Max:  Simon, before we begin, we bow our heads in a moment of silence to one of The New Yorker‘s great cartoonists, Jack Ziegler, who passed away this week.

Simon:  You and I were both big fans of his. There was no one like him. Michael Maslin has a nice tribute to him in Inskpill, as does New Yorker Cartoon Editor, Bob Mankoff.

1 of 15: “Pan’s Miata” by Seth Fleishman

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Simon:  This cartoon didn’t work for me, first, because it took me awhile to figure out what was going on, and second, because once I got it, I didn’t think it was funny. Max, did you think the guy with the horns was the devil when you first looked at this?

Max:  Initially I thought it was the devil as well, but then looked again. Ah, those multiple tail pipes could only belong to Pan. Help me out, Simon, why a Miata?

Simon:  The distinctive curved lines of the Miata took me right out of the cartoon. Okay, so this is Pan, his goatly parts tucked discretely out of sight, but why is he driving this specific car? A generic car would have been less distracting.

Max:  Yes, or perhaps drawing the pipes in a different configuration, like the line of exhaust pipes on a dragster. Regardless, it didnt rev my motor.

Simon:  I guess you could call this cartoon whimsical, but funny? Not so much. While I’m a fan of Seth Flesihman, I give this cartoon a weak 3.

Max:  Like you, I have to pan this cartoon as well. I give it a 3.

Simon:  With puns like that, I feel it best if you leave the humor to the pros.

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2 of 15: “Five Board Feet” by Joe Dator

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Max:  Next we have Joe Dator’s carnival scene featuring a hardened carny enforcing a most exacting sign. Simon, I recall having issues with a similar sign in my childhood; however, at that time, the only challenging dimension was one of height.

Simon:  Meaning you were short for your weight? As for the cartoon, I found it visually interesting, even surreal, but the humor is a bit forced.

Max:  I like it a little more than you because the cartoonist captures a childhood moment and exaggerated it nicely into the surreal. I thought was a clever attempt, so I’ll give this one a 4.

Simon:  I think the cartoon is trying too hard. I give it a mid-3.

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 3 of 15: “Mind Under Matterby Roz Chast

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Simon: Roz’s contribution is up next. This is a cartoon for middle-agers, and the humor this time is middling.

Max:  I thought Ms. Chast bowled this one right down the center of the lane. It’s okay —I get the mind-body issue—and the body’s “no” is sort of funny. Maybe it’s the tilt of the person  having the problem, but I wasn’t very energized by the humor here.

Simon:  I agree. It’s an obvious joke, and like the character in the cartoon, just sits there.

Max:  I’m giving it a 3. I think it’s got appeal, but of the greeting card variety.

Simon:  Yes, greeting card humor sums it up. Put me down for a 3 as well.

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 4 of 15: “Big Bang Theory” by John McNamee

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Max:  Wow, talk about a big concept cartoon! Even though it’s technically #37 on the Bob Mankoff list of Cartoon Cliches, “God Looking at Earth”, it still has an impact.

Simon:  This one is by Bob McNamee, a cartoonist who’s had just a handful of cartoons in The New Yorker. Solid gag, and the art is serviceable. But since God is normally thought of as omniscient, why is God even discussing the predictability of the end of Earthly civilization? God knows how it all ends. Perhaps the angel should be speaking to God. Maybe I’m digging too deep.

Max:  Right, I think it pays not read too much into these cartoons. Having God play the role of the jaded moviegoer is a funny conceit, and the catastrophic nature of the ending is a bit unsettling to say the least. I thought the concept was strong. I’ll give it a 4.

Simon:  Odd that God is depicted with a receding hairline. Anyway, like God in this cartoon, I think that the gag is pretty good. A low 4.

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5 of 15: “Air Ball” by Farley Katz

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Simon:  This cartoon plays on the Deflategate episode involving Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. That game was played more than a year ago, so the cartoon is dated.

Max:  Well, the concept was okay, but if you didnt follow the whole Deflategate imbroglio youd be lost. The poor fella hanging off the top of the ball threw me; I guess defying gravity doesnt matternot one of Mr. Katz’s better efforts.

Simon:  Figure drawing is not his strong suit, and the perspective is weird. The gag has a mechanical feel to it: take an event in one sport and transport it to another sport. I give it a 2.

