Max:  You can’t see the subway for the trees on this week’s cover.

Simon:  The magazine can’t seem to get enough of subway drawings.

 

1 of 19: “A Dog’s Day” by Alice Cheng

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Simon:  The first cartoon this week is by Alice Cheng. Instead of an arguing couple we have two dogs, one with his or her head out the car window. I guess the gag draws a parallel between one person removing himself or herself from an argument and a dog poking its head out the window. Is that your reading of it, Max?

Max:  Yes, it’s the equivalent of opting out of an dispute by behaving differently – flibbering your tongue out of a moving car is a good example; I may try it sometime. Dogs are far too cute to get mixed up with the foibles of inane human arguments.

Simon:  There isn’t much to this cartoon. It just substitutes dogs for people and depicts one dog in the familiar head-out-the-window pose. I give this a 2.

Max:  Cartoons should entertain, educate, or at least make you smile. This one did none that, a 2.

For more on Alice Cheng, check out condenaststore.com/Alice-Cheng-Prints 

 

2 of 19: “Generically Framed” by John O’Brien

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Max:  Mr. O’Brien presents the antithesis of the holidays; even the generic family in the frame rejects the arrogant man in his plush office.

Simon:  The gag seems like a variation of other gags involving framed portraits of people who have no relation to the person behind the desk. The photos are simply props. This cartoon is not particularly original.

Max:  Mr. O’Brien’s otherworldly art style creates an atmosphere that supports the concept, but the gag itself is a bit flat and hostile, I give it a 3.

Simon:  Yes, the high overhead shot in the large office emphasizes how isolated this person is. But the gag is so-so. I give this cartoon a 3 as well.

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

 

3 of 19: “My Mustachioed Life” by Sofia Warren

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Simon:  Next is a cartoon by Sofia Warren, who is fairly new to The New Yorker. Frankly, I think this cartoon is contrived and not funny. There’s just too much set up and not enough payoff. First you have to look at the sign and then the two-part caption, which is clunky in itself, and then the interplay between the speaker and the passerby.

Max:  I’m intrigued by Ms. Warren’s artwork; it’s as rich as an impasto painting. The complex flow of passerby was arresting, and the Mustache Man stand to the left is a deft counterbalance.

Simon:  The art is fine, and that saved this cartoon from a 1. I award this a 2.

Max:  I also had issues with how the gag was presented. Is that wide mustache an entity unto itself? I give this a 3 in tribute to her powerful art style.

For more on Sofia Warren, check out https://vimeo.com/sofiawarren

 

4 of 19: “Bakery Theories” by Amy Hwang

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Max:  Amy Hwang comments on her dashed expectations that a neighborhood packed with bakeries would be populated by full-figure residents. Her logic makes sense, right, Simon?

Simon:  I believe Amy Hwang doesn’t want to be thought of as a woman cartoonist, but this is a cartoon that I think women would probably appreciate more than men would. It’s an amusing observation that the average guy would never make.

Max:  The composition is cleanly arranged and sets up well for an arch caption about bakeries and bloated bellies. This cartoon is as sweet as the confections you might find within the bakery, I give this a 3.

Simon:  The drawing is serviceable. As I said, it’s more an observation than anything. I give this a 3 as well.

For more on Amy Hwang, check out amyhwang.com

 

5 of 19: “DEFCON 3…or 4” by Paul Noth

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Simon:  Paul Noth offers a fairly complex scene with a poke at our President. I admit I had to look up “DEFCON”, although one can make a good guess from the context.

Max:  As any enthusiast of strategic military novels knows, DEFCON is an alerting classification system that tops out at a perilous DEFCON 5. This is a “power cartoon” that deploys the full artistic arsenal; it’s worth taking in the detailed depth of scene and and intensity boiling over in the situation room. Of course, the confusing situation is precipitated by another early morning 140 character chirp from @realDonaldTrump.

Simon:  It’s a great drawing, I agree. It makes light of what amounts to an existential struggle between our unhinged commander-in-chief and our more level-headed military. I give this a 4.

