The 2-D Stand-Up

Matthew Inman is The Oatmeal

The 2-D Stand-Up
Photo by Koa Metter

Matthew Inman, SXSW 2013 Interactive keynote speaker? Best known for his website The Oatmeal and his stunningly successful campaign to save Nikola Tesla's historic Wardenclyffe laboratory from the corporate chopping block? Oh, he's wild! Crazy! Out of his fucking mind!

Uh, right?

"In person, a lot of people are surprised," says the popular cartoonist. "Because I'm not so funny. I'm kind of reserved. Online, I have a character that's just this belligerent, raging, witty thing, but in person, I'm pretty mellow. As a kid, I was never the funny one. As a kid, I was the angry, grumpy one – but that translates to comedy, apparently."

It definitely translates that way in The Oatmeal. But would those comics be as funny if Inman could draw better than he does?

"Actually," says Inman, "during my SXSW talk in 2011, I talked about that. About how the funniest comics out there, often times the drawings are done crudely or simply. ... This isn't a golden rule, some comics that are drawn beautifully can be very funny, but I've found that the crude, simple drawings are often the funniest. My stuff is more about the writing, anyway. ... I'm a stand-up comedian who happens to work in comics."

Austin Chronicle: And what are you looking forward to at SXSW?

Matthew Inman: Well, speakerwise, I'm really looking forward to Elon Musk's keynote. I'm a huge fan of, obviously, Nikola Tesla – but also Tesla Motors. And I'm actually headed to the Tesla dealership today to test drive and hopefully put the money down on a Model S.

AC: No shit? That's great!

The 2-D Stand-Up

MI: Yeah, and during the Tesla crowdfunding campaign, I had a quick email dialogue with Elon Musk, about getting him to contribute. And I'm hoping I can use that power to say "Hey, is there any way you can bump me to the front of the list?" Because there's like a nine-month wait to get that car, and he doesn't bump anybody. Like Melinda Gates, Bill Gates' wife – she came into the store and asked to be prioritized, and they refused. "No, you have to wait like everybody else." But I am the guy who raised the money for Tesla's lab, so I get special privileges and I would like my car sooner than everybody else! [Laughter] Other than that, I'm looking forward to Al Gore's talk. And John Romero, the maker of Doom, because I was really into Doom back in the day. And probably Neil Gaiman, because he's real cool, too.

AC: And what about the city itself? Do you have any time to check out the rest of Austin?

MI: I usually take a day off from the conference and just hang out. Last time I was there, I went and watched the bats under the bridge coming out of their roosts at night. And I even ended up leaving the city for a few hours. I rented a car and, with my girlfriend, drove over to Oatmeal, Texas – which is like an hour and a half outside Austin.

AC: Oatmeal ... Texas?

MI: Yup, it's a town. In 1992, the population of Oatmeal, Texas, was 20 people. And in 2010, the population was – 20 people. Because someone died and a baby was born, so ...

AC: [Laughing] So, ah, besides Wardenclyffe, are there any other scientific landmarks or concerns that you'd like to rescue from destruction?

MI: No landmarks in particular. But I've been wanting to do a comic about Alan Turing, and at some point I want to make it about gay marriage and that whole debate. Because Alan Turing was gay and was convicted of being gay – because it was illegal at the time. And the punishment was chemical castration, and he killed himself. And that's something that – it's just appalling. It wasn't that long ago, it was in the Fifties, so in that time in America when we were having the racial thing going on, they were castrating gay people – it was horrible. So I want to put that in a comic about Turing, about his work and how he suffered.

Related Event

Matthew Inman Keynote

Tuesday, March 12, 2pm

ACC, Exhibit Hall 5

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