these past 10 years that the show was off the air?
PAIGE: Definitely. And Facebook and social media has made it even easier than before to keep up with each other’s lives.

TOM: Where will the shows be taped? One city? Different areas of the country as in the past?
PAIGE: Our show has always been taped around the country. This reboot is no different. This season there are episodes in southern California, Atlanta, and Baltimore.

TOM: Are you stopped by fans when you travel? What is their number one question?
PAIGE: I am stopped by fans sometimes, yes. The number one thing I’m asked is, “Will you come to my house?” I always say, “Careful what you wish for.”

TOM: Are you a designer, have you designed or did you just fall into the hosting aspect of the show?
PAIGE: I am not a designer. Though I do have a love of decor and design. I am a dancer/singer/actress by trade. Trading Spaces was simply a job I auditioned for. A bit of fluke that I booked it.

TOM: If you had one super power, what would it be?
PAIGE: To never be hungry or to be able to curb cravings with the wiggle of my nose.

TOM: What was the last tv show you watched?
PAIGE: Speechless.

TOM: What’s the last thing you took a picture of?
PAIGE: The Playbill cover of Carousel on Broadway. My dear friend is in the ensemble. We went to see her last night.

TOM: When you guys trade spaces, what is your favorite room in the house for a do-over?
PAIGE: I can’t speak for the designers, but I love when we do family rooms because they have the most jeopardy if the homeowners are disappointed. Lots at stake when it’s a room you spend a great deal of time in.

TOM: Starry Night, Mona Lisa or Les Demoiselles d’Avignon by Picasso?
PAIGE: Picasso, all the way.

TOM: Thanks Paige! We’ll be looking for you on April 7!

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10 random things you didn’t know about Real Housewife Kim Zolciak

Kim Zolciak-Biermann rose to fame in 2008 as one of the Real Housewives of Atlanta, besties with Nene Leakes at the time; currently, she stars in her own show based on her family, called, Don’t be Tardy, which is based on her hit single “Don’t Be Tardy for the Party” (warning if you listen, it will be an earworm all day). I had the chance to ask Kim my 10 With Tom questions:

TOM: Tell me about Kashmere. Did you decide on a lemony clean scent or the stripper scent? And why? (Kim Joke’s about the scents for her new perfume in a scene from Don’t Be Tardy).
KIM: Kashmere is more of a beachy scent, not floral. I get headaches from a lot of scents, so I wanted Kashmere to be something that was more of a cool beach vibe than floral. My family’s opinion was important to me, so this scent was something my husband, kids, and business partner all agreed on. I want Kashmere to have that effect on people where you smell it, and it reminds you of someone and automatically you know who that person is.

TOM: Are you ready for free agency, when it comes to Kroy? (Troy Biermann is Kim’s husband, a professional football player signed by the Buffalo Bills). Will you be moving to Buffalo?
KIM: I’ve never truly experienced having my hubby home more than usual. But my kids are all in school in Atlanta and I am committed to their schooling until then.

NOTE: Troy was dropped from the Bills at the end of August, just two weeks after signing.

TOM: I know you’re never tardy for the party, but what was the last thing you were late for?
KIM: I was two minutes late dropping off my kids at school. God bless ATL traffic.

TOM: What famous artist, dead or alive, would you want to paint your portrait?
KIM: Andy Warhol. I love his work. He was such an innovator.

TOM: Who is the most famous person you have ever met?
KIM: Garth Brooks. I’m OBSESSED. When I met him, I said to myself, “Is this real?” Total fan girl moment.

TOM: Last thing you ordered at Starbucks…
KIM: I order the same thing everyday, twice a day. A venti hot caramel macchiato with extra caramel drizzle and whipped cream. YUP.

TOM: What song would you sing for your American Idol audition?
KIM: DUH Don’t Be Tardy 😉

TOM: Oh yeah, I wasn’t thinking there.

