Max:  The President does not appear to appreciate Michael Flynn’s carolling.

Simon:  Perhaps he’ll enjoy the chorus that will soon join Mr. Flynn.

 

1 of 21: “Kindergarten Tumult” by Edward Koren

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Simon:  Edward Koren depicts a teacher making an announcement to a classroom of youngsters. This cartoon is a variation of cartoons that put adult words in the mouth of a child. Here, the adult delivers adult words to a group of children. The word “deliverables” provides an unexpected comic punch.

Max:  Consultants everywhere will enjoy this cartoon, though it’d be more in keeping with their typical deadlines to have Friday be today’s date (hint: look under the wall clock).

Simon:  Mr. Koren has clearly put a lot of time into this drawing, but it made me a little dizzy looking at all of the elements he includes. Interestingly, the small children are perfectly still and the only animated figure is the teacher. The humor is wry, in The New Yorker manner. I give this a 4.

Max:  Mr. Koren aptly captures the dizzying tumult of a kindergarten classroom; however, the teacher spouts off about “deliverables”, a gag that in itself doesn’t quite deliver the goods. I give this a 3.

For more on Edward Koren, check out edwardkoren.com

 

2 of 21: “Wrong Fight” by Tom Chitty

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Max:  Tom Chitty’s speaker is exasperated that “John” misunderstood the invitation. Well, so did I! John is holding a wooden spoon – what kind of fight was he expecting? Confusing.

Simon:  I guess that’s the point of the gag. Tom Chitty’s graphic style is the polar opposite of Ed Koren’s. This is a spare drawing with a white background and two boldly drawn figures. I’m confused about the relationship between these guys. They seem to be on a friendly, first name basis, so what’s the reason for the altercation? I also wasn’t sure who sent the email. The whole thing doesn’t quite add up for me.

Max:  Confusion reigns supreme in this cartoon. The fella on the right might have sent the email, or someone else in their goofy “gang”. And why does John bring a wooden spoon?! To enter as a contestant in the Great British Bake-Off? At this point I don‘t care anymore, I give this a 2.

Simon:  Bringing a spoon to a knife fight has comic possibilities, but this cartoon doesn’t make the point well. A nominal 2.

For more on Tom Chitty, check out drawnbytom.com

 

3 of 21: “A Doctor’s Assurance” by David Sipress

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Simon:  The next cartoon, by David Sipress, has the familiar setting of a doctor updating a worried spouse of the patient’s condition. This caption is simply one poetic, extended metaphor.

Max:  The surgeon updating the family is a classic scene, and here the doc allows his college liberal arts background free reign. The caption is well constructed as it takes a humorous detour after the familiar initial phrase. But is such serious business funny?

Simon:  Sure—the hospital scene is a common setup. The cartoon takes a common phrase and makes it ridiculous. I give it a 4.

Max:  Yup, I get the riffing on the “out of the woods” part, but I found this situation difficult from which to extract humor. I give this a 3.

 

4 of 21: “Jittery Barista” by Will McPhail

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Max:  You have to look closely to find the gag in this over-caffeinated cartoon by Will McPhail.

Simon:  The message is SOS, and the barista certainly looks like he needs help, but I’m unsure what he is to be saved from—perhaps a job that he hates?

Max:  Based on the barista’s bulging eyes, I’d say he’s in the grip of terminal caffeine addiction. It’s a great drawing, but the gag doesn’t quite connect with me. I give it a 3.

Simon:  SOS signals a life-threatening situation, not simple excessive stimulation. The artwork saves this from being a 1, so I give it a 2.

For more on Will McPhail, check out willmcphail.com

 

5 of 21: “Say It Ain’t So, Santa!” by John Klossner

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Simon:  Next is a cartoon by John Klossner that is both seasonal and political. I thought this was a great twist on learning the truth about Santa from the perspective not of a child but of two disillusioned, middle-aged people.

Max:  This cartoon’s got a number of excellent attributes and they all come together in a solid cartoon. It’s seasonal, bitingly topical, a little nostalgic, and very funny.

Simon:  This is hard-hitting and clever. I give it a 5.

Max:  And I match your 5.

