Ashleigh Ellwood Brilliant (born 9 December 1933) is an author and syndicated cartoonist born in London, UK, and living in Santa Barbara, California, USA. He is best known for his Pot-Shots, single-panel illustrations with one-line humorous remarks, which began syndication in the United States of America in 1975. Brilliant achieved American citizenship in 1969.
Brilliant attended Hendon School (then Hendon County School), London, in the 1940s-50s. He graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a PhD in history in 1964 and taught on a "Floating University", an educational cruise ship that traveled around the world in the mid-60s. He later taught at a community college in Bend, Oregon.
During the "Summer of Love" in San Francisco in 1967, Brilliant gave daily lectures near the Haight Street entrance of Golden Gate Park. He released a live album recorded in Golden Gate Park in 1967 on a small Hollywood, California record label, Dorash Enterprises (Dorash LP-1001). The album, Ashleigh Brilliant in the Haight-Ashbury, is quite rare today. The material uses familiar public domain songs and melodies and incorporates clever poetic lyrics about marijuana, the Diggers, San Francisco neighborhoods, and his personal experiences, all the while displaying a banter which ebbs and flows with his audience, who respond warmly to the performance and also participate in the songs. He states in the recording that he had been performing in this setting for approximately two hours each day the prior four weeks. He laughs throughout his performance, while the audience joins him in singing along and banging on percussive items. The album ends with a "Haight-Ashbury Farewell".
The Wall Street Journal described him in a 1992 profile as "history's only full time, professional published epigrammatist."
At one time, there was some confusion and controversy as to the ownership and recognition of his distinctive art form. In a copyright infringement suit filed by Brilliant, a United States federal judge ruled that while short phrases are not eligible for copyright, Brilliant's works were epigrams and therefore copyrightable (Brilliant v. W.B. Productions Inc., 1979).
While Brilliant employs a self-imposed limit of 17 words per epigram, he has actually written and published 41 with 18 words and one with 19 words (By the miracle of teaching, I can give you some of my ability, without losing any of it myself.)
In 1999 he authored the "Y1K Crisis" article which parodies the "Y2K Crisis" of 1999.
Part of the counter-culture scene in San Francisco in the late 1960s, Brilliant wrote and sang a series of parody songs about the hippie movement in Golden Gate Park as the hippie movement happened. Called The Haight-Ashbury Songbook, the songs now appear on a CD collection available on his website.
Brilliant is frequently asked about his real last name, of which he says:
As far as I know, the name Brilliant is of Russian/Polish/Jewish origin, and is akin to other Jewish names related to precious metals and jewels, e.g. Gold, Silver, Diamond, Ruby, Pearl. (One meaning of brilliant is a kind of diamond.) These in turn relate to the kinds of trades in which many European Jews were engaged when, in the time of Napoleon, they were first required to take surnames.
Brilliant celebrated his 80th birthday in December 2013 in Franceschi Park in his current home town of Santa Barbara, California. There he was presented with a document signed by the mayor proclaiming him to be the "Wise Old Man of the Mountain".
In an essay entitled "Against intellectual property", Brian Martin cites Brilliant as a "professional epigrammatist" who has been known to threaten legal action in order to display his market precedence over legally owned fragments of human language, thus managing to reveal one of the many absurdities behind "intellectual property", namely its ability to limit the free use and dissemination of human expression. When Brilliant finds someone who has "used" one of his epigrams, he contacts them demanding a payment for breach of copyright.
For instance, television journalist David Brinkley wrote a book, Everyone is Entitled to My Opinion, the title of which he attributed to a friend of his daughter. Brilliant contacted Brinkley about copyright violation and Random House, Brinkley's publisher, paid Brilliant $1000 without contesting the issue.
In a separate 1979 case, a company copied two of Brilliant's phrases - "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"--and altered a third phrase, all for sale on T-shirt transfers. The district court acknowledged that the phrases were distinguished by conciseness, cleverness, and pointed observation, ruling that they were protected by copyright.
All books published by Woodbridge Press (Santa Barbara, California)
I May Not Be Totally Perfect, but Parts of Me Are Excellent, and Other Brilliant Thoughts (1979), ISBN 0-912800-66-6, ISBN 0-912800-67-4,
I Have Abandoned My Search for Truth, and Am Now Looking for a Good Fantasy: More Brilliant Thoughts (1980), ISBN 0-912800-89-5, ISBN 0-912800-90-9 (paperback),
Appreciate Me Now, and Avoid the Rush: Yet More Brilliant Thoughts (1981), ISBN 0-912800-97-6, ISBN 0-912800-94-1 (paperback),
I Feel Much Better, Now That I've Given Up Hope: And Even More Brilliant Thoughts (1984), ISBN 0-88007-145-1, ISBN 0-88007-147-8 (paperback),
All I Want Is a Warm Bed and a Kind Word and Unlimited Power: Even More Brilliant Thoughts (1985), ISBN 0-88007-155-9, ISBN 0-88007-156-7 (paperback),
The Great Car Craze: How Southern California Collided with the Automobile in the 1920s (1989), ISBN 0-88007-172-9.,
Be a Good Neighbor, and Leave Me Alone: And Other Wry and Riotous Writings (1992), ISBN 0-88007-191-5, ISBN 0-88007-192-3 (paperback),
I Try to Take One Day at a Time, but Sometimes Several Days Attack Me at Once: More Brilliant Thoughts Than Ever (1987), ISBN 0-88007-161-3, ISBN 0-88007-162-1 (paperback),
We've Been Through So Much Together, and Most of It Was Your Fault: More and More Brilliant Thoughts (1990), ISBN 0-88007-182-6, ISBN 0-88007-183-4,
I Want to Reach Your Mind... Where Is It Currently Located?: More Incredibly Brilliant Thoughts (1994), ISBN 0-88007-203-2, ISBN 0-88007-204-0 (paperback),
I'm Just Moving Clouds Today, Tomorrow I'll Try Mountains: And Other More or Less Blissfully Brilliant Thoughts (1998), ISBN 0-88007-221-0
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license