Max:  Unfortunately, despite being a basketball aficionado, I have to agree with you. This one left me hanging, so Im going to give this a 2 as well.

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6 of 15: “Revenge of the Comma Queen” by Emily Flake

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Max:  Emily Flake brings us a cartoon that would warm any grammarian’s heart. The debate over using a serial, or “Oxford”, comma in a list rarely rates a raised eyebrow – let alone raised voices – in polite company. The idea that it would be grounds for divorce is timely, unique, and funny.

Simon:  I don’t know why you think it’s timely, but I agree it’s moderately funny. The drawing is eh. Without reading the caption you can’t tell what emotions are being expressed. I think the woman is supposed to be crossing her arms, but it’s drawn ungracefully. 

Max:  The drawing is a bit inexact in that regard.  She appears to be not at all happy that her lawyer is “man-splaining” why this issue is not grounds for divorce. I’m giving it a 5.

Simon:  I’m not one to defend lawyers, but a male lawyer giving legal advice is not man-splaining. In any case, this is a decent gag and a so-so drawing. I give it 3. By the way, The New Yorker’s own Comma Queen, Mary Norris, did an entertaining video on the use of the serial comma.

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7 of 15: “Beer Hereby P.C. Vey

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Simon: Now here’s a timely cartoon by P.C. Vey. It turns on the popular term “populist”, as compared to the less popular “popular.”

Max:  This picks up on the trend among younger, hipper beer lovers to eschew the high-end European imports for more authentic local brands. What would you call it, Simon, reverse snobbery?

Simon:  I didn’t make that connection. I think it’s just a guy riding the populist wave in whatever small way he can.

Max:  A nice touch from Mr. Vey. I can almost hear the phssssst of a Pabst in the near future. A 4.

Simon:  And I can almost hear Dennis Hopper’s character in “Blue Velvet” calling for a Pabst Blue Ribbon. A 4 for Mr. Vey. 

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8 of 15: “Smells Like Victory” by Kim Warp

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Max:  Kim Warp explores the inner world of stay-at-home moms getting their kids off to school in the morning. I take it her caption is based on the famous line from “Apocalypse Now”, something about the smell of victory in the morning.

Simon:  “I love the smell of napalm in the morning,” spoken by Robert Duvall’s character Kilgore, a name as subtle as Jack D. Ripper from “Dr. Strangelove.” Hm, many movie references we’re citing this week. Anyway, we’ve seen many riffs on that movie quote. Kim Warp’s take is funny and gives expression to the slightly dark side of motherhood, but the speaker knows she’s being funny, so that drops this down to sit-com humor. Nevertheless, I smiled. So a low 3.

Max:  I like your idea that they’re relieved to have dumped off their little monsters; not bad, a 3. Oh, and nice representation of a classic school bus – it brought back mixed associations.

Simon:  It’s a shame your bus driver’s license expired.

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9 of 15: “Unfriended” by Frank Cotham

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Simon: Another Frank Cotham cartoon, another barbarian, and another peasant making another understated comment on the situation.

Max:  Cotham has mined this vein of the marauding invader before, and with success. I have to tell you, Simon, this one left me a little bit flat.

Simon:  There may be a political angle here—a leader laying waste to the land, and the common people starting to catch on.

Max:  In these perilous times, you cant help but look for these kinds of parallels, but I don’t see one. I think its not one of his stronger outings in this genre. I give it a 3. And did you note the chickens crossing the road…to get to the fire?!

Simon:  I think he tossed in the chickens for perspective. I expect better from Mr. Cotham. A 3 is generous.

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10 of 15: “Bye, Bye, Beard” by William Haefali

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Max:  I believe we have a rare dating scene here, Simon. It looks like one of the seasoned participants is coming right out with the dealbreaker: The commitment of her dinner partner to his hirsuiteness.

Simon:  “Entrenched” is the key to the humor here, to make an obvious observation. And you’re right about this being a date—no wedding rings.

Max:  Yes, a well-worded caption for a delicate situation. This blonde clearly knows her way around the dating ritual – note the hand gesture in the center – and conveys her question strongly. Well done, a 4 for me.

Simon:  Beautifully drawn, as usual. Yes, I’ll go for a 4.

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11 of 15: “Cave Creations” by Mick Stevens

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Simon:  This cartoon by Mick Stevens in the pick of the crop. Great gag and visually very strong. The image itself is funny, even without the caption. And he combines two cartoon premises: the invention of the wheel and the comment about a piece of art.

