From CONTEMPORARY AUTHORS, New Revision Series, Vol. 45
Published by: Gale Research, Inc., Detroit

BRILLIANT, Ashleigh (Ellwood) 1933 -


Born December 9, 1933, in London, England; came to United States, 1956; naturalized citizen, 1969; son of Victor (a British civil servant) and Amelia (Adler) Brilliant; married Dorothy Low Tucker (vice-president of family business), June 28, 1968. Education: University of London, B.A. (honors), 1955; Claremont Graduate School, M. A., 1957; University of California, Berkeley, Ph.D., 1964.


Home and office - 117 West Valerio Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101.


Edgware Gazette, Edgware, Middlesex, England, foreign correspondent, 1951; Hollywood High School, Los Angeles, CA, English teacher, 1956-57; University of California, Berkeley, teaching assistant and reader in history, 1960-63; Central Oregon Community College, Bend, professor of history, 1964-65; Chapman College, Orange, CA, Floating Campus Division, professor of history, 1965-67; Brilliant Enterprises (publishers), Santa Barbara, CA, founder and president, 1967- . Writer and cartoonist; columnist and reporter for Midtown Record, San Francisco, CA, 1967-69; professor of history at Santa Barbara Community College, CA, 1973-74.


International Platform Association, National Association of Television Arts and Sciences, Newspaper Comics Council, Northern California Cartoonists Association, Group Against Smoking Pollution (GASP), Human Understanding of Sound and Hearing (HUSH), Mensa.


Graduate scholarship, Claremont Graduate School, 1956; Haynes fellow, University of California, Berkeley, 1962; Panama Pacific fellow, University of California, Berkeley, 1963; United Nations population cartoon competition runner up, 1976; Raymond B. Bragg award for humanism in the arts and entertainment, 1987.


Unpoemed Titles, C.O.C. Press, 1965.
The Haight-Ashbury Songbook, H-B Publications, 1967.
Pot-Shots, Brilliant Enterprises, 1968.
I May Not Be Totally Perfect, but Parts of Me Are Excellent, Woodbridge Press, 1979.
I Have Abandoned My Serch for Truth and Am Now Looking for a Good Fantasy, Woodbridge,
Press 1980.
Appreciate Me Now and Avoid the Rush, Woodbridge Press 1981.
I Feel Much Better, Now That I’ve Given Up Hope, Woodbridge Press, 1984.
All I Want Is a Warm Bed and a Kind Word and Unlimited Power, Woodbridge Press, 1985
I Try to Take One Day at a Time, but Sometimes Several Days Attack Me at Once, Woodbridge
Press 1988.
The Great Car Craze: How Southern California Collided with the Automobile in the 1920’s,
Woodbridge Press, 1989.
We’ve Been Through So Much Together, and Most of It Was Your Fault, Woodbridge Press,
(Illustrator) Patricia Chamberlain, Being Somebody: Spring the Mind-Traps that Keep You Fat
and Frustrated with Your Life, edited by Barbara Kyper, Dundas-Devonhills Associate
Publishers, 1991.
(Illustrator) Ron Garland, Working and Managing in a New Age, Humanics Ltd., 1992.
Be a Good Neighbor and Leave Me Alone (essays and verse), Woodbridge Press, 1992.
I Want To Reach Your Mind . . . Where Is It Currently Located?, Woodbridge Press, 1993.

Also author of column, "Trash from Ash," appearing in San Francisco Midtown Record, 1967-69, and of feature panel cartoon, "Pot-Shots," syndicated to more than thirty newspapers, including Chicago Tribune and Detroit Free Press.


Ashleigh Brilliant is best known for his widely syndicated captioned drawings, but he nonetheless says he prefers to think of himself as a "philosopher-prophet-poet rather than a cartoonist." Called "Brilliant Thoughts" or "Pot-Shots," this distinct literary form came into being as an unexpected result of Brilliant’s first painting exhibit. While the paintings themselves garnered only a luke-warm response, their odd titles aroused much attention. "Soon," Brilliant recalled, "I was making lists of titles for pictures I had not yet painted." Not long after, he was illustrating his "titles" with pen and ink drawings and publishing them as postcards.