TOM: Word of the moment? Other than the F-word, which seems to be your favorite.
KIM: GTFOH – Get The F**K Outta Here. My common statement on social media.

TOM: Although you have Chef Tracey, what was the last meal you cooked?
KIM: Stuffed shells. I love to cook anything Italian.

TOM: What would be your Housewife tagline today at this moment?
KIM: Either you step forward into growth, or step backward into safety.

Thanks, Kim. Good sport!

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10 things you didn’t know about Rina Piccolo’s groove

Rina Piccolo is a syndicated cartoonist, best known for her daily comic strip “Tina’s Groove,” which revolves around Tina, a waitress at Pepper’s Fine Dining Restaurant. Tina’s Grove started in 2002 and is distributed by King Features Syndicate. She also does lots of other single panel work for magazines and has filled in for other cartoonists. I think the best part is her name – Rina Piccolo – very musical.

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Cartoonist Rina Piccolo

TOM: You do the Tina’s Groove comic strip and I’ve seen single panel gag cartoons, and also sometimes fill in for Hilary Price for Rhymes With Orange and I’ve also seen Six Chix in the past. How do you decide what gags to use for which comic strip or gag cartoon?

RINA: It’s a wonder that no one has ever asked me that because it’s an issue that I encounter often, and it can sometimes be really frustrating. I mean, I have all these outlets for cartoon ideas (well, I no longer do cartoons for Six Chix, so there’s one outlet gone), and it’s often hard to see where best to use them. Sometimes ideas choose for themselves where they want to go. Like, for instance, all restaurant/workaday gags would obviously be used for my strip Tina’s Groove, since it’s about a waitress and her co-worker friends. And if I ever have an idea that’s too racy for the newspaper comics, then I try to shop it around to various magazines that publish cartoons in the style that you see in the New Yorker. On the occasion when I’m filling in for Hilary Price’s Rhymes With Orange comic, I usually have a couple of gags in my drawer that I can’t use for any of my outlets, and what I do is combine these with fresh ones that I sit down to write specifically for the Guest Spot.

TOM: Tina is a waitress, were you ever a waitress, you seem to know so much about the restaurant business?

RINA: Let me admit it right away– I make a terrible waitress, ha ha! However, I have worked in several restaurants in other capacities (kitchen, and counter service). In the last restaurant that I worked in I was the Hostess, and interestingly enough, it was while I was in that job that I had cooked up the idea to do a strip about a waitress, and life in the service industry. Anyway, as I say, I never made it as a server — once, in a small café that I worked in as sandwich-maker/kitchen help, they needed someone to fill in temporarily as a server, and so I served tables — for about 15 minutes. That’s how long it took for the owner to tell me to go back to the kitchen. Ha! Anyway, all this just to say that the reason I know what I know about the restaurant business is because nearly all of my “real” jobs were jobs in which I worked with the public. Anyone who’s worked with the public — and not just the restaurant business– shares the same sorts of experiences. That’s basically what fuels Tina’s Groove.

