Finding Humor in Paddlesports: One-on-one with Cartoonist Jonny Hawkins


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Finding Humor in Paddlesports: Cartoonist Jonny Hawkins

Michigan paddler and cartoonist Jonny Hawkins has long found a way to highlight the lighter side of paddling through cartoons, poking fun at all the idiosyncrasies of this sport we all love—be it paddling with a spouse or approaching a waterfall. We caught up with him for his take on finding humor in our sport…

Paddling Life: What’s your paddling background?

My family of five (wife, daughter and two boys) and I enjoy recreational kayaking on our lake – Oliverda Lake in Michigan. We also enjoy kayaking down the St. Joe River, exploring and adventuring. Generally, they are just two to five-hour-long trips. In the past, I have enjoyed canoeing down the St. Joe River and whitewater rafting in Colorado when I was a teenager.

Paddling Life: How easy is it to find inspiration for your cartoons?

It isn’t difficult. I can find seeds for cartoon ideas in the seemingly mundane. Whether it’s our figures of speech, buzzwords, hilarious situations, funny habits, irony, personalities. Life is full of cartoons, including kayaking and canoeing.

Paddling Life: How do you know when something’s funny?

Um … I’m laughing? Not everything, of course, is fall-down funny—subtlety is sweet, too. Oftentimes, surprise is a great element of humor. Sometimes, it’s seeing things in opposite of reality, such as when animals assume human form and expressions. I enjoy word play, much to my wife’s chagrin—I explain that it’s because I’m a groan-up.

Paddling Life: Any discipline easier to pick on than others?

Ones that are most familiar to me, such as family, faith, farm, football (anything that starts with ‘f’, apparently).  It’s most enjoyable to pick on the arrogant and pompous, whether it’s employers, big business, politicians, rude family members. I suppose bursting bubbles is a favorite exercise. I never pick on editors, though. Except with a pencil.

Paddling Life: Is paddling easier to cover/find humor in than other sports or categories?

It’s certainly more niche than many of the sports, but it is a roaring rapids of rife ideas that need to be realized. I see humor in the adventure of it, the types of watercraft and equipment. So, from that angle, I would say it has a canoe full of cartoons.
Paddling Life: What discipline of paddling is easiest to find humor in?
For me, kayaking – as that is the area where I have the most experiences to draw from. And single kayaking, mostly. But, I don’t have to be an expert at paddling to glean humor from it. To get proper nuances, yes it certainly helps to have expertise to be awash in great cartoon ideas.

Paddling Life: Is this your full-time gig, or do you have a day job as well?

This is my full-time gig or giggle—and has been since 1990. Man, am I old (56). This is my morning job, noon job, evening job, night job. When everyone had to “shelter-in-place” during Covid, I said, “Welcome. What’s the big deal?” I work out of my home in Sherwood, Michigan, giving me unmatched freedom and plenty of opportunity to goof off.

Paddling Life: Where’s the best place for people to find them?

Do you mean – best place to find my cartoons? Um. Hmm—well, I have a very basic web site, ( and you can find my work at You can see my silent animal comic, Zoolies, at’s comic lineup … and you can find my books and calendars and puzzles, such as Fishing Cartoon a Day at Amazon,, and at bookstores and kiosks here, there and everywhere. I’ve sold to over 900 publications and companies.


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