Max:  This week’s cover suggests that the true New Yorker can never feel comfortable beyond the city limits.

Simon:  You can take the New Yorker out of the city, but you can’t take the neuroses out of the New Yorker.

 

 

1 of 19: “Mr. Tater Tot” by Danny Shanahan

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Simon:  First is a Danny Shanahan cartoon that has reduced Mr. Potato Head to simply Mr. Tater Tot. An excellent illustration, don’t you think, Max?

Max:  Yes, I think this Mr. Potato Head variant is well-conceived and executed, though at first I thought his eye looked like a large fried egg.

Simon:  It’s interesting how Tater Tots have entered the public imagination, perhaps due to the popularity of the movie “Napoleon Dynamite”, which prominently featured that delicacy. In any case, Mr. Shanahan selected some funny items to decorate his tot: a single shoe and eye and the lovely derby hat. This cartoon combines a strong illustration with a solid gag. I give it a 5.

Max:  Like the word “chicken”, “Tater Tot” is just an inherently funny term. I give this one a 4.

For more on Danny Shanahan, check out newyorker.com/contributors/danny-shanahan

 

2 of 19: “Avant Garde Disease” by Jason Adam Katzenstein

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Max: Jason Adam Katzenstein shows up on time for his appointment in the exam room. A nice take on the classic cartoon trope; this time the physician announces that the patient has a “very hip disease”, presumably unrelated to his actual hip joint.

Simon:  Those poor hipsters, the butt of so many jokes these days, but I guess that’s better than baby boomers being the butt of jokes. It’s a pretty solid gag.

Max:  He captured the hipster outfit fairly well, although the un-hip glasses make the him look slightly homeless. Regardless, the scene is cleanly laid out and the caption sturdily phrased. I give this a 3.

Simon:  I like it a bit more than you, and I give it a 4, although I’m not sure what an eye chart is doing in a GP’s office.

For more on Jason Adam Katzenstein, check out jasonkatzenstein.tumblr.com

 

3 of 19: “Good Catch!” by Michael Maslin

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Simon:  Next up is a Michael Maslin cartoon with a baseball theme. Quite a few baseball cartoons in The New Yorker, certainly more than any other sport. I’m not including the game of golf. Did you like this one, Max?

Max:  I did. I’ve never seen anyone wearing oven mitts actually catch a flying oven! And though extruciatingly heavy, the fielder seems to have caught the airborne behemoth cleanly.

Simon:  I like the drawing and I’m a fan of Michael Maslin’s cartoons, but I thought this was a little too cute and a little forced. I’m going to give it a middle 3.

Max: I particularly liked the posture of the fielder explaining why he launched the appliance skyward. I give it a 4.

For more on Michael Maslin, check out michaelmaslin.com

 

4 of 19: “Saved, Sort of” by Tom Toro

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Max:  Tom Toro certainly thinks the deserted island cartoon cliche has yet to run its course – he takes a “Love Boat” approach to this variation. What did you think of this version, Simon?

Simon:  This is a meta-cartoon if there ever was one. It’s a funny, straightforward gag. Mr. Toro took some artistic liberties in drawing the boat so small.

Max:  I believe he made that choice to bring the captain fairly close to the marooned desert islander in order to crack wise with an appreciative audience behind him. I think this is an imaginative re-imagining of this endlessly portrayed trope. I give it a 4.

Simon:  I agree, and I also give it a 4.

For more on Tom Toro, check out tomtoro.com/cartoons

 

5 of 19: “What Was That You Said?” by Kate Curtis

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Simon:  Next up is a cartoon by a relative newcomer, Kate Curtis. I scratched my head a bit with this one. My read on it was that the mom has to shout over the noise of her three demanding kids to make an important announcement that’s based on the fact that she has to deal with three screaming kids. Is that your interpretation, Max?

Max:  Yes, it was. The wide-open wailing mouths of the two children facing us certainly pumps up the volume in the room. I found it disquieting to have the mother issue this devastating pronouncement with a Mona Lisa smile. Did you see it that way as well, Simon?

Simon:  Yes, and even more puzzling is the husband’s bland expression. Not only does he seemed unfazed by her statement, he seems unperturbed by the screaming kiddies. I didn’t find this funny. I give it a 2.

