Palisadian Jeff Tipton: Doctor by Day, Cartoonist by Night

By Laurie Rosenthal
Staff Writer

Dr. Jeffrey Tipton loves the absurdities of life. Even more, he loves to joke about them.

By day, as a medical director for Optum Health (which is part of United Healthcare), Tipton manages diseases in that population such as diabetes, and works to find good care for people.

“This doesn’t mean the most expensive or the least expensive,” he told the Palisades News. “It just means the best. Where’s the best place for somebody to go who needs care?”

Dr. Jeff Tipton has started creating cartoons. Photo: Lesly Hall Photography

Dr. Jeff Tipton has started creating cartoons. Photo: Lesly Hall Photography

He admits it’s a complicated area.

Yet Tipton’s talents and interests lie far beyond the medical field, and include writing comedic screenplays, a book on public health and even hosting a satire show for a year on XM radio called “The Uncensored Truth” that created humorous fake news in the vein of The Onion.

That’s not all.

“I did standup for a long time,” he said. As a public health doctor, Tipton honed his observational skills, which allowed him to “look at the world and try to reframe it so that people could see a different perspective.” Comedian Steven Wright is one of his influences.

“Standup is healthy for people because it’s a distraction from whatever else that they’re thinking about, and it helps break things up a bit, whether it’s laughing or otherwise,” said Tipton, who lives in Pacific Palisades.

His writing focuses on “the absurd nature of things,” and four years ago he began drawing cartoons as yet another way to get his observational, absurdist point-of-view out into the world. At the beginning, he collab- orated with Shelly Mussenden for the illustrating aspect, and eventually they created about 150 single-panel cartoons.

Tipton now works alone, and comes up with new ideas every day. He admires the work of Gary Larson and Dilbert creator Scott Adams, and is particularly drawn towards word play and puns. Some of his cartoons have been turned into greeting cards, which he sells on his website laughrx.org.

“I’m inspired by quick, very accurate descriptions of life. I think that everybody is looking for something to hang onto to guide them through life,” Tipton said. “I also see people in a lot of pain, and if they can laugh for a little bit, that’s great.”

In his cartoons, he strives to come up with something unique. The goal is to “have people pay attention to them, and read them and get a kick out of them.”

One fake news story (or “alternative” in today’s lexicon) that Tipton created about 10 years ago was about a man using the Los Angeles River to commute to work.

The story took on a life of its own, and Tipton soon discovered that if anyone actually used the river to commute to work, “it would be considered navigable under the Clean Water Act, and the river would have to become a river again.”

What started out in jest helped protect the river, and to this day, Tipton has a nonprofit summer kayak program that  gets people out on the water. For more information, go to lariverkayaks.com.

Tipton grew up in Santa Barbara and has lived in the Palisades since 1996 with his wife, Evelyn Wendel. They have two children, Miles, 20, currently playing baseball at West L.A. College, and Maude, 17, a junior at Palisades Charter High School. Wendel is known for her work with WeTap, which focuses on making drinking fountains accessible to all.

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