Max:  I confess I laughed out loud when I saw this one. It’s a classic. The caption is a perfect fusing of the caveman conversation and the visual. The caveman artist conveys genuine puzzlement as to why the square wheel is less popular. This is the one cartoon in the issue people will cut out and tape up to their refrigerator or cubicle partition. Im going to wheel out my first 6 in awhile.

Simon:  I’ll go as a high as a 5.  Very funny, very New Yorker. And one who would know, the Mystery New Yorker cartoonist, agrees.

Mystery New Yorker Cartoonist: I picked this cartoon because, foremost, it feels like a New Yorker cartoon (can’t say that too frequently of late). It’s conceptual and saying something but makes me laugh first…as opposed to too frequently trying to figure it out the cartoon before laughing (or throwing the issue across the room). I give this cartoon a 4.

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12 of 15: “New Medical Plan?” by Drew Dernavich

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Max:  Well, just as I go declare the previous cartoon a winner, Drew Dernavich comes along with this very funny switcheroo on the old “the cute nurse will do the surgery and the grizzled doctor will comfort you in the recovery room”. Okay, I realize that’s not on the official Cartoon Cliché list.

Simon:  Sorry to say, Max, but this didn’t do much for me. I had to think too much about it. I kept conjuring images of robots. And what kind of robots? And why would the dog explain the medical plan? What reality is this?

Max:  It’s unexpected to have the adorable doggie promoted to surgeon. What’s the name of the that medical coverage?

Simon:  Blue Dog Shield. Sorry, but you asked.

Max:  It’s an appalling thought that robots would grip your hand throughout convalescence. I suppose they wouldn’t get tired and grouchy. This is the second standout in a row. I give it a 5.

Simon:  I read this as a comment on the inadequacy of many health insurance plans, and I get that the gag is of the switcheroo variety, but I found the whole thing to be a stretch. A high 2.

Max:  Oh Simon, you need to open your heart to cute dogs.

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13 of 15: “Bird Talkby Liana Finck

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Simon:  What is going on here? Okay, parrots can talk, so they’re demanding to be fed, in contrast to dumb pigeons. Am I missing something?

Max:  Ms. Fincks style works well here and I think its a pleasing composition. Unfortunately, the gag didnt go far with me at all. Im caught between a 2 and a 3. How about you Simon?

Simon:  Not hard for me: a 2. Why not draw a parrot? Are parrots not in her artistic repertoire? If this is a finished drawing, what did the rough look like?

Max:  Again, her art style was fine for this cartoon, but the gag … the gag is everything. The humor just didnt resonate with me, so I reluctantly give it a 2. Simon, I’m very curious as to possible style influencers on Ms. Finck. Perhaps one of our readers can help.

Simon:  In fact, we heard from one, who saw the influence of Brian Rea, although I don’t know who influenced whom.

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14 of 15: “Bored Room” by Will McPhail

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Max:  McPhail comes to us with another of his corporate scenes. This one features a nasty prank on a slumbering colleague. Oh, the humanity!

Simon:  The art makes this one work for me. It’s a finely drawn, funny image. A number of possible captions would be fitting, but the one chosen is solid.

Max:  I have a minor issue with the sleeper. He looks more like an opiate overdose victim than a snoozing meeting-goer.

Simon:  Yes, it’s a bit over-the-top for a drawing that is otherwise realistic.

Max:  I’m a fan of McPhail’s illustrative style, but between the somewhat tepid gag and the poor fellow who looks in need of CPR, I have to give it a 3.

Simon:  I like it enough to give it a 4. It conveys the nastiness of corporate behavior nicely.

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15 of 15: “Clown Spot” by Charlie Hankin

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Simon:  I like this one—putting the seltzer prop to a more common use. It’s original and low-key.

Max:  I thought it was too low-key given how these frenetic bozos normally geyser out the seltzer spritzers. That said, I admire the drawing – particularly the depth of the composition created by the spotlighted lion tamer.

Simon:  The contrast between what you expect the clowns to use the seltzer for and what they plan to use it for is where the humor lies. The humor is necessarily low-key. I give it a 4.

Max:  Well, the seltzer notwithstanding, this gag felt a little flat to me. I give it a 3.

Simon:  If that’s a lame pun on seltzer being flat, then I’m ending this right —

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