Max:  The upcoming Academy Awards ceremony is clearly rife with sociopolitical controversies.

Simon:  Fortunately, there’s no controversy here at Cartoon Companion.

Max:  Other than our generous scoring…

Simon:  Well, all that’s changed with our new, tougher criteria…take a look.

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1 of 13) Page 23: “Polly Wants It All” by Joe Dator

Click here to view this cartoon as made available by The New Yorker Cartoon Bank.

Simon:  Hello, Max and happy so-called Presidents’ Day. We start with a Joe Dator cartoon that features a woman who wants it all, and she’s telling her parrot just that.

Max:  Well, Simon, couldn’t it be the parrot requesting those things? After all, aren’t we all in this together, man and beast?

Simon:  So you think there’s some confusion about who is speaking, the parrot or the woman?

Max:  Sure, the woman’s got a gap-mouthed look on her face as the parrot responds to the age-old question, “Polly want a cracker?”.

Simon:  The open mouth tells me clearly the woman is speaking.

Max:  Well, I’ll tell you what, I’m going to give this one a 3. Though I’m a Dator fan and feel for the parrot’s yearnings, I’m sorry, that little bird-brain just can’t have it all.

Simon:  You’re flat-out wrong, but there’s only one way to settle this: we ask Joe Dator himself.

Max:  I doubt that he will trouble himself to respond.

Simon:  You think so? Well, I’ll ask. Mr. Dator, sir, who’s speaking—the woman or the parrot?

Joe Dator:  It’s the woman who’s speaking.

Simon:  Ahem. As Woody Allen said in Annie Hall after pulling out Marshall McLuhan, “If life were only like this.”

Max:  All right, gloating does not become you, Simon. So how do you rate this cartoon?

Simon:  A solid 4. I note that the parrot’s head looks more realistic than the woman’s head, which I found slightly jarring. And Max, I hope I have opened your eyes to the proper interpretation of cartoons, just as I hope someday to see Joe Dator’s characters open their eyes. (His “uncanny” cartoon from a couple of years ago doesn’t count.)

For more on Joe Dator, check out joedator.com

2 of 13) Page 31: “Back Alley Sales” by P.C. Vey

Click here to view this cartoon as made available by The New Yorker Cartoon Bank.

Max:  P.C. Vey returns this week with a semi-political cartoon about hustling overstocked Ivanka Trump shoes in a dark alley. What about this one, Simon?

Simon:  This is a funny gag, and very much a New York cartoon. I also like the rhythm of the guy’s sales patter. The dark glasses are nice touch, too. And of course it’s political. The entire Trump family is a goldmine for political humor.

Max:  Yes, agreed, the setting has an only-on-5th Avenue sort of look. And the gag turns on a full Kardashian-style skewering of Princess Trump.

Simon:  Plus it indirectly references Trump himself, who complains about the treatment of his daughter. But of course, he complains about everything and everyone who does not agree with him.

Max:  As you can imagine, Simon, this cartoon might go viral if @realDonaldTrump lashes out via Twitter. Well, I think the cartoon is snicker-worthy. I’m going to award a 4 in our newer, tougher rating criteria.

Simon: Put me down for a 4 as well, even if it means that Cartoon Companion, like the media, becomes the enemy of the American people.

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

3 of 13) Page 36: “Clown Science” by Tom Toro

Click here to view this cartoon as made available by The New Yorker Cartoon Bank.

Simon:  Next up is a Tom Toro cartoon. This is an amazingly intricate drawing. The blackboard itself is a marvel. I don’t know how he does it. The gag, though, doesn’t require or perhaps merit such an extraordinary amount of artwork.

Max:  This is true draftsmanship! I also drank in the subtleties of the blackboard—the equations, the smudges, all beautifully drawn. As a kid, I recall watching clowns do the balloon routine. I still think all creatures share a common balloon DNA. Nonetheless, I find clowns disturbing.

Simon:  Save that for your therapist. Sticking to the cartoon, a lot of the paraphernalia isn’t necessary. He could focus more on the characters and get the point across just as clearly.

Max:  But, Simon, that’s the point. These are clearly Ph.D. clowns with their Petri dishes in the foreground and highly scientific musings on the blackboard. I am intellectually piqued by this cartoon and I give it a 5, even though I hate clowns.

Simon:  I give it a 3 despite the brilliant drawing because the gag is only so-so.

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

4 of 13) Page 42: “Rover’s Wrong” by Harry Bliss

Click here to view this cartoon as made available by The New Yorker Cartoon Bank.

Max:  When I looked at that Siberian fella ice-fishing from his frigid tent, I shivered in response.

Simon: This is another brilliantly drawn cartoon by Harry Bliss, but the idea has been done before—in fact, twice before. First, there’s the wonderful Michael Maslin cartoon from 2003 of an executive behind the desk saying to his dog secretary, “Hold on—this is the stick. I asked for the ball.” And as recently as two years ago, Farley Katz did a cartoon that is even closer to the Bliss cartoon.

Max:  So? The desert island theme has been done thousands of times. This variant of the Rover-fetched-the-wrong-item works for me. And may I draw your attention to the art? The snowflakes swirling inside of the tent are almost the texture of a fine woodcut.

