Monday, December 29, 2014

Let's Talk about Chelsea Peretti's Nose

In all fairness, she does talk a lot about it herself. Ms. Peretti highlights her prominent feature in several of her standup bits, like this one discussing how she ended up with the nose of both her parents' cultures (Italian and Jewish). She is featured on the website "Hot Girls with Big Noses," where she is described as having an "anchor" type of nose--it was neat to see a shape reference like that, it really calls to mind the process of caricature.

Chelsea in real life, and in Jeff's sketchbook. I like the sleepy eyes and
protruding lower lip--but yeah, that schnoz does take center stage.
Speaking of caricature--apparently it's okay to talk about Chelsea Peretti's nose, but drawing it is not cool. San Antonio artist Jeff Pecina drew this quick sketch caricature of Ms. Peretti and threw a hashtag on it identifying her. This whole instance took place years ago--look at the tag there, it was 129 weeks ago that this screencap was even taken. But it's only come to my attention now because Ms. Peretti was heretofore unknown to me . . . that changed with the release of her comedy special "One of the Greats" on Netflix. She's funny. She's on the cast of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and she was a writer on one of my all-time favorite sitcoms, Parks and Recreation.

Anyway, back when Jeff originally put the picture on his Instagram feed, he immediately experienced one of those weird instances only possible because we're living in the future hive-mind. Jeff actually was contacted pretty quickly by Ms. Peretti herself--who said she did not appreciate the picture or the hashtag. Jeff kindly shared his screencaps with me, which I now share with you.

Okay, take a moment to read through the back-and-forth on there. Go ahead, I'll wait. Then let's discuss.

All right . . . first off, let me say that if Johnny Depp had contacted me to criticize any of the 21 Jumpstreet drawings I did of him in the late 80s, I would have freaked right the hell out. But with the amazing power of the hashtag, any fan, commentator, artist, or teenaged worshipper can sometimes get the attention of a celebrity--whether or not they are trying to. Sure, hashtaggers might be attention hounds eager for any celeb eyeball time . . . or they might just be trying to create an easily indexable set of drawings, or reach out to other fans, or identify the subject if that person isn't particularly well known (as I said, I had never heard of her until recently).

Chelsea came in like a hammer: immediately calling for Jeff's death and forcing an early proof of Goodwin's Law by getting to Hitler in her second comment.

All right though, she's a comedian. They get an initial pass on stuff that might make me think someone is a raging asshole . . . she might be saying those things ironically, like in a comedian way.

But she goes on. She's irked that she was tagged. She states that other caricatures Jeff did made women look hot (did she take the time to look through his feed then, see other drawings of his?). She claims that caricatures aren't a super tricky art form, just give people big noses if they have a big nose.

Well, okay, yeah she has a point. Caricature can be highly rendered and incredibly complex--but it can also be a delightfully simple art form. If you drew a caricature of someone like Chelsea and gave them a small nose, the caricature would fail. But she echoes a joke I often tell when people ask me what caricature is. I say "Well some people think it's just a cartoon drawing with a big nose, but that's a vicious rumor started by people who are angry that they have big noses."

The comment exchange ends with her eloquently quipping "I don't hope you die I hope you have to make your living as a caricature artist bye boo boo."

Jeff is pretty calm, in my opinion, and retains some class and etiquette. He's a little sarcastic but he never name calls or derides her profession. And he complies with her request to remove tag and his other post. He tells her he likes her work and doesn't think she's ugly.

I didn't think she was ugly. Not until the comment thread anyway.

But seriously, it gets more irritating. I had heard she mentioned caricatures in her Netflix special, so I dialed it up and watched the whole thing. At minute 36, she talks about how social media and "comment culture" might have damaged great minds and artistic geniuses of the past. How young comedians at early stages of development might have their "artistic journey" stunted by jerks commenting about them online. She's being cheeky and sarcastic, but she's clearly trying to make the point on behalf of comedians.

Yeah, young comedians should be protected from that sort of thing, of course. How awful that they have to deal with folks saying rude things to them online. Like wishing them dead or comparing them to Hitler.

At minute 39, she mentions googling herself and discovering Jeff's caricature. She calls him "someone" and doesn't mention his name, but she talks about commenting on it and repeats these comments pretty verbatim. The audience laughs. She gives Jeff a saucy French accent and guesses he might have been at a State Fair when he posted it. She rips on the general art form and says its a way for bullies to get into art.

More laughs. Now, she's no dummy. Jeff pretty much handed her material to use on her comedy special. She used it, she's making great money from it, and if you ask me she really owes Jeff a fruit basket and a thank-you card, at the very least.
Chelsea dishing it out.

And complaining about a caricature does fit in with Chelsea's brand of humor. As I state above, she has exploited her nose in her comedy before. When you get into dissecting the whole situation, I'm not sure if Chelsea was really irritated at all--or if she was playing around by commenting, really just trying to ruffle Jeff's feathers, and then decided to make it into a comedy bit. Or, perhaps she was initially irked and felt sensitive about her nose but drew on that knee-jerk reaction to create a few jokes that felt genuine. Plenty of comics make a living caricaturing themselves verbally on stage. Chelsea has a lot of female-centric humor that focuses on feeling self-conscious, comparing herself to male comedians, and the standard of beauty. She's crass and filthy too, and has been compared to Sarah Silverman.