Max:  I thought the image and gag were stronger than you did, Simon. I think this is a powerful – though not necessarily funny – cartoon. I give it a 3.

For more on Katie Curtis, check out cluestolife.wordpress.com

 

6 of 19: “Hopscotch Reality” by Maddie Dai

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Max:  Maddie Dai gives it to us right between the eyes with the real world future facing these tots. It’s quite stark, but the cleanly illustrated cartoon is brought home with a snappy caption.

Simon:  It’s a hard-hitting cartoon, inserting existential angst into a children’s world. It’s a good idea with a crisp caption, but the problem for me is the drawing. The overhead view is needed so that you can read the hopscotch words, but if you’re going to do that, then you need to be consistent and draw the children from an overhead view.

Max:  I tend to disagree. I think she has chosen to “flatten” the plane as many post-impressionist artists did for decades. I also think it works very well in terms of iconography: the chalk drawing connects the children like a teeter totter; the “DEATH” outline resembles a tombstone; and the “WORK” outlines suggest a cross. This cartoon is visually strong and well captioned. I give this a 5.

Simon:  I like the gag but not the drawing. I give it a 3.

For more on Maddie Dai, check out maddie-dai.com

 

7 of 19: “Vegan Hansel and Gretel” by Liana Finck

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Simon:  Next up is a Liana Finck cartoon with a play on the Hansel and Gretel fairytale. Fairytales are a common theme in New Yorker cartoons, of course. This time she introduces a couple of urban health-conscious folks.

Max:  Indeed, and kale is the new stand-in for eating all of one’s vegetables. In fact, Roz Chast had a cartoon recently that featured a tombstone reading, “I Can’t Believe I Ate All That Kale for NOTHING.”  Chast cartoon

Simon:  Yes, kale seems to be the cartoon vegetable du jour. It’s a decent gag and, as usual, idiosyncratically drawn. I give this a 3.

Max:  I think it’s well laid out, and she’s got her usual Matisse collage trees in the background. I think she captured the joggers well with the headband, water bottles, and exercise togs. It’s okay, kale’s an easy target, I give it a 3. Incidentally, the witch would have a difficult time fattening up the “Gretel” jogger on a diet of kale and water.

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

 

8 of 19: “The King of Plaid” by Sara Lautman

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Max:  Sara Lautman detonates an explosion of color in her King Madras cartoon. This cartoon probably had The New Yorker graphics people working overtime.

Simon:  This is a great example of how artwork makes the cartoon work in a way that a simple joke would never work. It’s a nice take on King Midas. You might think that there would be a lot of King Midas cartoons in The New Yorker, but I checked and there are surprisingly few.

Max:  Not only is everything he touches with his hands converted to plaid, but his foot gets into the act as well. The family photo on the wall is also amusing. I give this one a 4.

Simon:  A good gag and fine drawing. I give this a high 4.

For more on Sara Lautman, check out saralautman.com

 

9 of 19: “Beware!” by Edward Steed

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Simon:  This Ed Steed cartoon is peopled by a panoply of horrid folks, some smiling deviously and others scowling, but they all fall into the category of bastards.

Max:  We know Edward Steed to be the cartoon world’s Prince of Darkness, and this one is no exception. On the other hand, this cartoon is a bit unfocused – the characters are randomly scattered around.

Simon:  I agree, Max. These people could be placed in other Steed cartoons that are more focused. I also thought it was odd to include a yoga practitioner on the far left—not sure how that person could be considered a bastard. The house looks like it was drawn by a child, and while I realize that a naive style usual works in his cartoons, I think he could have spent a little more time drawing the house, even though it’s not the focus of the cartoon. I give this a 3.

Max:  The cartoon might have been more effective if the characters were lined up in a gauntlet. This one felt a bit flat, I give it a 3 as well.

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

 

10 of 19: “Truth or Despair” by Emily Flake

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Max:  Emily Flake brings us a cartoon depicting middle-aged participants in a game of Truth or Dare. The facial expressions of the group perfectly illustrate the last word of the caption, “fraught.”

Simon:  Yes, and the body language of everyone here speaks of uncomfortableness and even despair—a sad commentary on the the baby boomer generation that we were referring to earlier.