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KING FEATURES SYNDICATE

Tina’s Groove

TOM: How long did it take for Tina’s Groove to bet syndicated? Did you submit the feature to many syndicates? Did you submit other features? What were those about?RINA: Like nearly every cartoonist at the time, I submitted stuff to all the major syndicates, with no real success. Then, in 1997 or thereabouts, Jay Kennedy, the comics editor (at the time) of King Features syndicate, had become familiar with my single panel gags from contributions I was making to “The New Breed”– a single panel daily that had a different cartoonist every day of the week. Anyway, he called me — this was back in the days when people actually used to use the phone to call people, ha ha. And the weird thing is, the call came one afternoon when I was putting together a submission to King– I mentioned it to him, and he said, “Put my name on it, and I’ll make sure it gets straight to my office”, or something like that. When I hung up I felt stunned. It really felt like it was written in the stars, or something silly like that. But the feeling of having a wide open door to a syndicate deal was fleeting, because what followed was three or four years of going back and forth with Jay, submitting strip premise ideas and character ideas, with no guarantee of a contract. On about the two or three year, I took one of the characters I’d been working with and made her a waitress. When Jay saw it, he liked it enough to encourage me to move in that direction, and from that was born “Tina” from Tina’s Groove. But I should stress that I had always wanted to do a single panel gag cartoon, and not a comic strip with characters. Apparently the trend at the time made character-driven strips more marketable, and Jay was only interested in seeing comic strips; he encouraged me to go in that direction, so that’s what I created. As for the other characters & strip ideas that I submitted to Jay in those years I can only say that there were several, and I can barely remember a couple of them – one of them was a kid strip that featured a little girl who narrated her views of the world around her, and another was an actress character whose roles in movies became adventures in the strip. Or something like that. My old brain can’t recall most of the crap I wrote at the time!

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KING FEATURES’S SYNDICATE

Tina’s Groove

TOM: How do you work? What is the schedule like?

RINA: I do have a schedule. My schedule is that I work all the time, ha ha! Seriously, I am one of those people who just really enjoys this stuff a lot, and I seem to have an eagerness to constantly create stuff. I pencil and ink Tina’s Groove on Monday, write material on Tuesday, and part of Wednesday, pencil and ink the Sunday cartoon on Wednesday, and then I have Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and part of Sunday to work on other projects– personal or paid work. If I have a free evening I like to goof around in my sketchbook.

TOM: Although cartoonists seem to be alone most of the time, they seem to be a cliquish group. What other cartoonists are you friendly with?

RINA: Yes, the industry is pretty small — at least the world of syndication is — and everybody kind of knows everybody else. Some of us have great friendships that last years and years, and yes, even romances. But like you say, cartoonists spend an awful lot of time alone, and so when we get together, well, it’s what you’d imagine — a lot of catching up, a megadose of shop talk, and some gossip thrown in. I love my cartoonist friends. The ones I hang out with, or keep in touch with, in person, or through Skype, are Sandra Bell Lundy (Between Friends), Paul Gilligan (Pooch Cafe), Cathy Thorne (Everyday People Cartoons), Susan Camilleri Konar (Six Chix), Anne Gibbons (Six Chix) ( in fact you can include all of the Six Chix ladies, as we Skype now and then), Hilary Price (Rhymes With Orange)… oh boy, there are more, but do I have the space here to list everyone? When I lived in NYC I used to hang out with a lot of cartoonists in the NY, NJ, and Connecticut area. I think the reason why cartoonists are “cliquey” is because we relate to one another in a way that others just don’t, or can’t. Cartooning is an uncommon profession. (It’s not like the typical neighborhood comes with a couple of pro cartoonists in it.) Since it’s such a rarity, it’s nice to have a friend that can totally relate to you when you say something about penciling, or inking, or anything like that, without having to explain (which I think would be boring for people who don’t cartoon).

TOM: Digital or pen and ink?RINA: Both! I use a Cintiq Companion to pencil and ink Tina’s Groove (also used it for last two years of Six Chix, and my guest weeks on Rhymes With Orange). And I use a brush, pen, and ink to draw gag cartoons (magazine gag cartoons, and lately for the book I co-authored, Quirky Quarks: A Cartoon Guide to the Fascinating Realm of Physics.) I also do a lot of sketchbook drawings in a paper sketchbook. Sometimes I draw on my iPad, or Cintiq for animated Gif art, and things like that.

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KING FEATURES’S SYNDICATE

Tina’s Groove

TOM: What was the first thing you would seriously draw? I mean, I would draw Fred Flintstone, I always remember as a young child doing that. Did you draw a character or have a favorite subject at a young age?

RINA: Horses. I’ve always loved horses, and when I was a little girl I used to try to draw them all the time. I still can’t draw a horse. Well, not a good one.

TOM: What famous artist, dead or alive, would you want to paint your portrait?