For more on John Klossner, check out www.jklossner.com

 

6 of 21: “Dry Cleaner’s Jab” by P.C. Vey

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Max:  P.C. Vey’s dry cleaner has skills and a major attitude.

Simon:  This is a caption with an unexpected twist that lands solidly on the word “slob”.

Max:  The customer’s head is massively distorted, almost like an Easter Island sculpture. I like the vinegary approach of the proprietor – if you don’t like it, go somewhere else. I give it a 4.

Simon:  It’s an aggressive style of humor. I think Mr. Vey pulled it off well. I give it a solid 4 as well.

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

 

7 of 21: “Recalculating Route” by Kim Warp

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Simon:  Next is a cartoon by Kim Warp, a cartoonist I much admire and whose work we have not seen enough of. The strong drawing illustrates the gag well.

Max:  The composition is a dramatic nightscape, pierced by prison klieg lights. I have a minor issue with the jail-breakers: why did the escapee holding the phone expect his fellow felon to have shut off location services?

Simon:  I think you’re thinking too hard about this one, Max. This cartoon gives a technological twist on the old prison break cartoon concept. I give it a 4.

Max:  The composition is brilliant. I think it would’ve been a cleaner gag if the fellow coming out of the hole was holding the cell phone. Nonetheless, well done, I give this a 4.

For more on Kim Warp, check out warpcartoons.com

 

8 of 21: “Dinner Guest” by Edward Steed

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Max:  Mr. Steed’s cocktail party is about to get unruly. The tuxedoed lion has a jaundiced eye out for that zebra in the necktie.

Simon:  Quite a departure from Ed Steed’s usual artistic style. There’s much more detail and less grotesquerie in all of these characters. The diagonal of white space between the lion and the zebra is excellent.

Max:  Mr. Steed is the master of disguise with a grand total of 17 characters obscuring the incipient eruption from the lion. Oh, and having the lion ask his cocktail party companion to hold his wine for a moment? That’s a nice touch, I give this of 4.

Simon:  I enjoyed how this cartoon depicts the moment before mayhem erupts. I give this a 5.

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

 

9 of 21: “The Language of Sleep” by Maggie Larson

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Simon:  Next is an interesting illustration by Maggie Larson. This one spells out what an insomniac experiences hour by hour.

Max:  This is a visually pleasing representation of an awful night’s sleep. I have to say the “W“ pose looks least likely to induce slumber.

Simon:  Yes, some of these poses look a bit more like what you might find in a yoga class. Nevertheless, quite imaginative. I give this a 4.

Max:  I think this is a breakthrough cartoon for Ms. Larson. It features a strong visual language and a unique approach to the slumber conundrum. I give this a 5.

For more on Maggie Larson, check out maggiejanelarson.com/cartoons/

 

10 of 21: “Lady or Tiger or Both” by Joe Dator

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Max:  Mr. Dator’s caption progresses nicely from the door choice to the King’s tiger storage problems.

Simon:  The lady-or-the-tiger cartoon, based on the famous short story, is one we’ve seen before. This one uses anticlimax to bring home the humor.

Max:  Anticlimax? Do explain, Simon.

Simon:  Well, he moves from a life-or-death situation to something as banal as storage space.

Max:  This 1882 short story, by Frank Stockton, has become synonymous with an unsolvable problem. It sounds like the King’s tiger storage issue has become equally perplexing. I give a 4.

Simon:  I give it a high 4, and I encourage people to read our interview with Joe Dator.

For more on Joe Dator, check out joedator.com

 

11 of 21: “Back Pain Under the Big Tent” by Paul Noth

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Simon:  Next is a Paul Noth cartoon with a circus theme. Instead of being shot out of a cannon, this guy is about to undergo a CT exam.

Max:  Here’s another grand scale composition by Mr. Noth, set in that dying institution – the circus. Now that animals are verboten under the big top, why not feature an open MRI medical device?

Simon:  I feel this is a contrived concept for a cartoon. I realize it’s combining a highly dramatic act—being shot out of cannon—with something completely passive, but so what? I give this a 2.

Max:  You don’t see the entertainment value of watching a middle-aged man slowly extruded from a large box? Neither would thousands of circus-goers. It’s an okay gag and a wonderfully dramatic drawing. I give it a 3.