Max:  Yes, and the look of outright shame on the woman in the bottom right. The wine glasses are nearly empty; clearly this got out of hand. I think this is the best Emily Flake cartoon I‘ve seen. I give this one a 5.

Simon:  It’s funny and compelling. I give this a 4.

For more on Emily Flake, check out emilyflake.com

 

11 of 19: “In a Pickle” by Julia Suits

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Simon:  Next is a cartoon by Julia Suits, a cartoonist whose work I enjoy, but we haven’t seen much of in the magazine of late. It’s a strong image and her style is easily recognizable. What did you think, Max?

Max:  This cartoon has tremendous kinetic energy, not the least of which is provided by the whirling tornado. The woman’s anxiety is imparted by her hair sweeping straight back, in contrast with the static seated cat. Well done, and a very fine caption.

Simon:  Yes, the black cat is solid and solitary and contrasts with the blackness where the tornado touches down. A funny, understated gag and well-executed all around. I give this a 5.

Max:  We are in agreement, a 5. I also like the name of the cat, “Pickles.” And the Mystery New Yorker Cartoonist shares our enthusiasm:

Mystery New Yorker Cartoonist:  The best cartoon in this week’s issue is this tornado one by Julia Suits. Suits has been sorely missed these past years, but she’s back with this fine effort. Nice to see a cartoon that is not intentionally, or unintentionally, poorly drawn. I would say it deserves a 5.

For more on Julia Suits, check out juliasuits.net

 

12 of 19: “Say Ahh…ugh” by P.S. Mueller

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Max:  P.S. Mueller gives us a carney-style that’s a touch reminiscent of a perverse Charles Schulz variant on Lucy’s therapy stand. What did you think of the preposterous tongue, Simon?

Simon:  P.S. Mueller often comes up with some pretty bizarre images, and this one certainly falls into that category. I don’t recall other of his cartoons that include color, but the color here works. It’s strange, but I like it.

Max:  Yes, it’s a little disturbing and unsettling. I noted the tongue is not lascivious, just a giant beached creature speckled with taste receptacles. Yuck, I’ll give this one a low 3.

Simon:  I like the word “unsee”, on which the cartoon turns. I give this a 4.

Max:  Indeed, the “unsee” part connects well with the poor fella with his arm flung against this face – I’ll upgrade this to a high 3.

For more on P.S. Mueller, check out psmueller.com

 

13 of 19: “Party Regrets” by Kendra Allenby

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Simon:  Next is a cartoon by another a relative newcomer, Kendra Allenby, and it features a couple of young women who have entered an adult apartment when they themselves have not yet entered that stage.

Max:  This cartoon has a “Friends” TV show feel to it, but I liked the drawing. I think she captured the foreground conversation, which in turn, invited you to divine what is “adult” about the apartment. Simon, what illustrated the adultness of this place?

Simon:  Well, first I think the drawing is a bit cluttered, but to answer your question, you can see books and paintings or decorations on the wall, as well as what we used to call “real” furniture, as opposed to say crates or something found on the street. I agree with you that this is a sitcom line, and for that reason I have to downgrade it.

Max:  Agreed, it’s not in the attire of the gatherers, more the decorative details in the arrangement. I did notice that the one fellow in the back right appears to be spilling his drink.

Simon:  I noticed that, and I thought it was an odd distraction. And the woman with her arm raised also seems to be very animated for some unknown reason, and that also is distracting. I give this a 2.

Max:  I’m guessing she’s the hostess being her vivacious self. I like the direction of this piece, I give it a 3.

For more on Kendra Allenby, check out twitter.com/kendrasita

 

14 of 19: “Meme Memes” by Farley Katz

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Max:  Farley Katz brings us a cartoon set in NYC called “The Meme District”, an area dedicated to imitation.

Simon:  The curious phenomenon of memes is a ripe target for cartoonists. I guess the point of this one is that they have become part of the cultural landscape.

Max:  Speaking of imitation, I noted an homage to the great R. Crumb in the “Keep on Memein” billboard. In terms of the advertised items, my favorite is “Dank Memes” in the bottom left. An imitative variant of the dive bar? I give this a 3. What was your favorite, Simon?