RINA: Jackson Pollock… Ha, ha, kidding! (Although he’d get my hair right.) … Seriously, good question — I really don’t know. John Singer Sargent would certainly make me look good in brush strokes. No way I’d let Robert Crumb draw me– I think he’s a master, but he’d probably give me a bulbous butt.

TOM: Favorite movie of all time?

RINA: The Wizard Of Oz. That movie does something to me. I’ve watched it numerous times. It never gets old.

TOM: What other comic strips/panels do you enjoy? Past and present.

RINA: I wouldn’t call myself a humongous consumer of comics, weirdly, but I do enjoy a lot of them. In fact, too many to list here—and many are created by people that I know personally. My all time favorites, I can say, are Lynda Barry’s “Ernie Pook’s Comeek”, and anything by Roz Chast (especially her longer-form stuff). I’ve always loved these two because their stuff makes me literally laugh out loud — and I know how difficult it is to have that effect on a reader.

TOM: Thank you, Rina. Enjoyed the chat!

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Betsey Johnson just wants to have fun

I had the honor of interviewing fashion icon Betsey Johnson. Betsey made a stop at Macys at Boca Town Center in Boca Raton, Florida, to promote the premiere of TLC’s Say Yes to the Prom hosted by Betsey and Monte Durham premiering on April 1. It’s a 90 minutes special, which is a TLC tradition where the network partners with Macy’s to help make prom dreams come true.

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Betsey Johnson, courtesy Twitter

TOM: I just saw a tv show recently about you and your daughter, I can’t remember what it was, I think it was CBS Sunday morning. I’m a man who knows nothing about fashion, and I know you, what’s it like being an American icon?

BETSEY: Great, I guess! I don’t really consider myself that, but I can tell you that to become appreciated for what you do you need to work hard and create a following. The word icon just comes over time, the happiness comes from your fans. I love my fans, they keep me going!

TOM: They said your fashion shows are like a three ring circus but there has to be some part you don’t like. What’s your least favorite part of your own fashion shows?

BETSEY: I have no least favorite part. I used to be afraid of critics in the audience but now I feel they love and support me. The whole process of a fashion show is pure fun to me!

TOM: I know you do a lot of the hand-drawn art yourself at the shows and there are DJ’s. Do you choose the music yourself?

BETSEY: Not backstage, I’m too busy running around getting everything ready to make the playlist. Up front, I work with a very skilled musical talent to create the music for the runway. Backstage it is just fun and free to start the party!

TOM: Your signature move is a cartwheel. When was the last time you did a cartwheel?

BETSEY: Not that long ago, but these days I lean more towards the splits which are easy peasy. Cartwheels make me a little afraid because I never know what I’m cartwheeling on and what will happen on that surface.I do love doing them so I will every now and then.

TOM: What was Andy Warhol like?

BETSEY: Quiet. A man of few words. Sweet, gentle and private.

TOM: What’s the secret to your success?

BETSEY: Lots of hard work, but most of all luck! And being nice to everyone you meet.

TOM: Favorite decade? Why?

BETSEY: By far the 60s! And for so many reasons, The Beatles, The Stones, Dylan, the moon, pantyhose and all the geniuses that were around during that time.

TOM: At what point did you realize you were famous?

BETSEY: Today, actually! At the airport I’ve never had so many fans come up to meet me. I’ve never taken so many selfies! I’m always surprised when I remember I’m a little bit famous.

TOM: What song would be the theme of your life. I think I can guess.

BETSEY: “I did it my way.”

TOM: In my mind, it was “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!”

TOM: Please tell me about Say Yes to the Prom, is that similar to the tv show Say Yes to the Dress?

BETSEY: Similar, but so much better since it is so wonderfully charitable! It has been such an honor to work with all the kiddos picking out outfits (especially the ones that are super pink, puffy and sparkly) for their big day. It makes me happy making so many kids happy.