Simon: I’m sorry to tell you, Max, that it does not snow inside a tent. But I agree that his drawings have a richness to them.

Max:  And the expression on the dog teething the chilled Riesling? Priceless! I give this one a 5.

Simon:  Well, you may have talked me up from a 3 to a 4, but I still say the idea has been done, albeit in different settings. Your analogy to desert island cartoons is inapt; there, the setting is the same, but the gag varies.

Max:  What happens to copy-cat cartoons—are they deported?

Simon:  By the way, Harry’s been in almost every issue of late. He may be the next cartoonist after Roz to have a reserved spot, perhaps to the chagrin of the dozens of other New Yorker cartoonists. I think Mankoff likes him in part because his characters—other than his dogs—are largely expressionless. Mr. Cartoon Editor prefers that flat affect look. Facial expressions are so vulgar, you know.

For more on Harry Bliss, check out harrybliss.com

 5 of 13) Page 45: “Internet Consternation” by Drew Dernavich

Click here to view this cartoon as made available by The New Yorker Cartoon Bank.

Simon:  Next up is a Drew Dernavich cartoon featuring a woman whose face looks like a sock puppet. That really bothered me. The gag is so-so.

Max:  But, Simon, she’s pouring out her cyber-soul—have a heart!

Simon:  We must be unsparing in our critiques.

Max:  This gag relies on contemporary cyber-jargon. I think it’s a riff on “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus” with the podcasting versus podlistening. Dernavich is a powerful cartoonist, but a slight miss on the gag for me. I rate it a 3.

Simon:  I’m not fond of cartoons where a character is saying something that they pretty much know is funny, as opposed to a character saying something funny that makes perfect sense to them. A standup comedian could deliver this line. A nominal 3 for me.

For more on Drew Dernavich, check out drewdernavich.com

6 of 13) Page 46: “Prehistoric Brooklyn” by Alice Cheng

Click here to view this cartoon as made available by The New Yorker Cartoon Bank.

Max: Simon, our newcomer Ms. Cheng returns for a second week in a row. What you think of her brownstonehenge?

Simon:  This is a clever gag. Of course, there have been Stonehenge cartoons since the construction of Stonehenge itself. I would not be surprised if there were Druid cartoonists hard at work as soon after the last stone was set in place.

Max:  Their Druidic impulses are clearly evident here with the bearded Cro-Magnons participating in strangely contemporary tasks.

Simon:  And did you notice the infant in the prehistoric Baby Bjorn? The two guys may even be a gay couple. This is clearly set in a suburb of Stonehenge.

Max:  Or at least the Brooklyn of Stonehenge with its stoops. A nice feel, good gag, I give it a 4.

Simon:  The Lego look of the art brings this down from a 5 to a 4.

7 of 13) Page 49: “Modern Art Mansplained” by Will McPhail

Click here to view this cartoon as made available by The New Yorker Cartoon Bank.

Simon:  Here’s a cartoon about a woman’s response to a man’s unasked-for analysis of the painting. This stereotypical man is an easy target, but in real life I can’t think of any men who feel the need to explain and analyze art to others.

Max:  Aside from us?

Simon:  You forget that I spent several weeks in art school.

Max: Kicked out or dropped out?

Simon:  I received an Incomplete in my course on Minimalism. How is that even possible?

Max:  I thought your series of untouched canvases was quite minimal.

Simon:  Let’s focus on the cartoon, shall we? McPhail’s artwork is great. What about the gag, Max?

Max:  I was drawn into the Jackson Pollock-like canvas depicted on the museum wall. Like the woman in the drawing I have no idea what it means, but I’m annoyed at the pompous dude with the man bun. The gag is a decent take on a contemporary communication theme.

Simon:  It’s an overdone idea and more critical than funny, but the drawing of the guy is just about perfect. For some reason, though, his shoes are Jack Davis-sized.

Max:  Yes, the white walled modern art space is dead-on, and I particularly like doughy stomach on the fatuous guy.

Simon:  I give it a 4 based on the art primarily. But I wish he wouldn’t do that weird thing with the characters’ mouths drawn downturn in that exaggerated way.

Max:  Whether up or down, I match your 4.

For more on Will McPhail, check out willmcphail.com

8 of 13) Page 50: “Panda Love” by Alex Gregory

Click here to view this cartoon as made available by The New Yorker Cartoon Bank.

Max:  Gregory has returned with an unusual theme here: Panda love.

Simon:  This is a funny gag that is well- and simply drawn. One question though: is that a male or female panda speaking?

Max:  Based on my Animal Planet experience, the panda is uniquely suited to unisex bathrooms – can’t tell one sex from the other. But I would say the panda on the left is the male because he’s familiar with Tinder, implying he’s a bit of a panda playa’.

Simon:  In five years, people will have to use their quantum computers to find out what Tinder was.

Max:  At any rate, this is well-drawn, especially the subtle bamboo shoots behind each tuckered out panda. Clearly there’s not much passion in panda town. I give this one a 4.

Simon:  I like the window right smack in the middle, too. It drives home that they’re being observed without the need to depict the scientists. I give it a high 4.