I have one big piece of evidence that tells me Chelsea really cannot be all that sensitive about the size of her nose. One big, anchor-shaped piece of evidence that sits in the center of her face. After years in the spotlight and probably seeing hundreds of troll comments saying "this chick would be hot if she just got a nose job," she has not yet paid an LA doctor to hack it off her face. I commend that. Having listened to her comedy special, I would say with confidence that any surgical change to her nose would throw off the nasally voice she does as a gag to describe her selfish or bored thoughts. It works for her the way it is now, she is smart to keep her nose. Kudos to you, Ms. Peretti. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Drew Friedman's take on Jerry Lewis.
Male comedians with less-than-model-looks are everywhere. Caricature artists love drawing comedians. Drew Friedman published a trio of caricature books titled Old Jewish Comedians, More Old Jewish Comedians, and Even More Old Jewish Comedians. To my knowledge, none of the big-nosed comedians contacted Friedman to tell him the drawings were anti-Semitic or hurtful. But Friedman himself told me in person (along with the rest of ISCA) about how Jerry Lewis reacted to his caricature . . . he first called up Friedman and left a less-than-delighted sounding message, saying he wanted to discuss his appearance in this caricature book. Friedman finally got the nerve to call him back and Jerry said, in his over-the-top high-pitched Jerry Lewis voice said "I LOVE IT!"

As I have said before, racialized features are a hot button--yet, if you think logically on it, isn't erasing or ignoring that feature way more offensive than celebrating it? If a feature has become identified as indicative of a certain race, then downplaying it would be dishonest and disrespectful. It says "I like you as a comedian, but wow, if I draw your nose the way it is you'll look JEWISH and that would be AWFUL, so I'll clean you up a bit and de-Jew you . . . there, isn't that better?" How condescending. My motto is that if a caricature is done with love, if the intent is celebration, then try and look at the art with that in mind.

Plenty of caricatures are done in celebration. If you want to take a tour of funny-looking caricatures of well-loved comedians, start with a search of "Robin Williams caricature" on google and see how many drawings make fun of his nose (not to mention his body hair, his beady eyes, his chin, and his lipless grin). With his recent death, many many artists took to the internet and posted their drawings of him out of respect and love. No one was trying to skewer the guy.

Beautiful Robin Williams caricatures by Paul Moyse, Anthony Geoffroy, and Jeff Stahl.


Robin is missed, and loved, by so many who make their living going for laughs--be it in the standup arena or on paper in theme parks and yes, State Fairs. These caricatures really do well at capturing his expression and evoking the feeling of who he was. I cannot imagine him complaining about how his nose grandly protrudes and dips below his mouth in all these depictions.

Anyone remember Jennifer Grey? She had a face, a
memorable cute face. Then she erased it. Still cute, but
now more meh-morable than memorable.
Of course, it bears mentioning that the female "Old Jewish Comedian" that Friedman caricatured in his aforementioned books was Joan Rivers, who herself became an icon representing plastic surgery and the constant re-surfacing the female face apparently needs in order to stay famous. Sigh. Now, Joan wore it as a badge and was brashly unapologetic about her surgeries. And I agree that it's totally her right to do what she wants to her body and face. But I'm talking as a viewer and a caricature artist: man, what I wouldn't give to see what she would have looked like at the age of 80 without any nips, tucks, and smoothing out.

Too many women with great noses, or great unique features, are hacking them off and smoothing them out once they arrive to Hollywood. And I'm not sure doing so really does them any favors. Pretty might be pretty but it's a dime a dozen. Barbie doll features are only good for so long, and they're interchangeable. I'd like to think that stand-up comics are akin to caricature artists in that they have developed a really fine-tuned ability to make fun of themselves, and one another. Louis CK has elevated self-deprecation and making fun of his schlumpy, aging ginger appearance into an art form. Anyone who has seen a celebrity roast knows these guys (and gals) can really take it and dish it out when it comes to lampooning each other. A big-nose drawing should not truly rankle any comedian.

I'm glad Ms. Peretti's nose is still intact, and if her reaction to Jeff was an honest one, I hope she eventually gets a little more loosened up about having it drawn. If Robin Williams is any example, the more famous and beloved you become as a comic, the more people will be drawing you. Many of these drawings will have big noses, because you have a big nose. Some will be exaggerated, because that is what caricature does. And you have a choice at how you react to this. You can try and bully the artists one by one into removing hashtags and taking down their work (just, if this is the way you go, beware the Streisand Effect) . . . or you can embrace any caricatures you find as proof that you are getting more widely known and beloved.

From John Martinez's deviant art page, part of a larger
collection he did of the whole Brooklyn Nine Nine cast.
Realize, too, that putting time and effort into doing a detailed sketch of someone, studying their face, pulling out their features bit by bit and seeing how it all works together and exactly how far you can stretch a big nose while keeping the readability of the likeness--that task in itself requires love. I did a search online for "Caricatures Chelsea Peretti" and found very little. And the one actual pro-level drawing that did turn up (on the 3rd page of results finally) was elegant and well done but very tame as caricature goes. As of this blog writing, it had one comment: "You got all of her details without exaggerating too much." Sigh. Someone sensitive to big noses might say the lack of caricatures is a relief. To me it looks like a sad lack of love. 

