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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Graphic Artist Katchor presents comic on cafeterias

<ard the musty 15-minute Chicago train ride he took each day, Ben Katchor needed to find a way to channel his boredom. Observing the beauty in the blur of buildings that passed through the window, he was inspired to begin working on comic strips.

On Thursday, October 7, Katchor gave an illustrated lecture at Carleton entitled “The Great Museum Cafeterias of the Western World.” Lights were dimmed and a large projector beamed images from Katchor’s witty and sardonic comic strip, commenting on partially fictitious and partially experiential musings of the museum cafeteria culture. Katchor narrated as the images slowly flashed across the screen: an eccentric commentary on the inner musings of museum cafeterias. In this brief strip, Katchor offered insight onto the common attendees of a museum, described as “35% scholar, 25% tour guide, 25% bore, and 15% social butterfly,” and specifically those who contribute to the cafeteria culture of a museum.

Cafeterias, Katchor asserts, are a formidable and necessary part of the restaurant culture, for they create a social environment different from that of the stiff and quiet museum, where observers are able to ponder over their impressions from the day without yet fully returning to the real world. In essence, museum cafeterias provide an escape from the intensity of the museum, inadvertently creating a sort of sub-reality where people can escape to momentarily. Katchor proceeded to reflect on the former “golden age” of the cafeteria, a time that was not contaminated by plastic-wrapped sandwiches but filled with well-cooked meals. 

Throughout Katchor’s presentation, his language was decorated with a hint of sarcasm and irony, as he kept the audience laughing and intrigued in their seats. A surprising mix between colorful and black and white images covered the screen as Katchor spoke, drawn with a seemingly careless sense of precision.
Katchor’s work more broadly focuses primarily on short comic strips, and humorous oddities in the American and specifically New York culture. To check out more of his work, go to

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