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Meet Larry Gajsiewicz of Laughing Lion Cards

Today we’d like to introduce you to Larry Gajsiewicz.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Larry. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
While going through a rough patch in my life (having severe spinal stenosis and flying back to Detroit every 60-90 days to visit my ailing mom). I started entering cartoon caption contests as a distraction from physical pain and worrying about my mom (I am an only child) After winning over 50 national and several international cartoon and photo caption contests I decided to create my own line of humorous cartoon greeting cards. I had a plethora of funny everyday observations to share with the public but I needed an artist to make my ideas and captions come to fruition. I e-mailed art departments at UCLA, USC, Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine to see if any art students would be interested in a humorous cartoon greeting card collaboration. I gave each artist that responded to my e-mails a sketch test to see if they would be a good fit. My humor slants toward the cartoons of the New Yorker Magazine. Maya Tanaka a 3rd year Design/Media Art student at UCLA nailed my test.

We’ve now been in collaboration for several years and have a great writer-artist relationship. I e-mail the scenario and caption for my idea to Maya and she e-mails me a rough sketch of my vision. After one or two slight adjustments I approve the final cartoon-she then spot colors the cartoon with blue and green-colors we both decided on using to set our cartoons and cards apart from others. Maya then uploads the cartoon on our website. Because most magazines don’t want cartoons that have been previously published I hold back from placing on the web the cartoons that I submit to the New Yorker, Harvard Business Review, Medical magazines and Readers Digest. This is recent uncharted waters for our creations and hopefully we’ll get published-it’s on my bucket list.

Since I’m fully recovered from my recent back surgery I’m focused on marketing our greeting cards through the website and submitting cartoons to magazines for publication.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Because during a 4 year period of flying back and forth every other month to visit my ailing mom in Detroit and trying to find responsible caregivers and eventually placing her in assisted living home ( she did not want to come to California) along with putting off back surgery I lost focus on the marketing part of our cartoons.

At about the same time as my personal struggles Maya moved to Osaka, Japan to work as a designer in video games. However, despite the unusual circumstances amazingly enough we still collaborated on cartoons at least once a month during her 4 year stay in Japan. Soon she will be moving to Vancouver, B.C. to work on a feature animation but we will still continue our long distance collaboration on our cartoons-

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Laughing Lion Cards – what should we know?
What makes our collaboration so unique and what I’m most proud of is that we can have a finished humorous cartoon-greeting card friendly and upscale magazine worthy without seeing each other face to face-never once have we communicated by phone-only through e-mails- when we do meet each other during Maya’s in-between gigs or vacation time she still chuckles at my new comical ideas and clever captions.

My specialty is funny ideas and conveying that idea to Maya where she translates it in her illustrations.

What sets us apart from other greeting card companies is that I refuse to do silly happy birthday, get well, Mother’s day, Father’s day, or any traditional cards. I just want to brighten someone’s day or make someone chuckle with my everyday observations.

I was once given a nontraditional birthday card – it was a New Yorker magazine cartoon card-nothing to do with my birthday but I loved it! And that’s where my inspiration comes from.

What were you like growing up? Personality wise, interest wise, etc.
Growing up as single child in a blue-collar town like Detroit was a perfect environment to be quick-witted and grow up fast. Your mouth got you into trouble and humor played a big role into getting you out of trouble with your parents or school chums.

Once the Americans captured me (I got drafted during the Vietnam era then joined the Air Force-our side – I was still a teenager). I had to bunk with a 50 other guys from all parts of the country and honed in on their humor.

I was always a smart ass so I can’t say that I had mentors, but my favorites were the quick wit of Groucho Marx and Johnny Carson.

I have two great lifelong friends who are equally quick-witted and extremely funny guys- my Air Force buddy Karl Gendron and my bartender mentor Bill Weidman.

For several years we all worked together in LA restaurants and were approached by customers to write comedy sketches which never came to fruition.

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