Max:  A lovely winter scene of skaters adorns this week’s cover, Simon.

Simon:  The shadows they cast are magical. Bravo!

 

1 of 14: “Guru Competition” by Ellis Rosen

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Simon:  Ellis Rosen is the first cartoonist this week. The guru business is heating up, and what could be more tempting than a hot slice to go with your enlightenment? This cartoon is a fine variation of the mountaintop wise man cliché.

Max:  The gag is all about the competition where competition has never gone before. After looking at the mouth-watering sign about the pizza, I’d be tempted to switch gurus myself.

Simon:  The humor derives, of course, from combining two completely different things—pizza and enlightenment, plus gurus are normally too above-it-all to be business rivals. So this is a a clash of concepts plus a reversal. I give it a high 4. A strong start to this issue.

Max:  Like any good realtor, the encroaching guru’s sign on the mountaintop says, “location, location, location”. I give this cartoon a 5.

For more on Ellis Rosen, check out ellisrosen.tumblr.com

 

2 of 14: “The Edible Moat” by Liana Finck

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Max:  Given that most moats were stagnant cesspools back in the day, Liana Finck has created a rather unappealing medieval food gag.

Simon:  This is a routine play on words. The image of the king dropping a few flakes of oatmeal into the moat is amusing, but this cartoon is not worthy of The New Yorker. I also note that it’s odd that she follows the punchline with a question. Of course, Bob Mankoff himself did that in his famous “How about never?” cartoon.

Max:  The composition is striking; with the parapet on the left leading to the crenellated battlement, then on down to the king’s laughable drawbridge. However, it would be un-kingly to wait on his nearly invisible mistress by whipping up a bilious batch of “moatmeal”. Yuck, a miss for me; I give it a 2.

Simon:  I agree and give it a 2 as well. Plus, it’s difficult to tell who or what is in yonder window opening.

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

 

3 of 14: “A Mouse Prepares” by Will McPhail

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Simon:  This Will McPhail cartoon is a minor work of art. There’s some serious chiaroscuro  going on here. Interestingly, he chooses a white rodent, not normally found in the house, but it contrasts well against the dark background, making for a dramatic image.

Max:  Indeed, that malevolent albino mouse is a mesmerizing figure as it prepares for an unforgettable entrance. Look at the hooded eyes – this mouse heard the cue of clacking high heels and knows it’ll be mayhem out there.

Simon:  I like how the scene is depicted just before the action happens. I give this a 5.

Max:  Yes, the anticipation of what’s to come is utterly delicious. The artwork is wonderful, the caption sublime, I give it a 5 as well.

For more on Will McPhail, check out willmcphail.com

 

4 of 14: “Early Conservationists” by Michael Maslin

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Max:  Mr. Maslin must have been inspired at Whole Foods where the baffling array of recycling options has paralyzed me on more than one occasion.

Simon:  This is an anachronism cartoon, harkening back to a simpler time. It’s a gentle type of humor characteristic of Michael Maslin.

Max:  In those simpler times, there wasn’t much you’d find in a refuse pile – which I believe archaeologists call a midden – other than animal residue and broken crockery. I like the way Mr. Maslin put 21st century recycle cards outside their rustic cave dwellings. I give this caption-less cartoon a 4.

Simon:  I give it a high 3.

For more on Michael Maslin, check out michaelmaslin.com

 

5 of 14: “An Author’s Strategy” by William Haefeli

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Simon:  William Haefeli sets this cartoon in a bookstore, and he takes care in drawing all those titles. It’s a lovely drawing, but the gag is more of an observation.

Max:  I too appreciated the laborious effort to graphically evoke this bookstore in such detail. The caption is overly long and it didn’t have the payoff worthy of such a fine composition.

Simon:  I agree. There wasn’t much punch to the punchline. I give this a 3.

Max:  I wonder who’s on the back dust jacket of the book held by the woman on the right.  Is that Vladimir Putin? I give this cartoon a 3 as well.

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

 

6 of 14: “Anti-Tom Brady” by David Sipress

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Max:  Mr. Sipress hits a sports fan’s nerve with Tom Brady. The upcoming Super Bowl reminds us Brady is one of the most polarizing athletes on the planet. Why? Take your pick: Trump devotee, Deflate-gate, incredibly talented, insanely wealthy, supermodel wife, precious hair styles…the list goes on.

Simon:  More than that, Max, this is a New York sports fans’ cartoon, playing on the rivalry between New York and Boston teams. There have been quite a few cartoons with this theme, but this one reminds me of perhaps the most famous one, a Chris Weyant cartoon after the Boston Marathon bombing. [cartoon]

Max:  I disagree, Simon. I believe this cartoon is uniquely directed against one of the most loved and hated athletes in the world – this one’s personal. Though I might not be a Brady fan, I’m not betting against him – he’s taken many a sports gambler to the poorhouse. I give this a 4.

