About Rich Tennant

Rich Tennant: Today

[]As the weekly editorial cartoonist for Computerworld and Federal Computer Week from 1987 to 1999, Rich honed his skills as a visual satirist of the rapidly expanding and ever changing computer industry.

Acknowledged as "the father of the computer cartoon" by Forbes ASAP, Rich's work has appeared in newspapers, magazines, and corporate publications worldwide. His long running cartoon series, "The 5th Wave," has been published in three books by Andrews McMeel, and syndicated to newspapers through Universal Press Syndicate.

In 1991, Rich became the resident cartoonist for the best-selling For Dummies book series, today published by John Wiley & Sons. With over 1500 different For Dummies titles now in print, "The 5th Wave" cartoons have followed the publisher's move from computer titles into general interest topics such as Cooking, Art, Yoga, Golf, Classical Music, Fibromyalgia, Iguanas, Cats, Dogs, Linear Algebra, Cognitive Behavior, Anxiety and Depression, Judaism, Back Pain, and Fundamental Analysis, to name a few. 

The Early Years

Born in Chicago in 1947, Rich showed an early interest in both art and music. As a boy, he copied drawings wherever he found them: newspapers, catalogs, comic books, magazines, the Yellow Pages and, eventually, art instruction books. Before he finished grammar school, Rich had developed sufficiently impressive draftsmanship skills to position himself as the go-to guy on the playground for first-quality hoodlum tattoos.

His father, a professional pianist, introduced him to a wide variety of musical styles, and soon Rich became entranced with the music of Dave Brubeck, Oscar Peterson, the Modern Jazz Quartet, and for one strange summer, the music of Martin Denny and The Kingston Trio (but only for that one summer). While friends were emulating Chicago baseball players like Ernie Banks and Minnie Minoso, Rich emulated the likes of Miles Davis and Bill Evans, thus beginning his signature "sports coat and sunglasses" look, which seemed pretty cool on Dizzy Gillespie, but can look rather dorky on an 11-year old.

Piano lessons under his father's tutelage began, on-and-off, for the next several years, leaving his art and tattoo business unattended.

After high school, Rich studied part-time at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and at the Chicago Musical College of Roosevelt University. In 1967 he was drafted into the Army where he served for two years, returning to civilian life in 1969.

What followed were several years of job jumping, a few years of junior college where the Rick Tennant Quintet flourished, and career pursuits which led Rich to Boston to study briefly at the Berklee School of Music. To support himself, Rich worked as a paralegal, advertising copywriter, caterer, and entrepreneur.

Success at Last

In 1980, while working in the production department of CW Publishing, a division of IDG (International Data Group) and publisher of the weekly magazine, Computerworld, Rich was asked to become their weekly editorial cartoonist. Shortly after, he became the editorial cartoonist for sister publication, Federal Computer World. This became his springboard to a career as a freelance illustrator and cartoonist specializing in computer cartoons for the many companies and publications following that field at the time.

In 1990, Rich was tapped by IDG Books to be the cartoonist for, DOS for Dummies, the very first For Dummies book. In 2001, IDG Books, along with the For Dummies series, was sold to John Wiley & Sons who continue to publish the For Dummies books featuring Rich's cartoons.

With two studios, Rich currently spends time in Massachusetts and Florida with his wife Cynthia, 5 Macs, and two pianos. Should the cartooning thing not work out, Rich would get the old band back together and go on the road. He practices every day and still has the sports coat and sunglasses.