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Nyla WitmoreCartoonist
Ché Rippinger

She finds humor in
relationships and everyday life

Photography by KIT WILLIAMS

She was a cartoonist with Playgirl magazine for six months, the first cartoonist the magazine worked with in its 20 years. “I made it through one and a half editors,” Ché Rippinger says with humor. “Every time a new editor comes in, they need to clear the decks and start over.”

The petite artist, who also writes, worked as a Sunday columnist with the Denver Post, doing both illustration and writing a column, Dating and Hand Grenades. She is now definitely on her own unique path, boldly claiming in one of her cartoons, “Been there, dated that.”

Ché is pronounced Shay, and she says for the record that she is not named after Che Guevara, though she is “her own comic revolutionary tour de force and she is not a guy.” Referring to her niche as “relationship humor,” Ché gleans her material from life and can understand a variety of perspectives. “A lot of people think I’m a single mom because I can write from that perspective, but I’m not,” she says. Working as she does, as both an observer and a participant, Ché says she is not out there simply to observe humor: “I just live, and usually things that annoy me annoy other people too.” She notes that all humor is truth with a twist. The twist part (the humor itself) makes it palatable to hear, “as no one likes to be preached to.”

Nyla WitmoreShe notes that people don’t usually “get that they’re the problem. They don’t recognize themselves.” One of her cartoons shows a person speaking to another and delivering a New Age pickup line, “I like you. You fit my demographic.” When asked what kind of relationships she addresses in her cartoons, Ché says, “I write about all kinds of relationships — romantic, co-worker, boss, parenting — they’re all relationships.” She’s packed a lot of living into her 41 years, having been born the year the song Wild Thing was a No. 1 hit. She studied communications radio, television and film in Illinois and migrated to Colorado more than 20 years ago.

Although she is single and lives with two dogs and a cat, her Web site, touchetoon.com, says she married and divorced 18 times and that her “husbands may have either spontaneously combusted or moved to Alaska.” But when asked the question “Have you come close to marriage?” in a serious manner in the Q&A portion of her Web site, Ché says, “Of course. Unfortunately, it was when he was drunk and forgot he asked.” There was another time when she was given an $8,000 engagement ring, and she now says she is so happy she “didn’t go down that road.” Ché says she is happy enough to be single and also romantic enough to believe true love still exists.

A focus of her work for the past 15 years has been cartooning, but Ché’s creative genius shows itself in many interesting ways. She juggles cartooning with illustrating and works with her mother, Cam Goodman, at El Rancho Trading Post. This mother/daughter team has been running the business for the past year, though the Trading Post has been in existence for some 20 years. While her creativity takes a variety of forms, Ché says she is freelancing full time and mostly doing cartooning.

She may be cartooning full time to her way of thinking, but the fact is she uses her creativity to develop her Web sites, produce interesting packaging for her marketing materials and study belly dancing. She says she likes the martial arts, traveling, languages, men, gardening, gourmet foods and cooking. And, she says, she eavesdrops a lot.

Cartooning comes naturally to her, as she finds that “as long as there are men and women, I’ll always have material.” She writes daily humor on her Web sites, touchetoon.com and datingandhandgrenades.com. Though she watches contemporary relationships for humor, she doesn’t do “trendy” humor. She explains, “Trendy stuff will not hold up over time. But if you look at stuff that was in The New Yorker a few years ago, it’s still popular today. I write to the New Yorker kind of reader — the reader has to know something to get it.”

She adds the market she is cartooning for is “a real particular market. You have to know it, you have to write for it. Playboy and The New Yorker are the two top markets in cartooning,” she says. She writes and illustrates for that market. Working all the time, Ché says that when she goes out socially, she’ll drop something in a conversation — an interesting topic — and watch everyone wrestle with it. She is surprised by people and has found that “you think you have people pegged, but you don’t. You never know about their perspective, their backgrounds and their experiences.” She gives an example: “People who cut you off in traffic -— you never know what kind of day they had.”

“Everyone has a story,” observes Ché. She interviewed a World War II veteran who had been a medic and told stories about his experiences on the battlefield. The veteran’s stories brought tears to the eyes of those in the audience at the Press Club. Though many of these listeners had been in war, they hadn’t talked about their experiences. Hearing his stories was very moving for them.

Humor writing is hard work. The reader brings his or her own perspective to the reading, too. “What some people think is funny is different for someone else. I read a lot of different things. There will be people who like some humor and others who don’t,” she says.

At times, humor is just plain difficult to call forth. Take 9-11, for example. Ché talks about how 9-11 was such a horrid experience that it was hard to find humor. “But eventually humor found a way,” she says.

Describing the PC society we live in today, Ché says political correctness has made it difficult to make light of some topics. “It has to do with who can get away with it. You can make fun of your own mom, but no one else can get away with it,” she points out. Self-disparagement is one technique that humorists, including Ché, use, so “when you find fault with yourself, you can get away with making fun of someone.”

For all her creativity, Ché says she does not do political cartooning, explaining, “I don’t like hate mail. People can be very evil anonymously, in a crowd. It’s something like garbage. If you had to put it all in your own backyard, you’d learn how to recycle quickly.”

Nyla WitmoreShe has come a long way from her days taking a professional illustration class for a commercial art design certificate program at CU Boulder. Her teacher was a New Yorker magazine cartoonist. She wrote a funny joke for a class assignment, and the entire class laughed. “The first cartoon was easy, the second one was really hard,” she recalls. The magazine cartoonist advised her, but she says it was way over her head at the time. She says she had no portfolio, no background and nothing in the can in the way of work.

She wasn’t prepared to go to New York or L.A., so she went about developing a career the old-fashioned way. Ché says her style is “old school.” She does her stuff by hand, calling it a sixstep process. She starts with a rough, doing a gag and a drawing with it. Then she does the cartoon in pencil and transfers it to card stock. Finally she does what she calls “lining it, lettering it, inking it and
correcting it.” The entire process takes one to two hours. Though she has a studio from which she works, she also has portable tools. “I have to have the stuff everywhere with me,” she says.

Ché networks with others in her field and has been recognized by her peers. She is both the current and a past president of the Colorado Alliance of Illustrators and a member and past board member of the Denver Press Club. This artist born in the year of Wild Thing shows her many talents on the following Web sites: www.touchetoon.com, www.DatingandHand Grenades.com and www.elRanchoTrading.com.

This creative illustrator who claims her humor is ripped from the headlines and eavesdropping in bathroom stalls has made her mark and continues to do so. Dance on, Ché!