Michael Friedman: Adventures in Reality – The Civilians 2023 spring benefit

Illustration, Plug, Tribute

For many years now, I’ve been an associate artist with The Civilians, an “investigative theatre” group founded by the brilliant Steve Cosson. The Civilians combine their own research and reportage with musical theatre to create productions on such topics as climate change, paranoia, loss, evangelical Christianity, the porn industry, and New York City itself. Their work is both thought-provoking and highly entertaining.

So what role do I play, you ask? Well, I don’t really sing, dance, or act, so I stick to my so-called strength: drawing. Over the years, I’ve illustrated Civilians programs, announcements cards, album covers, benefit cards, flyers, and even a comic adapted from a monologue from their play Gone Missing.

In 2017, the company tragically lost founding member Michael Friedman, the composer and lyricist for so many of their productions. Ever since, then I’ve been illustrating album covers for the “Michael Friedman Collection” — nine albums of songs from Civilians musicals for which he wrote the music. (You can see four of those covers in the image above, and you can listen to the entire collection here.)

Well, tomorrow, Monday, April 3, The Civilians are holding their 2023 spring benefit, celebrating their Michael Friedman Recording Project. Here are some more details:

“Join us on April 3rd, for a star-studded One-Night-Only Concert at City Winery in Manhattan, celebrating the Michael Friedman Recording Project and honoring Kurt Deutsch and Ghostlight Records. Enjoy an amazing evening of music that will make you laugh, cry — maybe both — with many of Michael’s most beloved songs!

The event will feature brilliant performances from Andrea Daly, Andrew Kober, Colleen Werthmann, Grace Field, Heath Saunders, Jonathan Raviv, Kristin Stokes, Luba Mason, Maya Sharpe, Mike Cefalo, Nedra Marie Taylor, Nick Blaemire, Rebecca Hart and Trey Lyford, Jennifer Blood, Akron Watson, Vaibu Mahon, Steve Rosen, Perry Sherman.”

And here’s a link to the event — tickets are still available. Personally, I can’t wait!

Supply Chain Superhero

“Supply Chain Superhero” in PANDEMIX benefit anthology

Comics, Plug

I’m excited to share a new comics piece that’s just been published in a benefit anthology. “Supply Chain Superhero” is about New York City and the COVID-19 pandemic, and it features my very own brother, Jake Neufeld.

We’ve all seen a lot of stories about the medical professionals on the front lines of this crisis. But the doctors and nurses aren’t the only ones in the hospital. Jake, my bro, is the assistant director of emergency management at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK), NYC’s cancer hospital. The story covers the way he and his team responded to one of the worst days of the crisis. The story sheds light on what challenges the “behind-the-scenes” people at hospitals (now in other parts of the country) are facing during the pandemic.

I’m proud of Jake, and I’m proud of how the story came out. And I’m triply proud to have the story featured in the benefit anthology PANDEMIX: Quarantine Comics in the Age of ‘Rona.

Put together by Dean Haspiel and Whitney Matheson, PANDEMIX has 56 pages of comics related to these crazy times, by 18 creators, most of them based in New York. It’s a fabulous collection, with a variety of different takes on what we’re all going through.

PANDEMIX is available for PDF download on Patreon, with all proceeds going to The Hero Initiative, a nonprofit organization that helps comics creators with emergency medical aid and/or essential financial support. All you need to do is donate $5 and it’s all yours!

UPDATE: The PDF is now available directly from The Hero Initiative! Here’s the link: https://www.heroinitiative.org/shop/books/pandemix-56-page-digital-download-comic/


Join me this Saturday at Fireside Follies' comics/illustration benefit!

Publicity, Work

This coming Saturday, March 17, I’ll be presenting my work as part of Fireside Follies’ Second Annual Comics/Illustration Benefit for Planned Parenthood of New York City.

Curated by Eric Nelson and Mike Lala, the event will feature comics being projected on and read from a large screen. The other artists are:

I’ll be presenting, for the first time in public, my comics journalism piece on Bahrain’s Pearl Revolution (“Bahrain: Lines in Ink, Lines in the Sand”). And I’ll be the only boy! And probably the only “cripple.”

Admission is FREE and open to the public. Donations (cash or check made out to Planned Parenthood of NYC) will be collected and are highly encouraged. Please join us for a great night of comics, drinking, and supporting an important organization.

Saturday, March 17, 7:30 pm. Brooklyn Fire Proof, 119 Ingraham Street, Bushwick, Brooklyn.

