On the June 23 Stick and Hack Show, we talked to Jim Davis, best known as the creator of the Garfield comic strip 42 years ago. Jim is also an avid golfer and Stick and Hack member. As Stick and Hack roll out its debut comic strip Hack Mulligan, hosts Adam and Mike go full fanboy on Jim. 

The following excerpt has been edited for space. Check out the full interview here.

S/H: The comic strip you created has affected so many lives. So many kids, kids still today, my kids included, know the name Garfield. To this day, he is still iconic, and the cast of characters that you created is probably one of the most beloved in all of comics. How does that resonate with you today, knowing what you have done with Garfield over these years?

I try not to think about it because of the pressure. I grew up with Peanuts, Beetle Bailey and Hi & Lois, and it meant a lot because you know, every morning, we had breakfast with those characters day in, day out for as long as 50 years. And uh, I guess it’s one thing in our life that shows that you can go back. It balances the scales a bit between sometimes depressing things going on in the news. We have the humor that gives people a little laugh.


S/H: What do you, Jim Davis find hilarious about the game of golf?

I think it’s the meltdown when somebody just bares their soul. The person who’s very controlled, very professional. And it all comes out, jumping and throwing the clubs and everything they would never do in front of family or associates. It’s an honest moment. I have to step away sometimes because I know they’re in pain, but I’m behind a tree laughing.


S/H: Let’s talk about your golf game. How long have you been playing golf and what is it about golf that keeps you coming back to the game?

I really, I started golf seriously in 1985. Before that I was a jogger, I played racquetball and tennis. But I had an old gymnastics injury in college and I had to have a back operation. So the doctor said, ‘After this, you can walk and you can play golf.’ And I immediately fell in love with golf because walking down a grassy fairway on a sunny day is cathartic. I guess the challenge of the game can be frustrating, but it’s also about having fun with your mind and attacking a challenge like that. I like to play zen golf. I don’t worry about the shot I just hit. I’m not laboring over the shot I’m going to hit, I just play golf in the ever-present, tapping into the sum total of my memories. 


S/H: When did you think, oh my God, this is happening. People are starting to recognize Garfield. When did you say Garfield is Garfield?

It was actually very early on. I was syndicated on June 19, 1978. By August, I had 40 papers. Also in August, our biggest paper, the Chicago Sun-Times, dropped Garfield because they had budget cutbacks and decided to cut their newest feature because they would get the least grief.  And within a week they had like 1,300 phone calls, letters, everything for it in demanding that it be returned. It was the cat lovers who initially came to Garfield’s defense, and they reinstated it. I thought, right then, I have something that people are enjoying. 


S/H: What did the creative process look like for you on a daily basis, trying to create new gags and put out a new strip every day? 

Well, I don’t write every day because I’m not funny every day. Some days I’m focused on something else. And then funny days strike, and I put everything aside and I write on those days. I can do several days’ worth of writing on those days. It’s functional working meditation for me. What I do is I sit back and I imagine until I can conjure Garfield up in my head, like watching a TV set in my mind. I don’t tell him what to do. I put him in a situation — like looking out a window, going to the beach, putting him up a tree. And then I watch, and I ask myself, what would he do, where would he go, what would he say? What would the other characters do and say? And then when something funny happens, I back up three frames and I cut it off. So I had it — he dictates the humor. He has to make me laugh first, and then I write it down. 


Listen to the complete podcast to hear about Jim’s round playing with Jim Daly, find out how he answers the question, “Who on the PGA tour is Garfield most like?” and much more. Listen to it here. (Key takeaway: Don’t ever underestimate the cat lovers.)