Lisa Hanawalt on Hot Dog Taste Test and Bojack Horseman's Sci-Fi Aspects

Lisa Hanawalt wears a lot of hats — or, more accurately, outfits, some of which she may have designed herself. She's an artist, illustrator, James Beard award-winning food columnist (Lucky Peach), ceramicist, textile and apparel designer, and animation producer and designer (Bojack Horseman), and co-hosts a podcast (Baby Geniuses) with comedian Emily Heller. Her first book, 2013's My Dirty Dumb Eyes, was a critical success.

Praise is already piling up for her new book, Hot Dog Taste Test, released via Drawn & Quarterly, on June 14. It's billed as a send-up of "foodie" culture. It is that, but also so much more. Hanawalt will sign her latest at Changing Hands in Phoenix on June 20. New Times spoke with Hanawalt recently by phone.

Hot Dog Taste Test — Hot dogs appear as a motif here and in your previous book, too. In My Dirty Dumb Eyes, one of the things "dogs want to do" is to chase pigeons carrying hot dogs in their beaks —
Well yeah, hot dogs are just kind of funny, you know, and delicious.

But in the conclusion to Hot Dog Taste Test, you caution us to never eat a hot dog on purpose.
Well, not to admit that you're eating a hot dog by choice.

You write about and draw food; do you cook?

I'm not much of a cook, more of a baked-things person. My partner, Adam, is the chef. He's always trying new ingredients — he does most of the cooking.

Aren't you lucky. Do you think of yourself as an adventurous eater?
I do. I do think of myself as an adventurous eater. I try. I was always finicky as a kid. There are still some textures that I don't like. No slimy food. But I try to be adventurous. Oysters. I've tried them like eight times. I get why people appreciate them, but I'll have one and be okay, I tried it, I'm done.

Speaking of adventurous eating — in Hot Dog Taste Test, the "Argentina Travel Diary," you bring home jars of ... of ... 

Right, vizcacha. Have you cracked open those jars yet?
No, haven't yet opened those. I've had it before. It's pickled, so it's more of a snack food.

Like on a cracker. Are they cute? The vizcacha?
Yeah, they are cute.

The omnivore’s dilemma.
Yeah. The omnivore’s dilemma. I am a meat eater. I try to eat vegan, to eat less meat, but I am definitely a meat eater.

Hot Dog Taste Test is a lot about food, but it's also a lot about animals. Do you have a pet?
My dog, Indy. She's 10 years old. I got her when she was a pup.

Has your word "chorny" [defined as something so cute it causes internal pain/arousal] caught on?
Well, the book's just coming out, so I hope it will catch on. I think there needs to be a word to describe that feeling.

Yep. There are whole YouTube channels devoted to stoking that feeling. When I first thumbed through Hot Dog Taste Test, there was the drawing of you in the shirt about otters. Before even reading the story, I got it. You should totally make that shirt. I would buy it and I know at least one friend that needs that shirt.
I'm inspired. I'll have to look into that.

You use a lot of alliteration and word play. Is this something you work at?
I do like word play. I was brought up that way, to appreciate word play.

There are visual puns in your work, too. In your XOXO talk, you say that in Bojack Horseman your goal as the designer is to have every frame, if you froze it, there would be a whole story there.
We work on that — we all work together adding as much detail as possible. We really like that sort of thing and work on that.

Also in the XOXO talk, you say that negative emotion fuels much your work. Has that changed with the collaborative work on Bojack Horseman? With deadlines — of course you had deadlines before, when you were doing more solitary work, but with other people depending on you do you find that ebb and flow of work has had to change?
Working on Bojack Horseman is great. It's helped me to let go — when someone else is doing the drawing, it's not going to be exactly like I would do it. I think when I was doing more solitary work I had just as much anxiety — a fear of not finishing things — that's tough to deal with. I stress over every single drawing. I think that ebb and flow of watercolor, ceramics, drawing animals all fits together.

You write and draw a lot about horses. Do you ride now?
I take lessons once a week.

Did you take lessons as a kid?
I did. I stopped riding for about 10 years; I got scared after I had a couple of accidents.

Do you plan on getting a horse of your own?
Eventually — it's so expensive. Even the lessons are ridiculously expensive.

So Bojack is a depressed horse. Do you think horses are depressed animals? I can certainly see them as anxious animals.
Horses are individuals. Each one is different.

Bojack is his own horse, then.
Yes, Bojack is his own horse. I can't generalize.

In Bojack Horseman, is there an internal logic of the animal/human intermixing? Like the deer/human family in New Mexico — is the animal characteristic passed on the X and Y chromosomes?
I like it when people notice the sci-fi aspects of the show. There are no human/animal mixes. So like there is no bear/human mix. It's either a human or an animal. But the daughter in that family, I think she has a little bit from her (human) dad, like she’s a little darker than her (deer) mother. But yeah, we have an internal logic — I hope I'm not speaking out of turn about it; I don't know that we've worked everything out.

Lisa Hanawalt signs Hot Dog Taste Test at Changing Hands Phoenix at 7 p.m. on Monday, June 20. The hardcover book is available now for $22.99. For event details, see the Changing Hands website.
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Cynthia is a freelance writer/artist living in Phoenix. Reading comics has been a lifelong pleasure for Cynthia; creating comics is a more recent pursuit. Cynthia's other job is framing art.