Alumnus draws laughs with cartoons, broadcasts

By Gus Bode

Pete S. Mueller is many things: a cartoonist whose work appears in The New Yorker and dozens of other publications; a fictional newscaster for The Onion; an SIUC alumnus; the man who once stole the hands from the Pulliam clock tower.

What he is not is someone who lives life riding in the passenger seat.

‘ ‘The best thing I have discovered is it’s better to be wrong than right, because the only time you learn something is when you’re wrong,’ Mueller said.


Forty years after moving onto the ninth floor of Brush Towers, Mueller said he has learned a great deal about people and life in general. He has seen his cartoons published in dozens of magazines, and works as the voice of fictional newsman Doyle Redland for the Onion Radio News.

‘He’s an engaging, smart guy with a genuinely wild sense of humor,’ said Chris Karwowski, the Onion Radio News producer. Karwowski has known Mueller for six years, and has worked in depth with him in collaboration and production of the radio news for three of those years.

Karwowski said Mueller is great to work with, due to not only his sense of humor but also to his knowledge about many subjects.

‘He really makes the Onion Radio News come alive,’ Karwowski said. ‘He’s a delightful guy.’

Mueller got his start in 1969, when he was hired as a cartoonist for the Daily Egyptian.

He worked for the newspaper until 1971, when he left school for several years, living in California for a time before returning to the southern Illinois area. In 1974, he returned to SIUC and the student newspaper.

‘There were a lot of fun, good people,’ he said.


One of Mueller’s vivid memories from his time at SIUC was the theft of the hands from Pulliam clock tower’s north face. He said he pulled the caper with a friend, and ultimately pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in Jackson County Court.

‘I wasn’t in my right mind back then,’ he said.

H.B. Koplowitz, author of ‘Carbondale After Dark,’ was Mueller’s editor at the Daily Egyptian in 1976.

Koplowitz said Mueller was never good at following directions.

‘He’s uncoachable,’ Koplowitz said. ‘I would ask him to do an illustration for a story, and generally what he would do was better than what I had in mind.’

Mueller, who lives in Madison, Wis., has worked for publications ranging from The New Yorker to Field and Stream. He said it took tenacity and a lot of dismissals to get where he is now.

‘I have a really good tolerance for rejection, and I’m not fit for anything else except making up funny stuff,’ he said.