Alex Cohen on politics, social media and sneks

Courtesy of Alex Cohen

Alex Cohen (senior) is a Politics and economics double major with a history minor, as well as the creator and artist behind the viral webcomics Tiny Snek Comics, Smol Pupper Comics and America the Usual. Cohen uses “Art Studio,” an app on his phone, to create the drawings of snakes, dogs, other animals and people for his webcomics. During the 2016 Republican primary, Cohen was also part of an internet group who wrote a full length “Hamilton” parody entitled “Jeb!: An American Disappointment.” As of Oct. 20, Cohen’s webcomics have over 446,000 combined likes with over 400,000 of the combined Facebook likes for Tiny Snek Comics.

Courtesy Melissa Gutierrez Gonzalez

Over the summer, Cohen worked as a digital media and communications intern with Common Cause, a pro-democracy nonprofit in Washington D.C., where he used his knowledge of media to convey political messages and the goals of the organization.

In an interview with Cohen, he discussed his webcomics, politics and internet fame.

How did you get started with webcomics and Tiny Snek Comics?

I’ve always drawn and made memes. My freshman year I had a bunch of Game of Thrones”-related memes that went viral online, but sophomore year I went to an Oxygraphics meeting and I drew a little dog comic and then uploaded it to a Facebook group called Cool Dog Group. It got a very big response. There was a whole bunch of comments that said, “hey, you should make a page.” I had never thought about doing that before, but I’ve had art stuff go viral, so this could be a sustainable way to do that. Then I made that into Smol Pupper Comics, which got about 25,000 likes pretty quick, but then it stopped growing and I was getting bored drawing dogs. I was like, what’s an easier animal to draw? Snakes. Snakes are easier to draw than dogs. I made [Tiny Snek Comics] in August of last year and then it kinda exploded, which was very strange. I [also] started branching the page out to other animals (à la birds and fish and giraffes and possums, etc.). So even though the page itself is still called Tiny Snek Comics it currently has a much wider focus than just the eponymous “l o n g b o y e s.”

Courtesy of Alex Cohen

From your perspective, what is it like to have something you created go viral?

It’s very weird. From my perspective, I’m just sitting in bed and I draw something for 10 to 30 minutes, or I’m waiting in the pasta line and I’ll just draw something. But then, from the other perspective of the people who are following this, it’s new content.

As a Politics major, did you find your webcomics a natural connection to politics?

For Tiny Snek, I brought in political stuff, took political stances and asked for donations for different causes, but I didn’t start that until after the election. I thought, hey, I have a platform to reach 400,000 people and it’s going to upset some people if I make political statements or political cartoons on there. But, at the same time, if I can make someone feel better about their day or reaffirm someone or convince someone to change their beliefs through this, it’s a good platform and I should use it.

What have been the reactions to the comics on the page?

I get a lot of messages regularly that say “Tiny Snek Comics helps me with my depression and anxiety and this is something I look forward to seeing every day and I brightens my day,” which is really heartwarming, nice, flattering and also very strange because from my perspective, I’m just making a little comic, but it’s having such a big impact in some people’s lives.

How did you connect your webcomics to your summer internship?

I used [the webcomics] as a way to say I have a very good understanding of how people think and what people like to see. I’ve been doing that for several years — making content that people really like — and my internship was specifically a digital media and communications internship. So, applying that idea of knowing how to reach people and how to get a certain response from people into politics is pretty natural, even though it’s a different type of response, but it’s a similar idea.

What are your future plans for your webcomics and beyond?

I’m probably going to find a job in D.C. doing something similar to what I was doing at Common Cause, but at the same time I could probably turn [the webcomics] into a career and just make comics or memes as a job, which would be fun. I don’t know if that is what I want to do because I probably want to go to grad school, but I don’t know where this is going to go, because a year ago this basically didn’t exist and this is where it is now. So, where it’s going to be in a year, I don’t know.