Decades later, Brilliant’s "Pot-Shots" have been collected into several books with titles like I May Not Be Totally Perfect, but Parts of Me Are Excellent and I Have Abandoned My Search for Truth and Am Now Looking for a Good Fantasy. Over the years Brilliant has evolved a strict definition of what a "Pot-Shot" is. None can rhyme, and all must be kept within his self-imposed limit of seventeen words -- one for each syllable in a haiku. (He actually realized early on that he seldom used more than sixteen words at a time, but allotted himself one extra -- for emergencies.) As Brilliant explained to Independent Press-Telegram critic Candy Cooper, he writes within an uncompromising framework and avoids local cultural references because "Pot-Shots have always been a deliberate attempt to reach out to the world."

"Pot-Shots" have been appearing in newspapers across the United States since 1975 and can be found on items such as tote bags, coffee mugs, and t-shirts, a fact which prompted Rocky Mountain News writer Robert Denerstein to refer to Brilliant as "a one-man, multimedia cottage industry." According to Cooper, however, "Brilliant is a man alternately grateful and revolted by his success at hitting the funny bone of the American public. He was aiming at the brain." A member of Mensa an organization for people with high IQs, Brilliant (his real name) is described by Cooper as a writer who "longs for the praise of scholars, and the recognition of a serious writer." Brilliant himself likens his "Pot-Shots" to Japanese Haiku poems and said he would "like to win the Nobel Prize in Literature . . . for creating a new genre of poetry." In fact, Brilliant’s publisher, Woodbridge Press, has nominated him for a Pulitzer Prize. Although he lost, he nonetheless feels "Pot-Shots," like haiku, illustrate a way to "reduce literature to its pure essential." He described "Pot-Shots" as "very concise descriptions of reality," and thinks that they are simultaneously simple and complex. He explained: "It’s however you choose to interpret it -- like a poem."

In an interview with Denerstein, Brilliant stated: "I don’t have any more insight than anyone else," adding "I just have the ability to express things. The reason people admire what I say is that it’s really what they think." The result of this, according to Lloyd G. Carter of the Los Angeles Times, is that Brilliant is "lionized by his fans." This popularity is evidenced by the "amazing amount of praise and fan mail" he receives that he "cherish(es) more than money." It is also apparent from the attempts by others to use his copyrighted "Pot-Shots" on merchandise without his permission. When a "Pot-Shot" appeared on an unlicensed t-shirt, Brilliant successfully sued the company for 18,000 dollars. Said Brilliant: "It seems crazy, thinking of words as property, but the only thing I have to sell is this work. It’s my only property, and I must insist on a claim to it."

Brilliant also lays claim to being the highest paid author in the world -- per word. In 1982 he received $15,000 from Hallmark Cards in the form of a non-refundable advance for a proposed series of greeting cards featuring "Pot-Shots." As Brilliant explained in a press release, "after they made the deal and paid the advance, their plans changed, and they dropped the whole project." Three cards, however, "somehow got through" and, as a result, Brilliant calculates his pay as $468.75 per word, an amount which beats the previous record of $15 per word held by Hemingway. Recently, Brilliant has claimed yet another title, that of "world’s most-quoted living author," as gauged by Reader’s Digest’s "Quotable Quotes" feature; according to the magazine, Brilliant is the second most popular source of quotable quotes, edging out Will Rogers but still trailing Mark Twain.

Although Brilliant has said he would "like to be a thinker in residence on some college campus," he admits to not having received many offers. Instead, he will continue writing his thoughts because, as he told Carter, "This career of mine other people seem to think is worth doing so I keep doing it."


Chicago Tribune Book World, January 11, 1981.
Independent, December 10, 1986
Independent Press-Telegram, July 2, 1980
Los Angeles Times, January 29, 1984; May 1, 1988.
New Zealand Herald, March 31, 1973.
People, March 16, 1992.
Rocky Mountain News, April 25, 1980.
Scene (Santa Barbara), December 4, 1987.
Terra, winter 1990/spring 1991.
Times Literary Supplement, March 20, 1987.
Toronto Star, July 24, 1992.
Wall Street Journal, January 6, 1992. ###

Copyright Gale Research Inc., 1998. All Rights Reserved

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