May 15, 2017 Issue

Max:  The electronic version of this week’s cover progressively fills in a computer motherboard.

Simon:  Oh no, are we outsourcing Mother’s Day?

1 of 16: “Faulty Ignition” by Emily Flake

View this cartoon as made available by The New Yorker Cartoon Bank.

Simon:  Another New Yorker issue, another caveman cartoon. This one creates the gag by relying on an anachronism. What you think, Max?

Max:  Well, the anachronistic element is the “beta” comment, something that translates well into our post-modern world of computer software. What makes the gag funny to me is that sad, wistful little smudge of smoke from the failed fire experiment.

Simon:  I’m really not a fan of cartoons that rely on anachronisms because they are just too easy to create. You could put a caveman in any modern day context to create a gag. Besides, I’ve seen similar gags where the gag line was “this is a beta version”. It really didn’t work for me. I give this a 2.

Max:  It‘s a good thing those sturdy Cro-Magnons didn’t hear you; they might have gotten upset at such a low grade. I thought the drawing – with the squatting and beard scratching – illustrated the gag quite well. I have to go in the other direction, I give it a 4.

Simon:  I think someone should tell Emily Flake that if you draw men with hairy arms and hairy legs, that hairy chests typically are part of the ensemble. These guys look like they used depilatory cream on their chests; or perhaps you think I’m splitting hairs?

For more on Emily Flake, check out emilyflake.com

 

2 of 16: “The Millennial Returns” by Jeremy Nguyen

View this cartoon as made available by The New Yorker Cartoon Bank.

Max: Mr. Nguyen returns with his second cartoon in The New Yorker: his take on the return of the prodigal son. I know several couples whose adult children still drop by to do laundry – a modern tribal ceremony, I suppose.

Simon:  It’s a clean, simple drawing, probably executed on a tablet given the uniformity of the line. There’s a slight hint of anachronism in this gag as well, as the basket appears to be a Rubbermaid product. It’s pretty funny.

Max:  A question, Simon: does a lack of gray wash from many of our younger cartoonists indicate a modern trend?

Simon:  Plenty of older cartoonists do not use washes. Going back to Thurber, and all the way up to say Barsotti. Chon Day was a master of the simple line without washes as well, and he goes back many decades. So not really, although some of the truly outstanding old New Yorker cartoonists did use washes.

Max:  How enlightening, Simon. Thank you for the exegesis on gray washes. And speaking of wishy-washy, I’ll return to cartoon rating and give it a 3.

Simon:  I agree it’s not a bad cartoon. I also give it a 3.

For more on Jeremy Nguyen, check out jeremywinslife.com

 

3 of 16: “Artisanal Banking” by Amy Kurzweil

View this cartoon as made available by The New Yorker Cartoon Bank.

Simon:  Okay, next up is a cartoon by Amy Kurzweil, and this cartoon relies on the technique of combining a common phrase and putting a twist on it, in this case small batch baking, then putting it in a banking context.

Max:  I’m more reminded of small batch bourbon purveyors, myself. I appreciate the detailed artwork depicting all aspects of small batch banking. Look at the teller on the right industriously spraying off a low value coin; also note the little girl in the bottom left with her microbrewery version of a micro-deposit.

Simon:  I liked the drawing of the little girl too, but I think the drawing of the woman with her back to us is a bit awkward. Also the cartoon doesn’t really have a strong focus because there are things going on all over the place. And like the first cartoon, I think it’s just too easy to combine two very different subjects in order to create a cartoon. I also give this one a 2.

Max: Although I agree with you about the portrayal of the mom figure, I richly enjoyed the whole scene, including the little batches of small bills on the back shelves. I thought this concept was a lovely take on the flourishing artisanal industries, even in one so apparently heartless as banking. I give it a 4.

For more on Amy Kurzweil, check out amykurzweil.com

 

4 of 16: “Digging In” by P.C. Vey

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Max:  I’m curious, Simon, as to your take on what P.C. Vey means by “a hole big enough for everybody”?