For more on Paul Noth, check out paulnoth.com

 

12 of 21: “Destination: Doreenia” by Roz Chast

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Max:  Roz Chast has created a new nation called Doreenia. We are now informed of that nation’s characteristics in the style of a grade school geography book.

Simon:  Talk about elevating the banal! Each of these four images is funny, but my favorites are chief imports and chief exports.

Max:  Yes, the raw materials flow in and the finished products flow out – primarily as gifts. I doubt Doreenia will be the hot new destination this season, but the concept is funny and endearingly executed. I give this one a 4.

Simon:  I think this is one of the best Roz Chast cartoons we’ve seen in a few months. She created a world based on a single, dull person. I give this a 5.

For more on Roz Chast, check out rozchast.com

 

13 of 21: “Parity Pooper” by William Haefeli

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Simon:  Next is a William Haefeli cartoon, beautifully drawn as always. The Christmas tree seems to glisten. The cartoon turns on a child using an adult term.

Max: I can hardly fault the young lady for crying foul; look at her brother’s towering stack of presents! Actually, look at the entire drawing. This composition is riveting, from the festooned bannister to just-woke parents and everything in between.

Simon:  I give this a 5, primarily based on the artwork, although the gag is pretty solid, too.

Max:  Yes, a strong inequality gag and stunning artwork, I give this a 5 as well.

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

 

14 of 21: “Crummy Cookie” by Liana Finck

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Max:  Liana Finck reveals the origin of oatmeal raisin cookies. Though far from my favorite cookie, this gag seems entirely plausible. I especially like the mental picture of grapes slowly desiccating throughout the night to become raisins.

Simon:  I don’t think oatmeal raisin cookies are anyone’s favorite, Max. They are always a disappointment to bite into when one is expecting chocolate chips.

Max:  If only Grandma had chucked them in the trash. Oh, well, serendipitous discovery is the stuff of legend. It’s a fun concept and creates a mental narrative, I give this a 4.

Simon:  It’s a harsh but fair indictment of the maligned oatmeal raisin cookie. I also give it a 4.

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

 

15 of 21: “Three-Martini Interrogation” by Harry Bliss

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Simon:  Next, Harry Bliss presents us with the third-degree scenario with a twist of lemon. I like the smirk on that bartender’s face.

Max:  Here’s an intriguing twist on a well-known police theme – bad cop, good bartender. With three nicely chilled martinis in a row, the perp will be singing like a bird in no time.

Simon:  Yes, like a drunken bird. Funny concept and excellent drawing. It’s a high 4 for me.

Max:  I can envision this cartoon going up on police department cubicle walls across the nation, I give this one a 5.

For more on Harry Bliss, check out harrybliss.com

 

16 of 21: “Frasier by Default” by Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell

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Max:  Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell explores a new way to get the most out of your Netflix account. The gag mocks Netflix’s approach of suggesting content to subscribers based on previously watched material.

Simon:  First, this is nominally a cartoon, so it’s difficult to apply our usual criteria. Even the graphics for Netflix and Frasier are just copies. Second, there is a lot to go through to get to the punchline, Frasier.

Max:  I found this piece to be halfway between a cartoon and a Shouts & Murmurs piece. Reading through all of the items is like employing a fuzzy logic algorithm to wade through the overwhelming content choices available. As a test, go back and read through the checked boxes…yes! They do add up to Frasier, although the show’s creators might not be pleased. I give it a 4, it was worth the effort.

Simon:  Frasier, like Friends, is one of those generic yet popular sitcoms, so I see it as a knock on that TV show. As for the categories, there are too many of them and not enough funny ones. But why even call this a cartoon? I give it a 2.

For more on Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell, check out cartoonsbyhilary.com

 

17 of 21: “Snow Joke” by Sara Lautman

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Simon:  Next is a cartoon by Sarah Lautman, which I took to be a variation on the theme of the scoutmaster telling ghost stories to young scouts, although here we have snowmen.

Max:  The two earnest snowboys are roasting marshmallows as they lean forward to hear some tale. Of course they don’t melt, this isn’t real; instead, we listen to a harrowing story…about carrots.

