Spotlight on The Jack Sjogren Sjow

Get to know Jack ahead of his interview with Jeffrey Thompson, Art Director of Rick and Morty | Sunday 9/25 at 8pm PT

Photo by Selina Ruthe.

You can find illustrator Jack Sjogren in many places. You can find his comics on Hyperallergic, BuzzFeed and Fast Company. You can find him on the shelves of your local bookstore — his book Things I’d Do (But Just For You) just got a hat tip from Oprah’s Book Club. You can even find him grooving and moving on his Instagram @JackDancing.

But by far our favorite place to find Jack — and yes, perhaps we’re biased — is on The Jack Sjogren Sjow, a Smilecast that Jack hosts every Sunday at 8pm PT. Jack put down his pen, kicked off his dancing shoes and switched off his webcam to talk with me about fly-by-your-pants collaboration, the secret to making friends, and all things Sjow.

So, what’s The Jack Sjogren Sjow all about?

I’d describe it as me, a cartoonist and musician, collaborating with other artists, musicians and people of note, and creating an hour of unexpected interaction, entertainment and very human conversation.

I originally had a lot more involved plans for the show, but it ended up revealing itself to be something else entirely — which is how most things go in my life. It’s much more collaborative, more audience-driven, and so it’s much more interesting and real. It’s not planned out, we’re just flying by the seat of our pants and exploring our own humanity in that way.

On this episode, Jack played tunes requested by the crowd while guest artist Amanda Lake did live illustrations.

Had you done much live performance before this?

My girlfriend Hallie and I both created a four-act play in one day, and then performed it that night for 25 people in Brooklyn last year. It ended up being one of the most fun things I’d done last year, and [the Sjow] is along the same lines of improvisation, and figuring stuff out as you go.

You’ve been doing the Sjow for a couple months now. What’s been one of your favorite moments?

When I had Max Saltarelli on, he’s a competitive whistler, and we improvised songs throughout and played requests from the audience. He performed a Mariah Carey song, I think it was “Fantasy,” just pure whistling, and it was amazing.

How do you find your guests?

It’s mostly friends of friends, it’s people who I really love and respect. Just people doing the coolest stuff. I’m trying to get more musicians and more people in animation. I think animators are rarely interviewed, and they have a lot of cool stuff going on.

Speaking of animators, tell us who you have coming by for your next episode.

This Sunday, we’ll have Jeffrey Thompson, the art director of Rick and Morty and former assistant art director of the Disney Channel show Gravity Falls. He’s a friend of mine who I’ve always wanted to get to know more and I have tons of questions for him, as does the rest of the world. I’m excited.

It sounds like the Sjow has proven to be a great way to get to know people.

Yeah, there’s been a few strangers that [came on stage and] quickly became non-strangers. It’s a really great way to get to know someone, or to get to know someone more on another, more serious level. The questions I ask aren’t things I would have necessarily asked if we were just getting pizza together. I’ve known [illustrator Tuesday Bassen] for 3–4 years, but when I had her on the Sjow, I got to know more about her than I’ve ever known.

What’s been the most exciting discovery you’ve made from doing your Smilecast?

I feel like I am able to interact with my artistic audience in a brand new way that makes me feel a lot closer to them. I also feel like I’m getting better at talking. Every episode I’ve done, I’ve thought was the best one so far. I feel like I’m still finding my voice in the show, and even finding my voice with people in general.

I’m surprised at how easy it is to jump on every week and have a weekly thing that people can enjoy. I don’t prep much on purpose, I just look at [my guest’s] stuff and try to get the word out.

How do Smiletime’s features influence your creative product?

The combination of video and audio and audience collaboration makes it its own very special moment to be a part of.

I think it transcends podcasts and articles and any other format, because it’s all so collaborative.

I go into the show with a few questions and wonders in mind, but the most interesting stuff comes from the audience. I really love being able to just invite anyone on screen that has something to say. Smiletime creates a very quick bond between audience member and host.

Do you have any advice for people thinking about creating their own Smilecasts?

There’s a small learning curve to figuring out how to both control the Smilecast and interact with people, but once you get over that, it’s incredibly easy to be your own producer.

Don’t think about it too much, just do it. What you think is going to happen is very different from what’s going to happen. That’s the nature of creation — it has a mind of its own. There’s something to be said for embracing opportunities that present themselves, and the current moment has a lot to offer.

Illustration by Jack Sjogren.

Join Jack and Jeffrey Thompson on Sunday, Sept. 25 at 8pm PT on Smiletime.

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