Alphonse Normandia, cartoonist and comedian

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Alphonse Normandia was a man who looked like he was wearing the fake glasses, nose, and mustache disguise and embraced it, turning it into humor with co-workers and interviewees. For almost 60 years, his distinct cartoons adorned countless BBDO publications, but also other national publications such as The New Yorker, Playboy, and Esquire.

Normandia joined BBDO as an assistant art director in 1944, fresh out of New York’s High School of Music and Art. At the time, he had to share a cubicle with two other people. It was not long until he and Tom Villante, account manager (and fascinating person unto his own), were getting into mischievous adventures. So many stories, in fact, that Villante later in life recounted hundreds if not thousands of his stories in an email newsletter called Alphonse and Me.

Normandia was drafted into the Army in 1950 during the Korean War. According to company legend, he commemorated this event by lying in state in the Art Department on a table the size and shape of a coffin, complete with candles and flowers. It was during this time he sharpened his cartoon wit. In his spare time, Normandia would draw cartoons lampooning Army life. They started appearing in Hartford, Connecticut newspaper The Courant, where he was based, and later in Army publications.

Once his Army service was over, Normandia rejoined BBDO in the newly formed TV Department as a TV art director, eventually becoming a vice president and head of the department. He always drew a character of himself in his cartoons. 

Early edition of Pink Sheet, a BBDO alumni newsletter. Normandia did all of the artwork for the newsletter, including the covers. This one features a cartoon version of himself.

As of 1991, Normandia was the only employee to have won both the Founder’s Award and the Dillon Prize, given to longstanding BBDO employees. In 2001, the company honored his years of service with a Bob Walker-sculpted bust in the lobby of the Creative Department and established the Alphonse Normandia Scholarship in Art at Cooper Union. Normandia retired from BBDO in 2003 and died in 2013.

Normandia’s artwork and humor continue to live on throughout the BBDO collection. His touch can be found in other areas as well, including being featured in the 1957 BBDO treasurer’s report film.

Ashley Williams is the project archivist for the BBDO collection at the Hagley Museum and Library.