Max:  This cartoon powerfully captures the helplessness of our military in the face of tweets-as-policy emanating weekends from our President on golf courses around the country. An impressive scene and devastating caption, I give this a 5.

For more on Paul Noth, check out paulnoth.com

 

6 of 19: “Sanka Very Much” by Maggie Mull

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Max:  Newcomer Maggie Mull lampoons the insipid Folger’s commercial slogan from the 1980s. Those commercials spawned a host of satiric memes on the Internet.

Simon:  Sorry to be harsh on a newcomer, but this cartoon does not meet the magazine’s high standards, both because the drawing is amateurish and the gag, based on an old TV ad, is not worth considering.

Max:  I had trouble getting beyond the sloppy look of the artwork. I do see faint echoes of Liana Finck’s nativist style, but not nearly as well executed. Ultimately, lampooning these decades-old commercials is unrewarding – I give this a 2.

Simon:  And what is that guy wearing? It looks like knee-high socks and a bathrobe—very peculiar and distracting. No, this is a 1.

For more on Maggie Mull, check out http://www.elle.com/author/12686/maggie-mull/

 

7 of 19: “Western With a Twist” by Roz Chast

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Simon:  Next is a Roz Chast cartoon. She presents three drunk buckaroos in a twist on the spaghetti western. It took me a moment to make the connection with the movie genre, especially since there hasn’t been spaghetti western in at least 30 years.

Max:  The spaghetti western launched Clint Eastwood’s fabled movie career. These low-budget westerns were all shot in Italy with local supporting casts. Ms. Chast mixes this concept with two shots of gin for a potent comedic concoction. It’s worth reading all three of these slurred gems.

Simon:  It’s a good gag. I noticed that the wallpaper in this bar is identical to the wallpaper seen in almost every living room she draws. A 4 for me.

Max:  One distinction on the wallpaper, Simon: this variant has solid lines instead of dashed lines. Drunk humor is a feat in the post-MADD era, I give it a 4.

For more on Roz Chast, check rozchast.com

 

8 of 19: “Those Who Know Don’t Talk” by Will McPhail

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Max:  Will McPhail comments on this contemporary-looking couple at an outdoor café. The man throws back his head and makes a startling statement: He’s always wrong if analyzed long enough.

Simon:  Yes, this know-it-all millennial is having a moment of unintended self-awareness. The patient and knowing look of the woman and the arrogant expression of the guy are well done. I guess we’ll be seeing a lot of cartoons where men are the butt of jokes.

Max:  As always with Mr. McPhail’s cartoons, the art work is brilliant – note the sunglasses perched atop the young woman’s head. I’m curious as to the nature of this relationship. She has a ceramic cup, which suggests an order from a waiter. The arrogant chap brought a to-go cup of Starbucks or equivalent.  Hmmm, we’ll never know the rest. The gag is okay and the artwork is brilliant, I give it a 4.

Simon:  While I admire the art, this is more of a sitcom line. I give the cartoon a 3.

For more on Will McPhail, check out willmcphail.com

 

9 of 19: “Airline Announcement” by Mary Lawton

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Simon:  Mary Lawton is up next. We haven’t seen many of her cartoons. The airline announcement is a routine set-up. Does the line pay off, Max?

Max:  It does for me because I’ve done this myself. Regular travelers learn to eschew getting enmeshed in a long, unrewarding conversation that terminates upon landing. Better to appear friendly near the end of the flight, especially if there’s a networking potential. The situational insight here is solid.

Simon:  This is a decent bit of observational humor that evoked a slight smile from me. I give it a 3.

Max:  I also like the way she has chosen her perspective to make the passengers appear squashed together, putting even more pressure on their behavior. I give this a 4.

For more on Mary Lawton, check out https://www.facebook.com/marylawtoncartoons/

 

10 of 19: “Saved, with Misgivings” by Liana Finck

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Max:  Liana Finck tries her hand at the most venerable of all the cartoon clichés – the desert island. She might have missed the boat on this one, Simon.