TOM: Thank you Betsey, good luck with the show!

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Amanda the Great

Amanda El-Dweek’s daily comic strip, “Amanda the Great,” is a slice-of-life. Her life! It started appearing on the GoComics website in November, that’s when I first noticed it.Amanda

Amanda El-Dweek

TOM: I noticed all the strips are in black and white, in this age of full color webcomics, why black and white? (which I like, just asking).

AMANDA: Two reasons: I like the look of the black and white contrast (I also use an ink wash for gray tones). The other thing is, coloring is kind of piddly work, and I’m unsure I’d ever get done with the strips if I had to color them!

The comics I read growing up were black and white (newspaper comics), and I always thought they were so singularly beautiful that way.

TOM: Are all the stories/adventures true to life? Did they all happen to you or are some fiction and just there for the enjoyment of readers?

AMANDA: The story is my real life, and the timeline starts about a year before my husband and I were married. (I drew the comics this past year, but they are set in late 2012/early 2013 so far.)

Most of the things I draw did actually happen – sometimes I have to paraphrase things, and sometimes I have to kind of re-format how things happened in order for it to make sense in a three-or-four-panel comic strip format. Some of it is verbatim because if it was something funny, I wrote it down in a notebook, which is fortunate because sometimes I am a poor historian.

But – all of the events are real, and the characters are real. (Except the alter-egos, natch.)

TOM: Is “Amanda the Great” created digitally? Or do you draw with pen and ink?

AMANDA: I create Amanda the Great using smooth Bristol paper, a pencil, ink, brushes, and a Kuretake brush pen for the letters. I use an ink wash for the gray scale. Then I dust off the cat hair and scan them in.

TOM: Who were/are your comic/cartoon influences?

AMANDA: My first comic book was a Garfield book, and I also read a lot of Archie comics – I really tried to emulate these two when I first started drawing (I was pretty young). When I was old enough to pay attention to the newspaper, my favorites were Cathy, Calvin & Hobbes, The Far Side, and Foxtrot. My grandma always had those Peanuts, B.C., and Wizard of Id paperbacks around, which I enjoyed. I think Luann was in a girls’ teen magazine when I was young, which is the first place I had seen it.

All of these different comics kind of shaped how I wanted to do things, and how I wrote comics when I was younger. They still do, to some degree.

I enjoy character development – I always liked how the characters aged in For Better or For Worse.  They experienced things as we do – the circle of life, death of charcters (Farley!), et cetera.

I have read here and there that some cartoonists won’t read other comics because maybe they don’t want the impact on their own stuff, but I don’t know – I think we were all inspired early on by someone’s work.

TOM: Which comic strip, other than your own would you like to crawl into and visit for the day?

AMANDA: I’d love to be in a Cul de Sac or Wallace the Brave comic strip – they have such beautiful backgrounds! My comics lack this feature, usually – haha!  They are so beautifully drawn and colored. I want big curly hair like Viola’s (Cul de Sac) – mine isn’t big enough.

TOM: How far ahead do you work?

AMANDA: I should be further along, but right now I have strips drawn through March, and possibly into April? I need to hustle more!

TOM: Who is the most famous person you have ever met?

AMANDA: If you mean in real life, I met Ron Campbell at an art gallery in Bismarck, North Dakota – he was an animator for the Yellow Submarine movie. I don’t have much opportunity to see famous folks where I live, so that was cool!

TOM: What song would be the theme of your life?

AMANDA: Oh boy, Tom. I’ve thought a lot about it, and I don’t know that I can come up with one. I think my themes sometimes change.

TOM: Biggest fear?

AMANDA: I think it’s a tie between spiders, and everything else.

TOM: Superpower if you had one?

AMANDA: It’s hard to pick just one, isn’t it? I’d like something akin to the Force, but I’d just be tempted to use it Dark Side-style once in a while, so I probably shouldn’t have it.

Thank you Amanda!

