There’s a certain little webcomic called “Toothpaste for Dinner” (www.toothpastefordinner.com) that gets about 20 million hits per month. Slate Magazine said, “In terms of clickability, Toothpaste for Dinner is Rembrandt.”
Two-hundred of the drawings, some already posted on the website and some never-before-seen, have recently been published in the mainline-able collection called “Toothpaste for Dinner: Hipsters, Hamsters and Other Pressing Issues.” So what does the creator of this highly addictive, subtly subversive single-panel Internet phenomenon have to say about it?
“It’s two eyes and a mouth,” Drew – who chooses to reveal only his first name to readers – explained. “It’s a 21st-century version of the everyman that the reader imposes his own views and ideas upon.”
In 2001, Drew, who has been drawing and making jokes “forever,” decided to add a few of his humorous doodles to a website that had been dedicated to his short stories. (Since 2002, he has held a columnist position for the online magazine .net.) Often, the drawings featured nothing more than a lumpy-headed stick figure making a barely legible yet hilarious comment about everyday life.
“It was something different,” Drew said. “I enjoyed doing comics-oriented things more than short stories, although it could be argued that a lot of my drawings are really writing-oriented rather than visually oriented.”
In 2002, Drew got his own domain name, and “Toothpaste for Dinner” was born. “(The site) looks exactly the same today; (it has) the same gray background and everything,” he explained.
“I don’t think it lends an air of (commercialization) to the website,” Drew said. He’s intent on keeping toothpastefordinner.com exactly the way he wants it: “I’ve gotten e-mails from advertisers saying, ‘You could make money if you advertised on this,’ but basically from day one, (the site) doesn’t really mean anything to me unless it looks the way I want it to look and has exactly what I want to have on it.”
Toothpastefordinner.com features a new cartoon for every day of the week. It also includes links to nataliedee.com, another daily drawings site that features offbeat, subtly subversive color drawings made by Natalie, Drew’s wife, and an online store where fans can purchase messenger bags and T-shirts featuring some of the more popular Toothpaste drawings.
Drew had received multiple offers from different publishers to put out a book of “Toothpaste for Dinner” drawings, but it wasn’t until F&W publications approached him that he found a good match for his work.
“(The book) is designed really well. I was really pleased – my biggest fear was that it would end up really cheesy or trivialize what I was doing, (but) it ended up being very well designed and (provided) a very good context for all the things that are in the book.”
“Toothpaste for Dinner: Hipsters, Hamsters and Other Pressing Issues” contains comics with titles like “Grandpa in a Starter Jacket” and “Panflute Flowchart.”
While Drew’s comics run the gamut in subject matter from crappy office jobs to indie music to absurd fancy, he agrees that the brevity and compact nature of each is part of the appeal. “They’re like one-liners – I would say that a lot of my drawings are sort of like maxims.”
Drew admits that his drawings in the book and on the website can have an addictive quality. “The drawings themselves are so infectious – sort of viral – because there’s not a lot going on,” he said. “There’s some guy with a lopsided head standing there, and he’s saying, like, 12 words. It takes you, like, two seconds (to read) if you’re slow – So you can go through three or four of these drawings before your attention span runs out, and chances are, even if you only like one of them, you get some kind of satisfaction.”