Simon:  Meme Lord & Taylor is not bad, but none of them did much for me. I give it a low 3.

For more on Farley Katz, check out farleykatz.com

 

15 of 19: “Grandma Down” by Lars Kenseth

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Simon:  Up next is a cartoon by Lars Kenseth, who we’ve seen more and more of in The New Yorker. It’s a powerful drawing. The caption seems almost like a Borscht Belt line, but it’s pretty funny.

Max:  This is the best gag that I’ve seen to date from Mr. Kenseth. It manages to amp up the old grandma joke “Oh, don’t bother turning on the light, I’ll just sit here in the dark.” The line about the disappointing son is a humorous choice, and punches the gag up nicely. I’d also mention Grandma doesn’t look horribly pathetic, so we don’t feel too guilty as viewers.

Simon:  It’s a little jokey, but the joke lands well, so I give it a 4.

Max:  I’m with you there, Simon, a 4 as well.

For more on Lars Kenseth, check out patreon.com/larskenseth

 

16 of 19: “Nuclear Dress Codes” by Tom Chitty

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Max:  Mr. Chitty presents a cartoon that’s all titles and quite timely given our current fraught situation with North Korea.

Simon:  It’s an unlikely and therefore funny combination of nuclear codes and dress codes, and observes the Rule of Three. Mutually assured destruction becomes “Mutually Assured Black Tie”. I’m not sure which military term “Risky Business Casual” derives from, but it’s funny. And unilateral is a term one associates with the the military and arms, so that worked pretty well too.

Max:  Yes, the play on the unilateral disrobing/unilateral disarming is a nice touch. I might have reversed the order; I thought the “Mutually Assured Black Tie” was the funniest of the three. I also wasn’t 100% sure of the “Risky Business Casual” joke, but it didn’t seem to matter. I give this one a 4.

Simon:  I like the last one because it’s the simplest and one might say barest cartoon. I give this a 4 as well.

For more on Tom Chitty, check out drawnbytom.com

 

17 of 19: “Dry Humor” by Bruce Eric Kaplan

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Simon:  We have a Bruce Eric Kaplan cartoon that may be the starkest of his many stark cartoons. We’re in the bleak landscape of his imagination, and the world’s driest croissant occupies a central position.

Max:  Speaking of a bleak landscape, I took this location to be the Sahara Desert in order to imagine the driest of all croissants. And, Simon, why would one want a dry croissant?

Simon:  One certainly would not want one. I suspect Mr. Kaplan would like the world to know that dry croissants are one of his pet peeves.

Max:  Perhaps this cartoon was in response to an unhappy café experience? Regardless, it is a little too stark for me, I give this a 2.

Simon:  I think it’s funny enough to merit a low 3, but I like to see a little more in my cartoons than what’s been depicted.

For more on Bruce Eric Kaplan, check out bruceerickaplan.com

 

18 of 19: “The Old Man and the Casserole” by Paul Noth

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Max:  Mr. Noth presents a Hemingwayesque theme that starts with the old man, the sea, and then improbably adds the well-meaning neighbor. What did you think of this one, Simon?

Simon:  This certainly is a New Yorker type of cartoon, in that it takes a classic work of literature and brings it down to size by adding a very banal element. “Casserole” is a funny word in this context.

Max:  Yes, “casserole” was a fine choice. I think he evoked the right literary atmosphere with the nice, dark ink washes. I give this a 4.

Simon:  It’s a pretty mainstream cartoon but well done. I give it a 4 as well.

For more on Paul Noth, check out paulnoth.com

 

19 of 19: “Tick Time” by Harry Bliss

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Simon:  And to close the issue, we have a Harry Bliss cartoon that was probably inspired by his environs, since he lives in New Hampshire and, in fact, in J.D. Salinger’s former abode I read.

Max:  Mr. Bliss has taken a grand sweep of landscape, a classic romantic interaction of the two ardent lovers, and then wrecked the entire mood with the last two words.

Simon:  The guy in the cartoon sounds like a Lake District poet until the inevitable let-down. This is another example of a highflown idea brought down by banal basics. It’s beautifully drawn as usual. I give it a 4.

Max:  A classic presentation and gag, I give this a 4 as well.

For more on Harry Bliss, check out harrybliss.com