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Images courtesy GoComics

10 things you didn’t know about The Vamipre Diaries’ Daniel Newman

Daniel Newman is best known for his TV roles on The Vampire Diaries, Heroes, Homeland, One Tree Hill, Drop Dead Diva7th Heaven and soon The Walking Dead. He was a Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Louis Vuitton model when photographer Bruce Weber discovered him. His musical work appeared on the Twilight soundtrack. The seventh season of The Walking Dead TV series hinted at Daniel playing the part of Richard, working security with The Kingdom’s leader, Ezekiel. Fans are excited for the series’ season 7 premier on October 28, 2016.

I had the chance to ask Daniel the 10 With Tom questions. He has an excellent sense of humor and loves his fans friends.

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TOM: Which show did you have the most fun on – The Vampire Diaries, The Walking Dead or Heroes.
DANIEL: Is this a yes or no only interview? Rapid fire? Lol.. well I’m gonna fuckin fail this then. Ha. Vampire Diaries was awesome in the fact that my Twitter jumped up 300,000 fans after it, with the most amazing kids from all over the world. And they all bought my album on iTunes and sold out all my concerts so to go from a broke waiter bartender to selling out places was mind boggling. That wouldn’t have happened without it. To still get so many messages daily from kids in Europe, Egypt, Russia, Dubai, Japan, USA, Philippines, and hardcore in South America. They just love that show so it was a privilege.

But joining Walking Dead has been a whole new level. My role’s only barely been revealed so far, but the network used my character’s images for so much press and publicity for this new season, so a ton of people on the streets here in the US have come up to me to talk and on airplanes. I’ve never had that before. I was just trying to build my tech company this year, so a couple random lucky breaks and tons and tons of hard work have been a huge blessing this year. I was amazed after I was revealed on the finale half a million new people followed me on Twitter and Instagram, and all write to me about their families and lives and cool stuff. Blown away by all the love and excitement they have for my character and the plot this season.

The show is Iconic, and the cast and creators have created such a worshiped legendary series that people are so invested in and love, it’s really an honor to be able to be a part of it.

TOM: You are great about following fans back on social media. Why do that? Isn’t that a lot of “voices” coming at you at once when you follow almost 600,000 on Twitter alone?
DANIEL: I don’t have any fans. They’re friends. We’re all equal people. The reason I try my best to follow so many people back is, a couple of my heroes I admire followed me on Twitter and I got the biggest thrill out of it. I know it’s so stupid and silly but for some reason I just felt like I was “connected” to them, and mattered to them. It’s the smallest little gesture of respect and connection. I realized how special and powerful it is. And it only takes a second to acknowledge someone in real life. Smile at them or shake a hand and listen. And sometimes it means the world to people. Inspires people. Or just makes them have a happy moment they’ll manifest positivity that day to other people. It was so simple and silly, but really meant a lot to me. So that left an impression with me and I wanted to give that feeling to everyone that follows me. So whenever someone that’s following me writes to me, I just click the follow button back.

TOM: You went to Yale for a bit, what did you major in?
DANIEL: Trouble.

TOM: Who would you rather be, Batman or Superman. Why?
DANIEL: Method man. Or Ginger man. Uber man. Venmo man. Elon Muskman. There’s so many legendary people right now reinventing life, industries, societies. I’m far more fascinated with modern revolutionaries changing the political and socioeconomic landscapes. It’s magical to be able to steal glimpses into the hidden secret worlds of our generation’s leaders. Especially the ones that think they’re incognito with no one the wiser as they puppet master global change. So much is happening right now, and with the internet, everything is right under your nose, you just have to know where to look and what you’re searching for, and it’s all exposed. I’m kind of a fin-tech nerd.

