I’m an in-demand public speaker, and I lecture all over the world about various pop culture-related subjects, including the history of comic books, comedy history, film history, the history of television, and the history of science fiction. I have lectured and performed stand-up comedy at resorts, synagogues, comedy clubs, and academic institutions worldwide, including the Nevele Grand Resort in the Catskills, Stand-Up New York in Manhattan, the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, the Koffler Centre of the Arts in Toronto, and the Kislak Vacation Center in the Poconos. During the summer of 2010 and the summer of 2011, I was a guest speaker at the annual Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow, Poland. And in the fall of 2011, I was a guest speaker at the 1st Annual Jewish Cultural Festival in Trondheim, Norway.
I’m available to do lectures, teach classes and moderate panel discussions on pop culture history.
Due to my “Wizards of Wit” and “Kings of Comics” series in Reform Judaism Magazine, as a lecturer, I often specialize in the history of Jews in pop culture. However, my range extends beyond subjects dealing with Judaica. Please contact me with any questions.
A Random Sampling Of My Recent Lectures, Workshops, and Panels
Wichita, Kansas – October 2015
Superheroes, Stand-up, and Sci-Fi: An Animated Life
On October 26, 2015, I spoke at Wichita State University in Kansas. My lecture was called “Superheroes, Stand-up, and Sci-Fi: An Animated Life,” and in it, I talked about my career as a writer. Just before the lecture, I was interviewed by author and WSU professor Darren DeFrain at the campus’s Media Resource Center for the university’s television station (WSUTV). These events were both great fun (and to be honest, it was very flattering to be asked to talk about my work and career). Both the “Animated Life” lecture and the WSUTV interview were edited together into the following video.
Mid-Kansas Jewish Federation
And on October 25th, 2015, the day before I spoke at WSU, I spoke at the Mid-Kansas Jewish Federation’s Annual Campaign Kick-Off at the Wichita Marriott. In this MKJF lecture, I talked about the role of Jewish comic book writers and cartoonists in the early comic book industry. Also, I signed copies of my award-winning book From Krakow To Krypton: Jews and Comic Books (Jewish Publication Society, 2008). The lecture venue was decorated comic book-style, with colorful sound effect-type signage and word balloons everywhere. I had a fantastic time.
Nashua, New Hampshire – November 2011
“Comics: The Cartoonists and Their History – An American Art Form with Jewish Roots”
In November 2011, I had the good fortune to participate in a Scholar-In-Residence weekend in Nashua, New Hampshire, alongside veteran cartoonist Hy Eisman (Popeye, Katzenjammer Kids). Here’s the official description of that event:
Sat Nov 12 – Sun Nov 13, 2011: Scholar in Residence Week, Temple Beth Abraham, 4 Raymond St., Nashua, NH 03064
– On Saturday, November 12, 12 PM. a luncheon and discussion will follow services. Author Arie Kaplan will present “From Krakow to Krypton: Jews and Comic Books,” as he talks about the history and development of the superhero in comics and their cartoonists. Arie Kaplan is a MAD Magazine writer, comedy writer, animation writer, screenwriter, lecturer, pop culture expert, playwright, and cartoonist.
– Saturday night, November 12, at 7:30 PM, following Havdalah. Arie Kaplan will present a film about our favorite super heroes and some cartoon shorts. Both weekend guests, Arie Kaplan and Hy Eisman, will be available for discussions over coffee and dessert.”
2011 Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow, Poland
But I know what you’re thinking: “Yeah yeah, sure you’ve done all this lecturin’ and workshoppin’ here in the USA, but what have you done in Europe?” Well, here’s a description of one of my overseas speaking engagements, excerpted from the program guide for the Twenty-First Annual Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow, Poland (Summer, 2011):
Among the Stars: The History of Jews in Science Fiction
Place: Kupa Synagogue • ul. Miodowa 27
Beginning: 12:00 27/06/2011
Arie Kaplan (USA)
From Twilight Zone to Star Trek, from Isaac Asimov to Leonard Nimoy, from Steven Spielberg to J.J. Abrams, Jewish writers, actors, filmmakers and novelists have played an important role in defining and shaping the world of science fiction. But why? Is it because they’ve continually felt like outsiders, and so they identify with a genre which is all about outsiders? Discover the Jewish significance of the “Live long and prosper” hand signal from Star Trek. Learn how Jews’ experience during the Holocaust influenced certain episodes of Rod Serling’s legendary TV series Twilight Zone. In this lecture, Arie Kaplan will analyze and discuss how Jewish authors, actors, and filmmakers have had a lasting and indelible impact on the “sci-fi” genre. Arie Kaplan will also discuss classic Jewish myths, such as the Golem story, and how they’ve had an influence on science fiction stories such as Frankenstein.”
And here’s a description of one of the many cartooning workshops that I taught at that same 2011 Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow:
How to draw gag cartoons! Cartoon workshops
Place: VI LO • ul. Wąska 7
Beginning: 15:00 27/06/2011
Led by Arie Kaplan (USA)
This workshop shows students how to draw magazine-style gag cartoons. The lesson focuses on creative brainstorming, and during the class, the students will learn how to create “sight gags” built around a specific theme (i.e. zoo animals, holidays, school, parents, etc). By the end of the class, the students will have come away with a few sample one-panel gag cartoons (which they themselves have created), which are similar to those seen in Nickelodeon Magazine, MAD Magazine, Reader’s Digest, Highlights for Kids, and National Geographic Kids. During the class, students will also examine the history of gag cartoons, and will look at some of the funniest cartoons in the history of the medium.”
Other Lectures include:
Flickering Shadows: A History of Jews in Film from the Marx Brothers to the Coen Brothers (and all brothers in between), a three part lecture series
Wizards of Wit, a History of Jews in Comedy
From Sarnoff to Seinfield, a 5 part lecture series on Jews in Television