The witty concept behind the books it so simple, yet so well executed. How did you come up with the idea?
J+A: All of this started with a button-maker, actually. We were working as counselors at a performing arts camp back in 2002 and — in between doing our actual jobs, which included “keeping children unhurt and alive” — we bought a button-maker and starting creating phrases and images that we thought were funny for buttons. At one point, we wrote the phrase “All my friends are dead” on an image of a dinosaur and our fellow counselors seemed to like it. (Note to creative types: fellow counselors are always a great focus-group. Also: always start with a button.) We traded the button away for some sort of camp good or service, perhaps a massage, or some snacks, and went on with our lives.
Later that summer, though, we remembered the idea and created a small print run of 50 white T-shirts with a dinosaur saying, “All my friends are dead,” which sold out almost immediately. Based on the response, we figured we were on to something so we created new dino-designs with the same phrase. When those shirts proved to be popular, too, we started thinking about other “All my friends are ____” ideas that would lend themselves to T-shirts. One idea we had was a tree who was saying, “All my friends are end-tables.” Right? He was lamenting the fact that all of his friends had been turned into furniture and not even very cool furniture. That was the joke and the explanation of the joke.
SO ANYWAY. After hours of discussion (seriously), we decided that the “end-tables” idea didn’t totally work out of context, but it would
work alongside the dinosaur and his original sentiment. That’s how we came up with the idea to do a little progression in a 12-page book, which we wrote, drew and stapled at Kinko’s. Much later, we were working with Chronicle Books on a book of humorous essays called I Feel Relatively Neutral About New York.
At an early editorial meeting about that
book, one of the editors we were working with pulled out our “All my friends are dead” mini-book from underneath a stack of stuff. It was actually a total surprise to us that they even had it. Very dramatic. (Can you feel the tension?) Well, it seems that one of them found the ‘zine at a small San Francisco boutique where we happened to be selling it. They asked if we might be willing and able to turn those 12 pages into 96 pages and we said, um, yes, we’d be willing.
You know — the usual story of a button evolving into a 96-page book.