Simon:  I had several problems with this cartoon. First, the storyteller is almost the same size as the other two characters, and I would think that the adult should be quite a bit larger. Second, there’s no snow on the ground, so why are there snowmen here? Third, the listeners should be petrified from fright, not looking on interestedly while roasting marshmallows. Finally, the caption is unjustifiably long for such a weak gag. A nominal 2.

Max:  This is a summertime camping scene involving snowpeople – I’m OK with an absurd construct. And the caption works for me because the food industry has been hoodwinking consumers by implying trendy food components – like antioxidants – possess unrealistically beneficial health benefits. This cartoon works well for me, I give it a 4.

For more on Sara Lautman, check out saralautman.com

 

18 of 21: “A Matter of Tone” by Tom Cheney

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Max:  In true philosophical tradition, Tom Cheney searches for an honest man…in a bar! And then he gave up and switched to discontinued toner cartridges. Incidentally, Simon, does this bar scene remind you of the late, great Leo Cullum?

Simon:  Mr. Collum liked bar scenes, but I recognize a Tom Cheney cartoon instantly. I think he’s one of the great working cartoonist, and I can’t understand why more of his work does not appear in The New Yorker. In this cartoon we find Diogenes with his lantern improbably seated in a bar. That unplugged copier is a hilarious addition to this picture.

Max:  In our ceaseless search for the finest cartoons, I think this piece is representative of a great New Yorker tradition. I give this a 5.

Simon:  I’m with you there, Max. Not only is this a fine drawing, but the caption is perfectly worded. “Discontinued toner cartridge” is about the least likely phrase an ancient Greek would utter. I give this a 5 as well.

For more on Tom Cheney, check out https://condenaststore.com/collections/new+yorker+cartoons/tom-cheney

 

19 of 21: “Final Photo Op” by Zachary Kanin

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Simon:  Zachary Kanin offers a seasonal cartoon that does not provide much holiday cheer.

Max:  Yes, but it’s deeply funny. The normally grim executioner is going about his grizzly work when he stops and pops a smile for a photo op. And a Christmas wreath noose? Blasphemous, yet funny.

Simon:  It’s quite a combination of gruesomeness and silliness, and not a little disturbing. I give it a 4.

Max:  Perhaps I’ll contact Mr. Kanin about using this as my Christmas card, I give this a 5.

For more on Zachary Kanin, check out newyorker.com/contributors/zachary-kanin

 

20 of 21: “Rocketship Down” by Pia Guerra

Sorry–this cartoon has not been made available by The New Yorker Cartoon Bank.

Max:  An earnest young man addresses his equally earnest colleagues about ginning up a post-mortem. I can’t help but think this group looks like the cast of “The Book of Mormon”.

Simon:  This cartoon seems to be set in the 1960s, based on the appearance of these NASA technicians. Also odd is that everyone has a boyish appearance, except perhaps the guy on the right with a receding hairline. This cartoon is by a new cartoonist, Pia Guerra. She has a strong artistic style, and the drawing is well rendered, but I found those elements a little off.

Max:  The drawing is great, but the caption is too subtle. The Challenger and Columbia disasters loom behind this gag and cast a pall over the humor. I still give it a 3 for the drawing and general concept.

Simon:  The gag turns on the recent phenomenon of taking a nonjudgmental approach to obvious mistakes that in fact require critical evaluation and faultfinding. I give this a 3 as well.

For more on Pia Guerra, check out hellkitty.com

 

21 of 21: “It’s a Wrap” by Carolita Johnson

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Simon:  The final cartoon is by Carolita Johnson. It’s a bold illustration of a pigeon that thinks it heard something enticing. This cartoon may be best appreciated by city dwellers, who are used to the ubiquity of pigeons.

Max:  Anyone who’s lunched al fresco in Manhattan knows the automatic attraction of pigeons. The phrase, “soft rustle of a sandwich wrapper” makes for a sublime caption.

Simon:  The giant bird in a man’s suit is both funny and surreal. I give this a high 4.

Max:  Yes, the bespoke suit and well-groomed look of the pigeon give it a sleek, vulture-like quality. The slight menace of the pigeon and contrasting irritation of his office mate create a taut dynamic. I give it a 4 as well.

For more on Carolita Johnson, check out carolitajohnson.squarespace.com