TOM: Last shows you binge watched?
DANIEL: House of Cards, Homeland, Narcos, Queen of the South, Golden Girls

TOM: Favorite season
DANIEL: The other one

TOM: What did you have for breakfast?
DANIEL: Peanut butter and banana sandwich with mayonnaise and a Redbull

TOM: Favorite beer/cocktail
DANIEL: Sober for years. I mastered that class. Was everything, then just tequila in the end. But I died in 2009 when I was walking through an intersection and a drunk driver ran a red light and ran over me at about 50 mph and left me dead. Fortunately I was right by a hospital and witnesses got the ambulance there in minutes to revive me and after a coma and years of surgeries and physical therapy they got me back to brand new. I feel incredible with only a couple tiny scars on my knee and elbow. Huge miracle. Gave me a clear focus and purpose and passion for people and great hard work.

TOM: I see you’re the only Walking Dead cast member who’s been featured nude before. You’re on the cover of the international hit art campaign REDHOT100 absolutely naked. After they featured Olympic athletes and the top 100 celebrity redheads, and you were featured on Connan Obrien, GQ, vogue, BBC, and pretty much all the press and news worldwide. Congrats. How did that happen?
DANIEL: I was honored to be picked. I love how they fight against bullying and teach people to love themselves the way they are. It’s a cool cause all going to the Anti Bullying Alliance, and I was amazed to get the cover and be in all the art galleries. Besides, it’s pretty humbling being in the company of Olympians and this group. I’m definitely proud of it.

TOM: If you could remake a classic movie, which would it be?
DANIEL: Goonies? Indian Jones? Porkies? Flashdance? Haha ok maybe not.

Thanks, Daniel! Good sport. We’ll be watching for you in The Walking Dead!

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10 Things You Didn’t Know About Countess Luann

Countess Luann de Lesseps is one of the favorite and an integral part of the Bravo TV show. Every season there seems to be a break-out star, and this season I think it’s the Countess.

If you weren’t part of the Real Housewives of NYC, which other franchise would you like to be a part of?

Beverly Hills because I love L.A. and California.

You are spending the summer in the Big Brother house. Who would you take to the end with you as the final two? Ramona, Sonja or Bethenny?

Bethenny, because she is so clever and Sonja because she is so much fun.

Celebrity Crush?

Hugh Grant

Who would you like to see come back to Real Housewives of NYC? Someone that was a cast member in the past?

Kelly Bensimon

Quinoa or steak?

I like to be healthy but I love steak.

Which comic strip would you like to crawl into and spend the day?

Garfield, because I like whiskers.


Do you drink Skinny Girl when not being filmed?

Yes I do. Skinny Girl Cucumber Infused Vodka is my fave.


Best neighborhood in NYC?

Upper West Side, the parks are gorgeous


Have you read Ramona’s memoir yet? Will you?

I’m living life on the Ramonacoaster, but yes, I will get to read her book.


Money can’t buy you class and what else?

Real friends.


Thank you Countess.


Besides working on Bravo tv’s “Real Housewives of New York,” which can be seen through August, Luann’s Countess Collection line of apparel is featured on Evine.com she she will appear on Evine Live with her newest collection on August 25. Her song “Girl Code” can be found on iTunes and Spotify. In the fall Countess Luann will launch a line of jewelry as well as infused vodkas. For all Luann info, visit luanndelesseps.com and follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @countessluann.

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10 things you didn’t know about ‘Naked & Afraid’s’ Ryan Holt

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RYAN HOLT (Photo by Mark Fleming)

You probably know Ryan Holt, a favorite survivalist, from the Discovery Channel’s hit, “Naked and Afraid” and “Naked and Afraid XL – “Survivor” on steroids. Ryan is a friend in my head, that’s why I reached out to him.

“Naked and Afraid,” now in its 5th season is about a random couple – a man and woman, dumped somewhere remote, exotic and dangerous in the world and they have to survive for 21 days. They have no food, water or shelter and they are on their own. No one wins anything at the end of the show, the prize is the knowledge that you survived the wilderness. Each hour episode each week consists of a different man and woman.