Further details and images below…

Fireside Follies

Threadheads Raffle


I’ve donated a signed copy of A.D. to "The Threadheads" for their 2010 raffle. The Threadheads are a group of generous folks who met on the Jazz & Heritage Festival chat board, and since Hurricane Katrina they’ve hosted several charitable projects to give something back to New Orleans. The biggest one is the Threadhead Raffle, offering music and New Orleans-related items as prizes.

Last year the Raffle raised $18,000 to be split between two charities: Half the money raised goes to Fest 4 Kids, which provides tickets, food money, and chaperones for local children to attend Jazz Fest. It is affiliated with Silence is Violence, which provides instruments and music clinics to local kids as an inspiration and alternative in their lives. The other half goes to the Threadhead Records Foundation, which helps out unsigned New Orleans musicians and also donates money to the New Orleans Musician’s Clinic.

Should you want to buy an A.D. raffle ticket (only $1.10!), you can find it at the Threadheads raffle site by looking under "Raffle Items" and then "Books": www.threadheadraffle.org

But hurry — the raffle ends May 5!

Save the Date: Chip Kidd's artbreak, Dec. 29 @ Dixon Place


Looking for something to do this holiday season? (New York City can be so dull.) Then come check out Chip Kidd’s band artbreak — and indy cartoonists Dash Shaw, David Heatley, and yours truly — at a benefit for Dixon Place: “Chip Kidd presents an evening of music, comics, and cartoons — New York indie style. Kidd’s band artbreak (with Mars Trillion) will perform a full set in preparation for its upcoming self-produced LP Wonderground, with special guests cartoonists Dash Shaw, David Heatley, and Josh Neufeld. A visual presentation of the artists’ current and upcoming projects will followed by artbreak’s only live appearance of the year, debuting their first EP and single, ‘Speedy’." Word is that Heatley will be joining Kidd and Trillion onstage for a performance of one of Heatley’s songs as well.

Original artwork and prints will be on display upstairs and our books will be on sale.

Details and more info:

Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Place: Dixon Place, 161A Chrystie Street, NYC

Also, join Kidd, Shaw, Heatley, and myself the next day, Wed., Dec. 30, for a signing at Jim Hanley’s Universe. In commemoration of Indy Comic Book Week, we’ll all be signing our books from 5-7 pm. More details to come.

artbreak flyer

Next Monday, March 23: "Slice" #4 release party


Sari has a new short story, "Patriotic Dead," which will be appearing in Slice #4!

Slice is a very cool Brooklyn-based literary journal whose aim is to spark a dialogue between emerging and established writers. They’ll be holding a party to celebrate the new issue next Monday at Dixon Place. The event includes Slice‘s "first annual Literary Trivia Showdown." Three teams of five authors, five editors, and five agents will go head-to-head to see who knows the most about the literary realm. Participants include Jonathan Lethem, Chip Kidd, Amy Einhorn, and Jim Rutman. Tickets are $25, which includes "Issue 4, Sixpoint’s delicious craft ale, an assortment of snacks, and a firsthand view of the trivia shenanigans." See you there?


Monday, March 23, 2009 6:30 – 9:30pm (trivia begins at 7:30pm)
Dixon Place
161 Chrystie Street (between Rivington and Delancey)
New York City

New Caledonian Communard


Fresh from the success of Gone Missing, The Civilians have a new show, This Beautiful City,  already in production in Colorado Springs,  and a second one in the works. To that end, they asked me to whip up an illo for a fund-raiser they’ve got coming up in NYC in May. The play is called Paris Commune, and the illo refers to the captured Communards who were exiled to the Polynesian island of New Caledonia. So here’s our little revolutionary in his new tropical garb:

Paris Commune

And here’s info about the benefit, which your welcome to attend, if you’ve got $25-$150 to spare:

Communards in the South Pacific

Monday, May 12, 8 PM to 1 AM, Performance at 9 PM
Element Nightclub, 225 East Houston Street
@ Essex Street / Avenue A, New York, NY 10002

Enjoy drinks and dancing in this Lower East Side club, surrounded by The Civilians’ artists, friends, and supporters. This benefit event will include complimentary sponsored drinks, full cash bar, light hors d’oeuvres, and a silent auction.

In honor of our production of Paris Commune at the Public Theater, the company will perform a special sequel to the revolution. Following the Communards (in song) from life in the streets of Paris to exile on the French Polynesian island of New Caledonia, this one-time only event is guaranteed to prove that the fight (and the show) must go on.

Tickets $25 to $150. R.S.V.P. at www.thecivilians.org or by calling (212) 730-2019.

