Max:   “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night …”

Simon:  “stays the pizza delivery guy from the swift completion of his appointed round.”

 

1 of 13: “Bell Rope Freakout” by P.C. Vey

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

Simon:  The first cartoon is by P.C. Vey. This cartoon struck me as a bit more whimsical than what we’re used to seeing from him.

Max:  There’s a fundamental logic breakdown here – why hold a place in line when you’re taking off for the future?

Simon:  I had not even considered that logical conundrum, Max. But perhaps you’re thinking too hard about this cartoon. I thought it was a fine comment on urban life and what we would rather be doing, but it lacked the absurdity I expect from a P.C. Vey cartoon. I give this a 3.

Max:  Thinking too much about cartoons? Impossible! Mr. Vey had good intentions illustrating this existential urban dilemma, but it didn’t quite pan out for me. I give it a 2.

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

 

2 of 13: “Chit-Chat Tornado” by Sofia Warren

The New Yorker Cartoon Bank came up empty. You’ll need to see this cartoon in the magazine.

Max:  The “Small Talk Vortex” becomes especially treacherous during the holidays. Did you fall prey to this phenomenon, Simon?

Simon:  It is my practice never to talk to anyone over the holidays. This cartoon has a strong graphic element, but the gag is weak. Part of the problem is that each of the three captions is necessarily banal, so there’s nothing particularly funny that any of these folks are saying.

Max:  Well, banal banter is the point of the cartoon. I like Ms. Warren‘s title, “Smalltalk Vortex”, and I especially like the woman clinging for dear life to the wall. I expect she‘s an introvert who’s dreading the swirl of holiday chitchat. I give it a holiday season 4. 

Simon:  The subject is ripe for cartooning, and the illustration is good, but it didn’t come together as a cartoon. I give a 2.

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

 

3 of 13: “Someday, Son, This Will All Be Yours” by Paul Noth

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Simon:  Next is a cartoon by Paul Noth. The setup is one we’ve seen before in cartoons, and I’m also reminded of a scene in “Monty Python’s Holy Grail”. We have the father overseeing the industries and advising his son about what the future may bring.

Max:  I hereby nominate the “Someday, son, this will all be yours” theme to the official Cartoon Cliché List. In this cartoon, Mr. Noth lampoons the business tycoon who has hundreds of fake companies to befuddle the IRS. Look at the poor boy leaning forward uncomprehendingly; he’s got a lot to learn about the “real world”.

Simon:  Yes, and I like the generations past in framed portraits. It was a good take on this cartoon cliché. I give it a 4.

Max:  The array of corporate founders on the left counterbalances the off-center father and son tableau–a 4 as well.

For more on Paul Noth, check out paulnoth.com

 

4 of 13: “Michelin Man 86’ed” by Jon Adams

Once again, The New Yorker Cartoon Bank fails to deliver.

Max:  Jon Adams depicts a brave restaurateur about to turn away the Michelin Man food critic, sash or no sash. No shirt, no service, right, Simon?

Simon:  Yes, the Michelin Man has met his match. Frankly I never gave a thought to the sash on the Michelin Man. I always just imagine his inflated tire body. So for me that the gag wasn’t as hard-hitting as it could have been. I also think the pose of the restaurant owner is a little stiff.

Max:  Well, she certainly bristles with principles! I couldn’t help but note this composition appears to have been carried out on an iPad. The razor straight lines and mottling of the wash suggest an electronic drawing app. No matter, we judge ’em the same. I like the Michelin Man concept, though a bit hazy on the logic. I give this a 4.

Simon:  This just barely misses the mark. I give it a 3.

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

 

5 of 13: “Marital Standoff” by Teresa Burns Parkhurst

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Simon:  Next is a cartoon by Teresa Burns Parkhurst, who is making a mark for herself with regular appearances in The New Yorker. Here, we have the husband and wife set-up, where the husband defends himself, possibly adequately in his mind, but certainly not in her mind.

Max:  Yes, the classic husband–wife miscommunication standoff. My initial glimpse of the cartoon conveyed the wife was the speaker. Did you have that confusion, Simon?

Simon:  Not at all, Max. She’s clearly gritting her teeth in frustration, and the man is speaking. Of course, husbands stereotypically have a reputation for not being fully engaged, so he feels he should get at least partial credit, which is a funny angle. Sometimes I get tired of the husband being the butt of the jokes, but this was well done. I give it a 4.

Max:  It’s a perceptive variant of the “Man-terrupter” archetype – which we so richly deserve. I‘m a fan of Ms. Parkhurst’s art, but wasn’t crazy about this ongoing skirmish between the sexes. I give this one a 3.

For more on Teresa Burns Parkhurst, check out linkedin.com/in/teresa-burns-parkhurst

 

6 of 13: “Subway Staredown” by Joe Dator

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

Max:  As someone who’s recently returned to public transportation, I can appreciate this situation – though what would the subway car rider do in this case? Scold the miscreant over the loudspeaker?

Simon:  This cartoon turns on how you’re supposed to mind your own business on public transportation, as if you are in a horizontally moving elevator. I was surprised to see the guy about to chomp into his sandwich, because eating is not allowed on subways, but that’s a minor point.

