Interview with Professor John A. Lent

Interview with Professor John A. Lent

Censorship has increased a lot during the last decade

On this occasion I have the privilege of speaking with one of the most important scholars of humor in the world, Professor John A. Lent.

I had the pleasure of meeting him at the Boston Festival 2010, United States, where he was the president of the jury for the graphic humor contest and I was the jury for the literary humor contest.

When I found out that I would share with him, I began to investigate his career and was pleasantly surprised at what he has achieved in the field of humor, especially in cartooning (graphic humor).

I remember that on one of the Festival's Boston nights, I had the opportunity to present a couple of numbers by our group La Seña del Humor on stage, together with my colleague, Aramis Quintero (also a member of the jury) and at the end John Lent, with his very pleasant wife, came over to congratulate us and when we asked him if he had understood, since we did it in Spanish, a language he did not speak, he told us that he had understood all the jokes from start to finish and had laughed a lot. That's where my admiration grew, for being such an intelligent, open and insightful person.

Since then we have been in contact by e-mail.

I am also pleased to mention that a few years later, when I discovered that I could make humorous photomontages, he was one of the first I asked if it was worth it or not for me to continue doing them, sending him my first works. He immediately replied kindly that the photomontages were great, that it was a novel way of making humor and that he had to continue making them. Of course I listened to him and that modality has given me great satisfaction.

In short, I am a fanatical admirer of this great student of humor and therefore it is an honor and a pleasure, I repeat, to talk with him now.

But what could I say about him to introduce him? Only he's a professor emeritus at Temple University. That he has been a pioneer in teaching and research during his sixty-year career in the fields of mass communication and popular culture in Asia and the Caribbean, comics and animation, and communication for development. That he is the author or editor of eighty-five books, that he started and edited three magazines, including the International Journal of Comic Art, and that he founded at least six international academic associations and the first university school of communication in Malaysia.

However, all that seems to me little, insufficient, to introduce John A. Lent (JAL from now on), so…

PP: Master, to begin with, could you introduce yourself -professionally speaking-, in case any reader doesn't know you?

JAL: Thank you, Pepe, for such a kind introduction, especially coming from a distinguished humorist and researcher of humor such as you are. Your first mistake: You don't ask a teacher who spent more than 50 years in the classroom to talk about himself. That could go on for days.

I will try to be brief. I trained in journalism with the hope of one day being a foreign correspondent. I had no intention of continuing my education, but I did intend to accept one of the offers to be a sports editor. That was in 1958. So, I heard from my selective service board (a misnomer actually) that I was going to be drafted into the army. I wasted no time getting into graduate school. After completing my master's degree, I was offered a low-paying position (what else?) to teach "dumb" (remedial) English and be the publicist at a small college in West Virginia. There, I got married, the first of three weddings (Was I a slow learner? Or did I try to marry well, with practice?) I've had.

From there, I was awarded a scholarship to pursue a Ph.D. at Syracuse University; I finished all the coursework, but I ruffled the dean's pens by writing a critical book about the school's financial backer. My next step was the Philippines, where I was awarded a one-year Fulbright scholarship and developed a keen interest in Asian media.

From 1965 to 1970, I moved from one teaching job to another (four different universities), took an active role in fighting the Vietnam War, civil rights, and other causes, and had the opportunity to use an e-line. me. Cumming's poem, "There's Some Shit I Can't Eat," in two resignation letters. I finished a "renewed" Ph.D. at the University of Iowa, after which I accepted a position at Universiti Sains Malaysia, developing the first mass communication degree program in Malaysia.