Matthew Inman promotes new ‘Oatmeal’ book with tour

For most of us, dolphins are nothing more than peaceful, seafaring creatures we enjoy watching swim around in the ocean.

However, website designer and comic strip artist extraordinaire Matthew Inman, aka “The Oatmeal,” takes a very different and hilarious view on the marine mammals and a slew of other subjects in his new book, “5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth (And Other Useful Guides),” due out on March 1.

Inman doesn’t harbor any ill will toward dolphins, but rather selected the title specifically because of its provocative nature.

“It was one of the funniest titles,” he said. “It’s one of the titles that you look at and [say], ‘That’s kind of offensive and kind of funny.’”

Readers can get more of Inman’s offbeat humor at his stop in Tempe at Changing Hands Bookstore on March 5.

The book features many of the comics on theoatmeal.com — named one of Time magazine’s best blogs of 2010 — as well as 25 never-before-seen works.

Inman’s artistic style and sense of humor contribute to the popularity of the website, which garners more than four million readers monthly.

But Inman wasn’t always a brilliant comic writer; he began his working life as a website designer before quitting in 2009.

It was a big step for Inman, now 28, who had been designing websites since he was 13.

In fact, some of his first comics were marketing tools he used to promote Mingle2, a dating website he created that was eventually bought out.

Eventually his comics continued to evolve and range from a tribute to Nikola Tesla to a guide on proper use of the semicolon to a comparison between rabies and babies all without skipping a beat. Inman’s work spans so many different topics that even he has a hard time describing it to people.

“I’m like, ‘Oh, they’re these great comics about coffee and walruses,’ and then I start stammering and it sounds awful,” he said. “Usually what I’ll say [now] is, ‘Go to theoatmeal.com, spend 20 minutes there, you’ll get it,’ then they come back and they’ll understand.”

Another reason Inman’s jokes work so well is that they often speak to a truth we all agree on but can’t express. When he says it in comic form, often using a ridiculous looking drawing, readers can’t help but simply nod and laugh along. This is no accident, as Inman is always aware of the world around him, looking for new material.

“I keep a little notebook on me, and if I think of something I always write it down right away,” he said. “It’s more just kind of being a keen observer.”

As an example, he cites one of his favorite recent works, a comic called “The Bobcats,” which features two cats, both named Bob, in an office environment doing things befitting both a cat and a typical employee. One panel might feature a Bobcat chasing a laser pointer while another has one stealing lunch from a coworker.

“I remember the exact moment I got the idea [for the comic],” he said. “It was a dinner for people who had sold companies … but it was super formal, super stuffy, and there were all these guys there and they all had the same mustache and bald-spot. I was just looking around and I kept thinking they were called Bob and in my head I personified them as cats.”

Clearly Inman can draw humor from any situation, and his upcoming book gives him another opportunity to share that with readers.

Inman has wanted to come out with a book even before he had a website.

“When I was coming up with the idea for ‘The Oatmeal,’ [I wanted to] make a ton of comics and launch them then sell a self-published version of the book alongside them,” he said.

He eventually did release a small book that had minimal sales, but fortunately for Inman, Andrews McMeel Publishing came along and picked it up, giving him the opportunity to release his work as a “real” book, rather than just the self-published work he had before.

Now Inman is preparing to go on a book tour to promote his collection of comics. He plans to give a short lecture about his work as well as sign books at each stop.

“The Oatmeal” book tour will be stopping in Tempe on March 5 at Changing Hands Bookstore on 6428 S. McClintock Drive. Until then, fans and interested readers alike can continue to check out Inman’s work at theoatmeal.com.

Reach the reporter at matthew.leung@asu.edu


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