At home in the Monkeyhouse

Author: Carol Schaal '91M.A.


Back in his days as an advertising copywriter, Pat Byrnes ‘81 worked on campaigns for Cheez Whiz, Coors, Cap’n Crunch and SpaghettiOs. Hardly food for the soul.

Today, however, the man with a droll sense of humor is happily feasting at the cartoonist table. Several of his cartoons have been published in The New Yorker and his comic strip, Monkeyhouse, now runs in about two dozen newspapers around the country. “Those are two of the big brass rings,” he says. “It’s validating.” It also means he could quit his day job.

At Notre Dame, Byrnes learned quickly about competition in the cartooning world. An architecture student named Michael Molinelli ’82 and his strip, Molarity, grabbed the coveted spot in the student newspaper The Observer, so Byrnes switched to doing a gag panel he called Lobotomy. The two are still friends, and the self-described “late bloomer” Byrnes finally has his own published comic strip.

Monkeyhouse stars the exploits of 9-year-old Sarah, an antic would-be princess who lives with her widowed father and a host of inventive views of the world. The strip has garnered critical raves, including comparisons to Calvin and Hobbes (although he appreciates the comparison, Byrnes hastens to say that he does have his own voice).

For Byrnes, whose creative life includes doing advertising voice-overs and writing musical comedies, the acceptance of Monkeyhouse is an affirmation of a path he began in first grade with a strip called Orville.

His more mature, and undoubtedly funnier, Monkeyhouse can be viewed at Byrnes’s website (see Links). If you’re tempted to believe Byrnes’s assertion that “I’m shockingly normal,” a stroll through the website, with its limericks and one hellacious resume of a comedic life, should put that thought to rest.

While a visit to the website is fun, Byrnes would prefer that Domers call their local newspaper and demand that his strip be printed. That’s not self-promotion, he jokes. “It’s for your own good!”

The Observer