For more on Alex Gregory, check out newyorker.com/contributors/alex-gregory

9 of 13) Page 55: “Bedtime Conspiracies” by David Sipress

Click here to view this cartoon as made available by The New Yorker Cartoon Bank.

Simon:  Next is another cartoon with a political bent, this time by Sipress. What I like most about this drawing is the dad’s sideways glance and smile—just great.

Max:  Yes, and the little boy is excited to hear yet another conspiracy. Clearly in this first tumultuous month of the stumbling Trump administration, conspiracy theories abound.

Simon:  Interesting how the far-right comes up with preposterous conspiracy theories, but the Trumpists find nothing wrong with secret pre-election understandings entered into with the KGB.  Anyway, a nice take on the bedtime story cartoon theme.

Max:  I think that Dad is pretty satisfied with his bedtime sendoff. I give this one a 4.

Simon:  I’m going to bump this up to a 5. It’s a sad and funny comment on how nutty ideas spread, here, by a father passing them down to his son.

For more on David Sipress, check out facebook.com/david.sipress

10 of 13) Page 56: “Girl Scouts Rebuffed” by Trevor Spaulding

Click here to view this cartoon as made available by The New Yorker Cartoon Bank.

Max: Another Internet cartoon, this time our aging millennials are once again looking to cut out the middleman – the Girl Scouts.

Simon:  This is funny, but also a bit sad. Look at the forlorn expression on those poor Girl Scouts. They don’t have a brick-and-mortar business, but they’re the victims of the Internet nonetheless.

Max:  Yes, the tides of technology are leaving our plucky scouts stranded on a tiny island of capitalism. I found it sad as well. I’m giving it a 2.

Simon:  Whatever you are you thinking, Max? Because you’re sad you’re going to give this cartoon a low grade? This is a mid-level 4. It’s funny, it’s pretty well-drawn, and it’s a great social commentary.

Max:  Simon, I just can’t deny my cartoon feelings.

For more on Trevor Spaulding, check out trevorspaulding.com

11 of 13) Page 60: “Dairy Products” by Roz Chast

Click here to view this cartoon as made available by The New Yorker Cartoon Bank.

Simon:  Roz has an unusual take on Last Tango in Paris, transferring the infamous butter scene to Wisconsin. I almost laughed out loud at this one.

Max:  Yes, a funny juxtaposition with the wholesomeness of Wisconsin.

Simon:  And you have a bit of back-and-forth between the characters, which is kind of unusual for a New Yorker cartoon. My only reservation about this cartoon is that it solidifies The New Yorker as an elitist magazine that looks only to New York for culture. It’s condescending.

Max:  Oh, I don’t know, Wisconsin brought us That ’70s Show!

Simon:  I believe I was at a facility during that period where television viewing was an award for good behavior. But getting back to this cartoon, the look on their faces that suggests something beyond nibbling is quite good. I’m giving this one a 5.

Max:  At more than 40 years removed from the movie, I’ll stick with a 4.

For more on Roz Chast, check out rozchast.com

12 of 13) Page 64: “Embarrassed Eagles” by Paul Noth

Click here to view this cartoon as made available by The New Yorker Cartoon Bank

Max:  Yet another political cartoon, this time from Paul Noth. Have we come to this—American bald eagles reluctant to identify as American?

Simon:  I thought it was a good gag. The eagles look a bit puny to me though.

Max:  I also found the landscape less than stirring behind the tree branches. This cartoon is a bit on the static side for me, though the gag is decent. A 3.

Simon:  Yeah, I’ll give it a 3. I would have given it a 4 if the art had been just a step up.

For more on Paul Noth, check out paulnoth.com

13 of 13) Page 68: “Sock Hop” by Tom Chitty

Click here to view this cartoon as made available by The New Yorker Cartoon Bank

Simon:  Peculiar art, ridiculous gag.

Max:  I thought that the art in this cartoon was oddly convincing. Mr. Chitty often strains credulity with his peculiar characters, but the poses of these party people are instantly recognizable. It’s just the sock puppet gag that you don’t like, right?

Simon:  It’s a forced gag. I grant you that the reaction and poses of the other people are quite good. Under our new, stricter rating system, I’m giving this a 2.

Max:  I enjoyed the fellow’s jazzy sweater so much, which partially explains the puppet, that I give this one a 3. Let’s see what the Mystery New Yorker Cartoonist thinks of it.

Mystery New Yorker Cartoonist: None of the cartoons stood out to me this issue as a clear favorite and while competently executed, none were noteworthy or laugh-out-loud. The closest was Paul Noth’s eagle cartoon. That said, I choose this cartoon to remark on because it was the one cartoon that did not fall in line with the rest of the above-average issue. I found this cartoon itself awkward, coincidentally–this style I find jolting for this specific publication. I come to expect New Yorker cartoons to be a cut above other cartoons and that often means displaying grace in drawing line and having a punchline written with grace. All is forgiven, if it makes me laugh. Alas, it did not. I give this one a 2.

Max:  No punch-pulling there.

For more on Tom Chitty, check out drawnbytom.com