Max:  Probably a salami and mustard sandwich, yuck! Where are the Tic-Tacs when you need them? I was a little surprised Mr. Dator didn’t pile on by having the rider further impose himself by “man-spreading“, the spread-knee phenomena that’s become the latest subway rider faux pas.  This cartoon makes me a little uncomfortable, I give it a 3.

Simon:  Yes, with all the subway cartoons in The New Yorker, this is just middling. I give it a 3 as well.

For more on Joe Dator, check out joedator.com

 

7 of 13: “Life Lessons” by Roz Chast

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Simon:  Next is a Roz Chast triptych titled “Life Hacks.” Each one of these is amusing.

Max:  Though all three scenarios were tepid by design, they bordered on boring. The gag hinges on the computer programmer term “hack”, meaning an elegant solution to a programming problem. The definition has expanded to encompass life solutions as well.

Simon:  It’s gentle humor. I give it a 4.

Max:  Though one of the greats, Ms. Chast’s cartoon did not have much of a comedic payoff for me. I give it a 2.

For more on Roz Chast, check out rozchast.com

 

8 of 13: “Suspect #7” by Tom Chitty

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Max:  The police line-up is a well-worn cartoon cliché; however, Mr. Chitty provides a deft twist with a crucial recollection on the part of the victim.

Simon:  Hm–five mustachioed and balding suspects, all in suits, holding numbers. The gag seems a bit forced to me.

Max:  It creates an image in the mind a mustachioed attacker in a suit, quixotically wearing a sign with the number “7”. That’s a nice twist of the police line-up gag. I give it a 4.

Simon:  You have won me over with your mental image, but I go no higher than a 3.

For more on Tom Chitty, check out drawnbytom.com

 

9 of 13: “Kinder, Gentler Grizzly” by Liana Finck

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

Simon:  Next is a Liana Finck cartoon, this time set in the great outdoors. Quite a visually dramatic confrontation here.

Max:  It comes off more as therapy session than a confrontation. What’s the grizzly doing here, ingratiating itself with a random hiker?

Simon:  I like the contrast between one of the most vicious animals one can come across and the reassuring and unexpected words from this animal’s mouth. I give it a 4.

Max:  Perhaps there’s a parallel in the dating world where the ardent suitor insists he’s not like other guys. Regardless, though the drawing is effective, the gag didn’t fly for me. I give this a 3.

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

 

10 of 13: “Piggy Unplugged” by Liza Donnelly

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Max:  Well, Liza Donnelly provides an alternate path for the “Little Piggy” of nursery rhyme fame. I must say he looks stressed living “off the grid”.

Simon:  It’s a pleasure seeing Liza Donnelly’s work in The New Yorker. She has been absent too long. I agree with you that the piglet looks disconsolate. Perhaps he or she is unready to unplug

Max:  This little piggy, an inherently social animal, seems so forlorn he’s ready to iPhone Uber for a ride back to civilization. The grass ain’t always greener on the other side. I give this one a 4.

Simon:  Liza Donnelly’s drawing style has that very fluid and casual look that I find delightful. I give this a 4.

For more on Liza Donnelly, check out lizadonnelly.com

 

11 of 13: “In a Tough Spot” by Frank Cotham

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Simon:  Next is a Frank Cotham cartoon featuring a couple at odds, as they always are in his cartoons. This one seems to take its theme from the current perilous state of ISIS.

Max:  The king of the castle clings to his last redoubt, authority in shreds. Look at the ease at which the queen dominates her expanded domain. This is a solid “Battle of Sexes” cartoon with a punchy caption.

Simon:  This is a master at work. Look at the diagonal formed by the dog’s tilted head looking past the wife to the husband, with the wife in between on the phone. Check out the empty bottle on the floor by the husband’s chair. All the elements support a great caption. I give this a 5.

Max:  Yes, the woman has a cold bottle of suds, and the man has a tipped-over bottle of cold comfort. Chances of a refill? Zero. I give this a 5 as well.

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

 

12 of 13: “Message Received” by Maggie Larson

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Max:  Maggie Larson provides her take on office life. In this case, an impending deadline is “flagged” instead of alerted through more traditional means.

Simon:  This was a total miss for me. Maybe it refers to emails that can be flagged electronically, but even that is a weak basis for a cartoon.

Max:  The flag is misleading in that we often associate banner-waving with a political protest, not a reminder to finish a memo on time. The drawing style is attractive and the office setting rich in possibilities, but the gag fell flat. I give it a 2.

Simon:  What you call “rich in possibilities” I call empty. I regret that I must give this cartoon the dreaded 1.

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

 

13 of 13: “Tiny Claus” by Kate Curtis

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Simon:  Next is a seasonal cartoon by Kate Curtis. Both the style and theme owe a lot to Charles Addams, especially the pointy teeth on that kid.

Max:  You beat me to it; Ms. Curtis offers homage to the great New Yorker cartoonist, active from 1932-1988 (dates courtesy of Michael Maslin’s fabulous Inkspill site).

Simon:  “Homage” is a polite word here for “very heavily influenced by”, but I give the gag points for being imaginative. The cartoon has a slightly creepy quality to it–a 4.

Max:  There‘s a nice logic at play here for anyone who’s looked up a Christmas eve chimney to calculate the possible dimensions of Santa Claus. This cartoon is near-seasonally appropriate, and a sweet nod to Charles Addams’ distinctive style. I give it a 4 as well, creepiness notwithstanding.

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