TONIGHT: Comic Book Legal Defense Fund-raiser

Comics, Publicity

Tonight, come celebrate comics and the First Amendment, while reveling alongside an all-star line up of creators! The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund‘s NYC Holiday Member party, co-hosted by JahFurry, begins promptly at 7pm and continues until 11pm, with plenty of fun in between, including a live comics jam, raffles and door prizes, live jazz-funk by Avi Bortnick, delicious vittles, and more comics stars than you can shake a sketchbook at. Location: Village Pourhouse, 64 3rd Ave @ 11th St., New York City.

As Douglas Rushkoff puts it so well, “These are tough times for the Bill of Rights, and comics are just one of many canaries in the mine shaft. But they are a great litmus test for free speech, a highly accessible and fertile forum for ideas that simply can’t be disseminated through other mainstream media, and—perhaps most importantly—a way to share important concepts and ways of thinking with young people…. Join [us] as we celebrate and support freedom of expression in the original bottom-up mass medium….”

Confirmed guest creators include: Kyle Baker, Paul Pope, Moby, Alex Maleev, Douglas Rushkoff, John Lucas, Rick Spears, man_size, 4-eyez, bertozzi, zegas, mollycrabapple, heartshapedkey, dangoldman, Anthony Lappé, Andy MacDonald, Arvid Nelson, jentong, bobo_dreams, hottenecolden, Alec Longstreth, incogvito, new_universe, and Paul Azaceta.

I’m donating a grab-bag of signed 4-eyez goodies, including the brand-new CD of The Civilians’ Gone Missing soundtrack, which includes a comix adaptation of one of the monologues from the show; the new PBS Nature comic; A Few Perfect Hours; The Vagabonds #1 and #2; Titans of Finance; and Katrina Came Calling.

The Civilians' "Resurrection Vaudeville"

Blessed bunny

The blessed bunny at right was drawn by me to call attention to The Civilians’ 2007 benefit. Enjoy drinks and dancing at the new Midtown club, Arenas Nightclub, surrounded by The Civilians’ artists, friends, and supporters.

Members of The Civilians will perform songs from the company’s new show about Evangelical Christianity—along with a few favorites by Michael Friedman.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Arena Nightclub
135 West 41st Street
Between 6th Avenue & Broadway
New York, NY 10036
8pm to 1am, Performance at 9pm

Includes complimentary drinks from event sponsors Tequila Corazón, Smithwick’s Ale, and Red Stripe Beer; full cash bar; silent auction; and raffle.

Patriot Acts with The Civilians


The Civilians have put me to work again, doing an illustration for a fund-raiser they’ve got coming up in May. The benefit is in the form of a concert, with various progressive-minded celebrities singing patriotic songs, so my mission was to come up with an image which conveyed music & patriotism — with an undercurrent of subversiveness/irony.

With the aid of Artistic Director Steve Cossen, I did the illustration shown here, inspired by the famous image of Marlene Dietrich from Blue Angel. As Steve remarked, there’s something wonderful about this prototypical American icon being a fusing of French statuary and German pose!

Here’s info about the benefit concert, which will be held Monday May 8th, 7:30 pm, at The Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, 60 Washington Square South:

Patriot Acts: an American Vaudeville
Patriot Acts is a celebration of inspiring music about our country, featuring classic and contemporary songs that champion democratic ideals. Organized as a benefit for The Civilians theater company and co-sponsored by The Nation magazine and the Skirball Center for the Arts, Patriot Acts brings together a diverse array of musicians to give expression to a rich tradition that is rooted in fairness, equality, freedom, justice — a tradition that values dissent and puts forth a vision for citizenship counter to prevalent ideas of militarized nationalism. Through an evening of vibrant performances, Patriot Acts reclaims the progressive context of many of the leading icons of our patriotic culture, a context of which many Americans may be otherwise unaware.

The words to “America the Beautiful” for example, were written by feminist and social activist Katharine Lee Bates; the poem was originally included in a collection protesting US imperialism in the Philippines. Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” inspired as response to “God Bless America,” sings about America’s beauty but also poses a challenge in the last and often omitted verse:

One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple
By the relief office I saw my people.
As they stood hungry I stood there wondering
If this land was made for you and me.

From these classics, Patriot Acts traces a musical landscape from songs like “The House I Live In,” a 1945 hit for Frank Sinatra, to contemporary songs by politically engaged artists. The concert also features songs from The Civilians recent show (I Am) Nobody’s Lunch and others. Patriot Acts is inspired by the article “Patriotism’s Secret History,” by Peter Dreier and Dick Flacks that appeared in The Nation magazine.