Simon:  Who knows, but I think it’s damn funny. The hole could be a substitute for a bomb shelter, or some way of hiding out, or maybe people are just digging holes for the hell of it. I just think it’s a funny, weird concept.

Max:  I thought it might’ve strayed into the macabre, as in digging a hole in the backyard large enough to accommodate, gulp, a body or two.

Simon:  Yes, that occurred to me as well. I almost thought it’s as if he is ready to bury all of humanity, and humanity is a willing partner in the enterprise.

Max:  Well done, but it gave me the shivers, I give it a 3.

Simon:  I give it a 4, even though I have a difficult time explaining what the heck this cartoon is about.

For more on P.C. Vey, check out pcvey.com

 

5 of 16: “Mound-side Chat” by Harry Bliss

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Simon:  Next is a Harry Bliss cartoon with a baseball theme. And we know how much The New Yorker loves baseball cartoons. The players are covering their mouths with their gloves, which is usually done when players don’t want the opposing team to steal signs, but here they seem to be more concerned about the opposing team stealing their recipes.

Max:  Speaking of The New Yorker loving their baseball cartoons, I wonder if that’ll be the case under the incoming cartoon editor. At any rate, I’ve always wondered what the players whisper about behind their gloves – and whether it’d be printable or not.

Simon:  I have seen similar cartoons, but I do like the drawing very much, including the little sign on the left, which probably refers to the Yankees rival, the Red Sox. Overall, the cartoon is pretty strong. I give it a 4.

Max:  Yes, likewise, another fine outing from Mr. Bliss. I give it a 4 as well.

For more on Harry Bliss, check out harrybliss.com

 

6 of 16: “Police Line-up?” by Edward Steed

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Max: This next cartoon is one of the wackiest send-ups of the year, and of course, it comes from across the Atlantic from our British contributor, Mr. Steed.

Simon:  This is certainly an original take on the police lineup cartoon cliché. Individuals, or should I say items, numbered two through six are just wonderfully horrible and bizarre. The skull on top the watercooler is outrageous, but I also like the goldfish bowl.

Max:  Yeah, it’s inspired to have the goldfish look like a heavily mascaraed set of woman’s eyes.

Simon:  They all seem to have faces of a sort, and whether they have bodies or not is a matter of debate. I also like the quizzical look of the eyewitness. Really funny stuff from the mind of Edward Steed.

Max:  A brilliant take on the police lineup. I cannot be restrained from giving it a 6.

Simon:  Not quite a 6 for me, but a strong 5.

For more on Edward Steed, check out newyorker.com/contributors/edward-steed

 

7 of 16: “Candles of New York” by Roz Chast

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Simon:  Okay, up next is a Roz Chast cartoon. And she’s back again with her three separate images. This one is strictly for people who know New York and all of its odors. Pretty funny stuff in my opinion. What about you, Max?

Max:  Well, her first item has a touch of sadness about it. I recall Ms. Chast writing something very similar about the smells of her parents’ apartment after they had aged and she returned to visit.

Simon:  You are referring, of course, to her best-selling book, “Can‘t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” I think the first candle is the funniest. I also like how the perspective goes inward as the doors become more distant and yet the candle itself is round. The other two items really capture certain smells of the streets and interiors of New York. I give this a strong 4.

Max:  I think anyone can relate to passing through the fragrance section of any department store – utter olfactory confusion. I also liked her last comment about the Sixth Avenue “high notes of coffee and marijuana”. I give it a 4.

For more on Roz Chast, check out rozchast.com

 

8 of 16: “The Swing” by Trevor Spaulding

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Max:  Could Mr. Spaulding have Cinderella on a swing with a glass slipper flying off into the air?

Simon:  Au contraire, Max. This is a parody of the Fragonard painting, The Swing. We have seen plenty of art parodies in The New Yorker, but I do not recall any that focus on that rococo masterwork. I thought this is a very funny take, even though it too turns on an anachronism.