As for my end, I promise to do my best and refrain from going onto young comedian's Twitter or Instagram feeds to compare them to Hitler and hope that they die. Because, you know, that might stifle their artistic development.

And Jeff, I too hope you make your living as a caricature artist. You're damn good at it, boo boo.

28 comments:

  1. Love your blog. Thanks for the links - I had no idea what the Streisand effect was - how funny that your were able to take an effect named for a famously large nosed female celebrity and find a way to apply it to this blog.

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  2. Trying to imagine what the offspring would look like if Chelsea and Rush singer/bassist Geddy Lee were to mate.

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  3. I hope she doesn't read this, because Robin Williams.

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  4. One advice I can add is to be sure that your surgeon is a rhinoplasty specialist. You wouldn't want an inexperienced surgeon to agree to place a huge implant in your nose that will look unnatural and cause problems in the future. You need to be careful what you ask for and who you ask it of.

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  5. I personally think Chelsea is extremely hot. She is on the Smoking Guns Worlds Dumbest.... series. I find her funny, with a genuine cuteness to go with a great body and a pretty face. Her nose adds personality. But the caricature Jeff made was over the top. I found this blog because I did a google search for Chelsea Peretti and one of the first pictures included the caricature because of this blog. I agree with her that the artist went way over the top. Jeff could have exaggerated her nose without making her look like a witch. Oh I forgot, Chelsea has great breasts!!

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  6. I personally think Chelsea is extremely hot. She is on the Smoking Guns Worlds Dumbest.... series. I find her funny, with a genuine cuteness to go with a great body and a pretty face. Her nose adds personality. But the caricature Jeff made was over the top. I found this blog because I did a google search for Chelsea Peretti and one of the first pictures included the caricature because of this blog. I agree with her that the artist went way over the top. Jeff could have exaggerated her nose without making her look like a witch. Oh I forgot, Chelsea has great breasts!!

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  7. So, what's so bad about an over-the-top caricature that absolutely nails the subject?

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  8. Great post Celestia, and in honour of the Streisand Effect, I will duly share this on Facebook and Twitter ;)

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  9. Fascinating post. Reminds me of an encounter with the late James Gandolfini.
    I stumbled upon a Sopranos shoot in Queens one day and Gandolfini was signing autographs during a break. I knew that Drew Friedman had drawn him on the cover of a recent Mad and that Mad loves to have celebs pose with copies. I went home, got the issue and brought it to him to be photographed.
    Drew depicted him with a HUGE hairy belly. I showed it to him and started to explain that I occasional drew for Mad, would he pose for a pic, etc.
    He thought I said that I drew the cover.
    He looked at it, then rolled it up and slapped me on the head with it as he said "Why'd you make me so #%@&! fat!?!"

    Then he laughed and winked.

    I wanted him to sign it but instead he kept it, giggling as he walked off reading it.

    I like to tell people that I was "whacked" by Tony Soprano.

    http://www.madmagazine.com/blog/2013/06/20/rip-james-gandolfini-actor

    ReplyDelete
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  13. The things that make us famous.

    Big noses of famous people and people who write about them.

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  15. Ugh. I like her and saw his image as an exaggerated homage. Her face has character. I get it's probably hard to not be obsessed with your appearance as a Hollywood actress, but she's also a comedian - embrace it or at least take it in stride.

    Beyond the hypocrisy of belittling him & his craft, her ultimate sin is not being funny here. The more I think about it, without writers, she was mostly dead weight on my favorite episodes of Comedy Bang Bang, and she may be good at her shallow, narcissistic, self-aggrandizing bully character on Brooklyn 99 because she's just being herself, the way I once thought Victoria Jackson did an excellent satire of "the dumb blonde" trope until I saw her on PolitiChicks.

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  16. That caricature is awful. Bottom line. It makes her look like a hideous troll, and she's a pretty woman. If a guy sat next to a girl in class and showed something like that to her out of the blue, he'd either get slapped or she'd run off crying or both. Just because she jokes about her own nose doesn't actually give everyone the green light to mock her for it, as well, which is what that drawing does. People make fun of their own insecurities as a defense mechanism, a way of beating others to the punch, a cathartic way of acknowledging something as apposed to bottling it up. She's probably been made fun of most of her life for it, and being a female, there's more pressure for her to look attractive, so it's more of an insecurity than it is for most men with big noses, where people just say "it adds character." I have no idea why this guy thought showing a woman such a shit caricature drawing of her would be a good idea. "Hey, look how ugly I made you! Wait... why you mad?" Idiot.

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  17. Expected better of her than to drop a Holocaust reference. Thought she was smarter than that.

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  18. Whatever, did he do one of her coworker Fumero's gigantic five-head? Or is one of those still aeshetically pleasing due to the typical male's borderline pedophilic pre-occupation with child-like features?

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