Simon:  Yes, this is a variation on that theme, namely, the rescue from the desert island. What struck me about the drawing is the lack of contrast between the two stranded castaways. I think the cartoon would have been more effective if the non-speaker were more excited to see the rescue ship. Nevertheless, I like the vagueness of the phrase “bad experience with a boat once.”

Max:  Having seen dozens of cartoons with this theme, I’ve also identified a sub-genre where the rescue occurs with a huge boat looming nearby. I don’t think the drawing conveys much in terms of the predicament, and the caption feels flat. I give it a 2.

Simon:  I agree that the artwork does not help this cartoon, but I like the gag enough to give this a 3.

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

 

11 of 19: “Rancorous Daughter” by Frank Cotham

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Simon:  Next is a cartoon by Frank Cotham, and a bit of a departure for him. This depicts not the usual arguing couple, but a neglectful father and his irritated daughter. Kids usually do not populate Frank’s cartoons, but I suppose this child is a substitute for an angry wife.

Max:  Right, that little girl’s got the outraged posture of a 40-year-old. I can’t help but observe the gent on the Barcalounger could easily pass for one of of Mr. Cotham’s legendary barbarians.

Simon:  Incidentally, I don’t recall seeing stars in the nighttime sky in any of his previous cartoons. It’s a pretty good line. I give this a 4.

Max:  Though caption reads as if spoken by a young girl, the drawing seems to depict a furious middle-aged woman. The teddy bear notwithstanding, the contrast is too jarring. I give this one a 3.

For more on Frank Cotham, check out condenaststore.com/Frank-Cotham

 

12 of 19: “Good Clown, Bad Clown” by Drew Dernavich

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Max:  Drew Dernavich fashions a caption worthy of bumper sticker – if anyone likes clowns, that is.

Simon:  This image demands that you pay attention. It’s bold and wacky and contrasts nicely with the serious message. It’s a sad state of affairs when the term “evil clowns” immediately brings to mind our President and his facilitators.

Max:  The movie arbiter, IMDb, lists over 200 titles under the genre, “Clown Horror Movies”.  Oh, how the funny circus clown has prat-fallen on hard times. Mr. Dernavich’s clowns practically pop off the page with his dense lines and large swaths of solid ebony. The dynamism of the drawing gives even more weight to the caption. I give this a 5.

Simon:  It may not be all that funny, but it is powerful. I also give it a 5.

For more on Drew Dernavich, check out drewdernavich.com

 

13 of 19: “Let’s Get Physical” by Edward Koren

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Simon:  Next is an Edward Koren cartoon. Max, did it bother you that “seminal figure” doesn’t make sense in this context? After all, a seminal figure is someone who is the originator of something.

Max:  A seminal figure is a forefather of a great movement, or a seminal book is one that spawns an entire area of inquiry. The perky character on the exam table hardly seems ready for his 15 minutes of fame as a health paragon.

Simon:  Paragon makes sense, but how can anyone be a seminal figure of wellness? It seems to be the wrong word choice in the caption, which is really shocking in a Koren cartoon. I’m afraid I have to give this a 1, but not as low a 1 as the other cartoon.

Max:  The caption didn’t connect at all for me. I give it a 2.

For more on Frank Cotham, check out condenaststore.com/Frank-Cotham

 

14 of 19: “To Ticket, or Not to Ticket” by P.C. Vey

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Max:  The poet-cop comes to life in P.C. Vey’s roadside scenario. As restitution, must the ticketee attend Driver’s Ed or remedial English classes?

Simon:  This is the funniest cartoon in a weak issue. The driver stopped by the police officer for speeding is number 106 on the Mankoff cartoon cliché list. Cliché or not, the caption is totally unexpected. A great P.C. Vey gag.

Max:  A highway patrolman poet? This cartoon breaks molds, I give it a 5.

Simon:  It’s a solid 5 for me.

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

 

15 of 19: “Kid Conspiracy” by Bruce Eric Kaplan

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Simon:  Bruce Eric Kaplan is next, and he presents two kids, one of whom wants to torture his parents and any other adults. For me, this kid is a little too self-aware for this cartoon to be funny.