Max:  Well, anachronism or not, it’s a lovely scene with that young girl in her plain playground outfit embarrassed by her ultra-flamboyant mom. I give this a 5.

Simon:  I’m with you there, Max. This is a very nice take on mother-daughter relationships. I give this a 5 as well.

For more on Trevor Spaulding, check out trevorspaulding.com

 

9 of 16: “Romeo the Peeper” by Benjamin Schwartz

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Simon:  Next up is Dr. Schwartz with a Romeo and Juliet cartoon. That particular scene is listed as one of former Cartoon Editor Bob Mankoff’s cartoon clichés. Did you like this one, Max?

Max:  I did indeed. Of all the variants of Romeo, this one is very much in keeping with the times; in another era he’s a romantic, but in this era he’s a stalker.

Simon:  The drawing is quite effective, too. I think I’ve seen too many parodies of the Romeo and Juliet balcony scene to give this a high score. I give this a 3.

Max:  I liked it better than you. Look at the physical posture of Juliet, with her straight arms and accusatory face looming over the stricken Romeo. He’s busted! I give it a 4.

For more on Benjamin Schwartz, check out newyorker.com/contributors/benjamin-schwartz

 

10 of 16: “Chubby Superhero” by Christopher Weyant

View this cartoon as made available by The New Yorker Cartoon Bank.

Max: We’re back in the doctor‘s office, this time with a flabby Superman who looks down in the dumps about his expanding waistline.

Simon:  I guess the office donuts were courtesy of The Daily Planet. Though a fan of Mr. Weyant, this cartoon is not all that great. Superman appears in many New Yorker cartoons, typically in a non-heroic setting. Here, true to form, he appears less than super. It’s a fairly funny gag, but not great in my opinion.

Max:  It‘s always fun to see Superman looking not so impervious. I’ll give it a 3.

Simon:  You think he’s in bad shape now, wait until he sees the Republicans’ latest health bill. I give this a 3 as well.

For more on Christopher Weyant, check out christopherweyant.com

 

11 of 16: “Flocking Homeward” by Liana Finck

View this cartoon as made available by The New Yorker Cartoon Bank.

Simon:  Up next is a simple and effective drawing by Liana Finck. I thought this is a pretty funny gag that turns on grandparents retiring to Florida. I liked it.

Max:  It’s okay, though I find it interesting that the geese are flying south to visit “your” grandparents–or should it be “my” or “the” grandparents? What about the mismatch, Simon?

Simon:  The “your” versus “my”? I think it probably could read “one’s” grandparents, but that seems overly formal. “My” would certainly personalize it to her, so I think that “your” is the appropriate pronoun.

Max:  Perhaps, as usual, we’re overzealous here. I give a nod to Liana Finck’s cleverness and award a 3.

Simon:  I scored her one better than you. I give it a 4.

For more on Liana Finck, check out newyorker.com/contributors/liana-finck

 

12 of 16: “Bzzzzness” by Paul Noth

View this cartoon as made available by The New Yorker Cartoon Bank.

Max:  Paul Noth gives us a take on the modern day beehive factory. This is an update from the busy little species in which it appears their honey producing ability has been outsourced.

Simon:  I thought it’s a funny gag and an excellent drawing. It depicts a variation of the office cube farm. Even though the images look identical, in fact, they are all slightly different. I thought this was a very effective drawing that could only work as a cartoon – not always true of New Yorker cartoons.

Max:  For anyone who’s worked in a cube farm, this is a brilliant take on the sterility of the modern office, I give it a 5.

Simon:  I agree. I also give it a 5.

For more on Paul Noth, check out paulnoth.com

 

13 of 16: “Night Off” by Will McPhail

View this cartoon as made available by The New Yorker Cartoon Bank.

