826LA Los Angeles

A Spelling Bee for Cheaters—A Tournament of verbal smarts and fraudulence — 12 x 17.75 in. (30.5 x 45.1 cm)

Once a year my friends at 826LA hold a big event to raise funds for their after-school tutoring programs. Following past events such as the “Poker Tournament for Cheaters” and the “Echo Lake Regatta for Cheaters” the 2010 installation was titled “A Spelling Bee for Cheaters” and happened at Lincoln Middle School in Santa Monica. I’m not sure if the Lincoln connection was anything more than serendipity, but it was perfect for me.

For the purpose of this poster, Lincoln was a well known cheater. I took great care to highlight a few of the lesser known facts about our 16th president. “I Cannot Tell A Lie.” my ass! The man was clearly crafty!

The way the events work is that people register in teams—usually comprised of a handful of volunteers—that get sponsored by friends, family, and colleagues. The more money they raise, the more they get to cheat at the event. Simple. Honest. Direct. Lincoln would’ve approved. In this particular case, the team with the greatest fundraising edge was headed by Dianna Agron of Glee fame. The event was MC’ed by the cast of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. That’s just how these charity things are out here.

The majority of 826LA materials are written by professional comedy writers—such as Mac Barnett & Jon Korn, creators of the Echo Park Time Travel Mart, and Acker & Blacker, creators of the Thrilling Adventure Hour—but in this case I claimed droit du seigneur. Which is French for, “If you want me to do another one of these for free, then I’m writing it.” Worked out beautifully, I think. Judd Apatow saw it, and liked it so much that he requested me for the poster advertising his 826LA event, I Found This Funny, the year after. The kind souls at Typecraft donated the printing.


Where did I crib the face of Lincoln? Mathew Brady, presumably. I love how shifty he looks in my version.

Aesthetically, I decided to use pencil drawings instead of ink this time, to get a softer, old-timey look—the illustrated version of my ADCMW poster. I also left in the warp and texture of the paper, which I usually take great care to filter to a pure white. I returned to this look for the second Judd Apatow poster, and also for The Yeti Story. It’s a fun way to work. 


All of this is 100% true. Cross my heart.


If you’re gonna go for the pun, really go for it!
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