Born and raised in Simcoe, Ontario, Canada, he was fascinated by comic books and showed an early aptitude for drawing fantastical flying machines, blimps, bulbous-nosed muscle cars and futuristic dioramas.
As a boy, McCall dreamed of becoming a famous illustrator.
In his memoir, Thin Ice (1997), McCall admitted that he was never good at physical activity as a boy, but could count on his mother to encourage his creativity. Bruce's father T.C. was imperious and unemotional, and left his alcoholic wife Peg without the attention she needed. Peg and the children tried to strike an attachment to him, but his stormy moods frequently pushed them aside.
Such a dysfunctional household and lonely childhood might explain McCall's reliance on humour as a means of self-expression, providing spiritual uplift during depressing times.
Without any serious technical training, McCall began his illustration career drawing cars for Ford Motor Company in Toronto in the 1950s. After several decades in advertising, he sought opportunities elsewhere in the publishing industry.
He has illustrated magazine covers, regularly appearing in The New Yorker and other magazines. He has been a contributor to the magazine since 1979. McCall is also a humourist, and has written essays on some of the social ironies of modern life. He writes frequently for the "Shouts & Murmurs" section of The New Yorker.
McCall lives on the Upper West Side of New York near Central Park.