Simon:  The next cartoon is by Will McPhail, and is titled “High on Canceled Plans”. I interpreted this to mean that the woman is relieved that someone canceled plans for an event that she was not looking forward to, and the call came while she was getting dressed. I think it’s a little ambiguous given the bareness of the image. What do you think, Max?

Max:  No doubt about it, this woman couldn’t be more thrilled that – I’m guessing a “he” – called with a last-minute reprieve prior to dragging herself out of the apartment. Now she’s got an unfettered evening ahead of her with no structure or social anxiety. Two questions: is that a little black book lying by her chair, and do I detect a little drool coming out of her mouth?

Simon:  I guess she is so overcome with relief that she cannot control her own saliva output. As for the black object on the ground, I took that to be a cell phone.

Max:  Ah, yes, the indispensable iPhone – even better, she received a text. She laughed so hard with relief that she bedewed her chin with spittle. I like this cartoon, I give it a 5.

Simon:  I thought it’s more of an illustration than a cartoon, and while it’s expertly drawn, I think the gag is just okay. I give it a 4.

For more on Will McPhail, check out willmcphail.com

 

14 of 16: “High on the Hog” by John O’Brien

View this cartoon as made available by The New Yorker Cartoon Bank.

Max:  Mr. O’Brien parodies an old nursery rhyme as a pair of porcine diners review their sumptuous repast.

Simon:  O’Brien has that unusual style associated with his drawings. Note the caption in a curved bubble. It’s always easy to recognize his work. As for the cartoon, well, I’m glad they didn’t order the pork. It’s a pretty good gag. Did you like it, Max?

Max:  Yes, I thought it was a bit on the adorable side, I’ll give it a 4.

Simon:  I give this a 4 as well.

For more on John O’Brien, check out johnobrienillustrator.com

 

15 of 16: “Horse Tales” by Tom Chitty

View this cartoon as made available by The New Yorker Cartoon Bank.

Simon:  Next up is a Tom Chitty cartoon and, by golly, I like this one. I like the drawings of the horses and each of the three images, including the funny gag lines.

Max:  Yes, Mr. Chitty’s unusual drawing style serves this cartoon very well. I especially enjoyed the middle horse whose missing hump is indicated by a series of four upside down teardrops – a boring camel indeed!

Simon:  The first horse demonstrates his athletic prowess by emphasizing his powerful foreleg, the second one is distraught by the absence of a hump, and the third has to rely on a prop – a top hat. Overall, very nicely done. I give this a 4.

Max:  Yes, a 4 for me as well.

For more on Tom Chitty, check out drawnbytom.com

 

16 of 16: “Take Two” by Robert Leighton

View this cartoon as made available by The New Yorker Cartoon Bank.

Max:  Our final cartoonist, Mr. Leighton, lays out a fairly complex TV studio set in which we have the director giving an oddly conflicting instruction to the actors engaged in fisticuffs.

Simon:  Yes, it is a complicated drawing, but I think you need that in order to convey the TV or movie set. I liked it. Did you, Max?

Max:  Oh, yes, I thought the drawing was tremendous. And anyone who has witnessed the goings-on backstage understands how self-indulgent directors can often perplex actors with an esoteric interpretation of straightforward scenes. “…but he’s really seeking your approval” is a fine example. I give it a 5.

Simon:  I think it’s a solid effort, and I give it a high 4.

Mystery New Yorker Cartoonist:  Here’s another clue for you all. The walrus was Paul. Gentlemen, I’ve been listening to my record collection backwards again. And you know what that means–I checked out the cartoons backwards in the mirror (Actually, it was cartoon great, Sam Gross, who taught me to look at cartoons backwards to see if they don’t work better running in the other direction.) Hidden messages aside, the best cartoon in the issue is this one by Robert Leighton. (Chris Weyant’s Superman was a contender and John O’Brien’s was the best drawing in the issue.) I give this one by Leighton a 4.

For more on Robert Leighton, check out robert-leighton.com

 

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