Cartoonist Rolli discusses intellectual freedom

Lisa Goudy
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Regina-based writer and cartoonist Rolli believes there is a "fine line" between freedom of speech and hate speech.

Charles Anderson, who goes by the pen name Rolli, is a cartoonist and writer based out of Regina.

"I've had to think pretty hard this week to formulate exactly where I stand on the matter," said Rolli, whose non-pen name is Charles Anderson. "It is a very important concept and the idea that people should be free to read what they want, to say what they want, to write what they want. It's a value that most people consider one of the most important."

This week is Freedom to Read Week and Rolli will be one of the panelists for a freedom of speech discussion on Thursday at 7 p.m., at the Moose Jaw Public Library.

Rolli is a cartoonist for The Wall Street Journal, Reader's Digest, Harvard Business Review, Barron's, The Walrus, Chronicle of Higher Education, Adbusters, Prospect and The Oldie.

"I'm making a living entirely by doing creative work. So it does often happen where I'll draw something that a magazine or a newspaper doesn't like and they don't want it. They want me to change it or it's just not usable," said Rolli.

"There's often issues with demographics. I'll do a cartoon and I'm told that it would offend a given demographic that they're trying to appeal to and that's disappointing, but it's fair. It's their publication. They ultimately have the power deciding if something can be used or can't be used and I have to respect that decision."

He said in the past he has been told his humour is "too dark" or that it could be controversial.

Oftentimes, one of the newspapers or magazines he draws for will reject a cartoon, but a different publication will accept it.

"That's very typical. They each have their own target audience. They have certain values they're trying to project," said Rolli.

For instance, a cartoon that doesn't work for Reader's Digest might work for Adbusters because they have "edgier, maybe more critical material," he said.

But sometimes, no publication will accept a cartoon.

"I know I have quite a few cartoons that I've been shopping around, some of them for years, just because I don't quite strike the right market in the right way or they're afraid that I'll offend someone," said Rolli.

At the end of the day, though, "it doesn't pay to pout" and he said he's happy to make changes to his work.

"If you're pouting, you're not getting paid and it's easier for me just to come up to something else. I'm pretty agreeable to change and I've even been censored a number of times," said Rolli.

"It doesn't enrage me the way it does some people, I guess because I depend on it for a living."

 And coming up with ideas is easy, especially since he drinks 25 cups of coffee each day.

"When you stay at that level of caffeination, you always have lots of ideas. They may not all be good ones, so it's not really the coming up of the ideas for me. It's more selling them, finding the right match," said Rolli.

"I'll do everything because there's so many markets out there. I do a lot of business cartoons. Most magazines will take them, plus business magazines will too. So that's always a good bet."

Books for sale at Thursday's event

At Thursday's event at the Moose Jaw Public Library, Rolli will also have some of his books for sale.

He has written five books and has another children's book due out next month called 'Kabungo' about a cave girl who lives on Main Street.

He said he's looking forward to engaging in debates and answering questions.

"Hopefully there's no big fights or maybe that would make things interesting," said Rolli. "You never know what's going to happen. Some people are very opinionated.

"I always tell people I have practically no strong opinions and that's a product of having practically no spare time and so I've really had to think hard about this event."

Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy

Organizations: Moose Jaw Public Library, Reader's Digest, Adbusters Wall Street Journal Barron's

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