“Naked and Afraid XL” has 12 survivors from past shows, dumped in a remote place with the same premise, but they are in groups of three and they have to last 40 days. No one is voted off but they disappear little by little due to sickness or just leaving, which they call “tapping out.” XL is interesting in that the intensity is different with each episode as the teams randomly come upon each other and one group of three that soon becomes five or six, totally mixes up the dynamic. XL has the same “characters” on all season, so each week you see the same people unless they’ve left (tapped out).

Ryan is home now in Maine. He runs the Human Nature Hostel and the Wilderness Warrior Project, which he created to assist returning Veterans who may be struggling with PTSD, like he was when he returned. He served eight years in the US Marine Corp Infantry and by his own admission was lost when he returned home. He explored the Appalachian Trail after an honorable discharge and “walked off the war.” Now he wants to do the same for other returning vets. 

Ryan is a good sport, he agreed to participate in “10 With Tom.” What I find funny is that I picture him as being a primitive man in the forest, but according to his answers, I can see he lives with all the comforts of home in Maine.ryan-holt2

RYAN HOLT (photo courtesy Discovery Channel)

I asked him the following questions:

Tom: Are you recognized on the street?
Ryan: I live in a very mountainous and rural part of Maine (Roxbury: population 370). Not many people to be recognized by, although the other day I was at a local swimming hole and a family of “flat landers” approached me and said, “Hey! Are you famous!? The guy from Naked and Afraid?” I said, “Ayah, that’s me.”

Tom: If you were able to vote off members of the XL cast, who would you have voted out of Africa first?
Ryan: Since I was only paired with two other survivalist (Angel and Steve) for the first few weeks, I would have voted off Steve because, well, we all know “he’s kind of a big deal” and there is no room for such an arrogant ego and no existent humility. 

Tom: You live in Maine, you’ve “lived” in the Everglades and Africa. What’s the perfect outdoor temperature for you?
Ryan: Having been born and raised in Maine might make me a little biased but there truly is something unique and special about my homeland. It is the perfect temperature in the summer and offers four seasons to ensure a wide range of every single outdoor activity. Not the best state for couch potatoes, Maine is for the adventure and nature lover.

Tom: Name 3 things in nature you find most beautiful?
Ryan: I find everything in nature to be beautiful, but if I had to pick three things that really resonate with me… Mountain Summits, Trees/Plants, Observing Wildlife.

“Anyone can love a rose, but it takes a great deal to love a leaf. Its ordinary to love the beautiful, but its beautiful to love the ordinary.”  -Unknown

Tom: Last place you visited outside US
Ryan: My last trip outside the US was South Africa. This Fall I plan to explore Iceland.

Tom: What do you usually order at Starbucks?
Ryan: If you were searching for me inside a Starbucks, you would NEVER find me. I don’t drink caffeine or pay extra for name brands. 

Tom: Other than Naked and Afraid, favorite tv show
Ryan: Other than Naked and Afraid, my favorite TV show is Alone

Tom: What scares you the most, and why?
Ryan: Other people. They are the most unpredictable. 

Tom: What are your three favorite foods (other than alligator and snake).
Ryan: Other than alligator, lizard and snake, my favorite foods are Sushi, BBQ, Fresh local cafes.

Tom: Tell me about someone you really admire?
Ryan: I really admire my Girlfriend Dani Beau. Not only is she beautiful, skilled and passionate about nature and all living beings, she completed 21 days and the first 40 day challenge of Naked & Afraid as a Vegan. You have to be driven and dedicated to your morals & beliefs to accomplish such a challenge as a Vegan and to be doing it with laughter and a smile!? She’s a total badass! I will always admire her for her accomplishments, how she cares for the Earth and for putting up with me, haha.  

Thanks, Ryan!

Naked and Afraid XL is on Sunday nights, 9 pm, on the Discovery Channel, you can see Ryan and gang in action, there.    

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