Max:  Simon, is this your classic issue with the speaker knowing they’re being funny? Incidentally, I’ve hosted these children’s parties myself, so I find it amusing that they’d actually conspire to make these experiences as excruciating as possible.

Simon:  I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the kid knows that he’s being funny, but he knows of what he speaks. The caption is well-phrased. I give this a 3.

Max:  I like the pose of the speaker who grabs his knees while wrestling with this thorny issue: Chucky E. Cheese or Gymboree? The other co-conspirator is ready to receive this wisdom to perhaps try it on his or her parents. I give this a 4.

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

 

16 of 19: “Santa Regrets” by Farley Katz

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Max:  Oh no, a beardless Kris Kringle looks all wrong in this Farley Katz cartoon.

Simon:  A funny gag, but Santa is not nearly plump enough. At first I thought he was a run-of-the-mill elf. I had other problems with the drawing. Why he drew that sink without regard to perspective is odd, especially since the tub is drawn in perspective. And while I expect Mrs. Clause to share the bathroom, I didn’t think the reindeer enjoyed such privileges.

Max:  Well, Simon, things are little different up there in the North Pole. I did like the fact that he wasn’t as rotund to dramatize the diminishment felt by the barefaced Claus. Mr. Katz provides evidence of the deed by showing whiskers strewn by the sink and on the floor. The caption is concise and conveys a harrowing realization. I think the reindeer makes a funnier witness than Mrs. Claus. I give this a holiday 5.

Simon:  It’s a good gag and a great caption, but the drawing is problematic for me. I give this a 4.

For more on Farley Katz, check out farleykatz.com

 

17 of 19: “Mean Friend” by William Haefeli

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Simon:  Mr. Haefeli presents a scene that is a bit unkind for the season. He’s a great artist, but this gag is a bit jokey for me.

Max:  The bearded guy’s huge features tip us off he’s a jerk. The house host looks like he’s heard similar sentiments and is resigned to a long evening ahead.

Simon:  This kind of catty statement is a bit over-the-top.

Max:  I’m sure the speaker is oblivious of his unintended slights, he’s just full of himself. I’d file this gag under the “Small Suburban Slights” folder, I give it a 3.

Simon:  More mean that funny. I give it a 3.

For more on William Haefeli, check out condenaststore.com/William-Haefeli

 

18 of 19: “Heaven Help Us” by Barbara Smaller

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Max:  The ecclesiastical window and bare bulb chandeliers give Ms. Smaller’s rectory a dusty authenticity. Behind closed doors, an earnest parishioner startles the parson with a strange admission.

Simon:  I wasn’t clear on the setting. At first I thought this is a law office, and the guy behind the desk with a computer is a lawyer ready to draft a will. In any case, the humor seems reminiscent of Mark Twain, who had a few things to say about the folks who end up in heaven, as I recall.

Max:  This is an aphorism you’d expect out of an Oscar Wilde. I’m not really sure why he would share that sentiment with his religious confessor – a rather bizarre insecurity. I give this a 3.

Simon:  I sense a lack of originality with the gag, and the drawing is ambiguous. I give this a low 3.

For more on Barbara Smaller, check out condenaststore.com/Barbara-Smaller

 

19 of 19: “Can You Hear Me Now?” by Jon Adams

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Simon:  The final cartoon, by Jon Adams, is set in a subway. I’d like a one-issue moratorium on subway cartoons.

Max:  I can’t get enough of cell phone etiquette gags myself. The cell phone has dramatically altered behavior in the public sphere. We’ve all had to endure someone braying into a cell phone at a disturbing volume, inflicting everyone with the banality of the sentiments being broadcast.

Simon:  This might be something of a public service cartoon. We could make copies of it and drop it in the laps of people who are engaging in this obnoxious behavior. I give this a 4.

Max:  I like your idea of using this cartoon as a PSA. Would Mr. Adams mind if we passed out a copy of his cartoon to the next violator? I give this a 4 as well.

For more on Jon Adams, check out citycyclops.com/info.php