Simon:  I don’t deny that Brady is the focus of a lot of resentment, but I’ll lay you 4-to-1 odds that these are New York sports fans in this cartoon. I give it a high 4.

Max:  I’ll take that bet!

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

 

7 of 14: “Who’s Calling?!?” by Roz Chast

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Simon:  Roz Chast’s characters are typically neurotic, but seldom do they appear to be seething and conflicted, as this character is.

Max:  This is wonderful interior dialogue from the master of that genre. The angry escalation, the insistent ringing, the gritted teeth…Roz really let this one rip.

Simon:  There certainly is drama and angst in this cartoon, but I did not find it funny. I give it a 2.

Max:  The woman in the chair is boiling over with resentment, almost like a teakettle starting to whistle. Yes, life before Caller ID was an uncertain business. I give it a 4.

For more on Roz Chast, check out rozchast.com

 

8 of 14: “A Snowball’s Chance” by Frank Cotham

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Max:  Only Frank Cotham can bring levity to a duel. A snowball?! His composition wonderfully illustrates this complex moment in time.

Simon:  Yes, the snowball that didn’t quite reach its target is a brilliant touch in this dark scene, and the understated caption is perfect. The other graphic elements are also wonderful: footprints in the snow, the walking sticks of the seconds, the gloomy glade.

Max:  Note the halo effect around the shooter’s seconds, effectively pulling them into the scene. The unclosed square created by the footprints adds to the tension. The errant snowball and taut caption delivers like a pistol shot. I give this a 5.

Simon:  It’s the work of a master. I also give it a 5. And it’s a tie between Will McPhail and Frank Cotham for Top Toon.

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

 

9 of 14: “Resist a Little” by Bruce Eric Kaplan

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Simon:  Bruce Eric Kaplan offers a minimalist cartoon, this one with a political bent. For this woman, landscaping takes precedence over the resistance movement – a swipe at lukewarm liberals.

Max:  As you pointed out last week, Simon, a generic composition like this doesn’t particularly illustrate the gag. The caption is everything here, and well done.

Simon:  Again, this is more of a joke than a cartoon per se. I give it a nominal 3.

Max:  This is one of Kaplan’s least interesting compositions, but a nicely turned caption. I give it a 3 as well.

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

 

10 of 14: “He’s Back” by Pia Guerra

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Max:  Ah, the Terminator is back for another sequel. In Pia Guerra’s gag, I doubt there’ll be much need for special effects.

Simon:  This cartoon relies on people’s familiarity with the characters in the Terminator movies. It’s an odd choice on which to base a New Yorker cartoon. The drawing is acceptable, although the contrast of the detail with which the Terminator is drawn is a bit jarring compared to the generic look of the other guests.

Max:  A nice drawing, but I would’ve liked seeing the Sarah Connor character given more emphasis. The Terminator series and Schwarzenegger were inescapable for more than a decade, so I imagine our New Yorker readers will have no problem with this cartoon. I give it a 3.

Simon:  Well, Max, I had to look up who Sarah Connor is, although I kind of guessed from the context. I also give it a 3.

For more on Pia Guerra, check out hellkitty.com

 

11 of 14: “Confession Time” by Emily Flake

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Simon:  A priest confesses in this Emily Flake cartoon. This cartoon reminds me of a scene in the recent movie “Ladybird”, where the main character is munching on communion wafers, although this cartoon may have been drawn before the movie’s release.

Max:  This gag is ever so slightly sacrilegious but humorous. I always wondered what I would do if I had access to a box of those wafers; I recall them as being dry and tasteless.

Simon:  I like the phrase “sleeve of communion wafers”, as if he is referring to Oreos. I give this a 3.

Max:  The cartoon is sweetly composed. Ms. Flake has a knack for capturing the quirky attitudes and postures of her characters. She authentically evokes the cloistered office of these gentle reverends. I give it a 4.

For more on Emily Flake, check out emilyflake.com

 

12 of 14: “Obscure Reference” by Jeremy Nguyen

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Max:  Every artist’s nightmare is on full display in Mr. Nguyen’s cartoon. Interesting drawing style – all outlines and no washes.

Simon:  It’s a somewhat cold style although effective. As for the gag, I’ve seen countless comedy skits and quite a few cartoons that play on this decades-old TV commercial. The Cartoon Bank includes at least three of them. Nevertheless, this is a funny line, and the fact that this writer is using a typewriter underscores his plight.

Max:  Argh, those commercials were the essence of pathetic guilt-making. It’s a decent satire of a well-worn commercial, but the drawing has a cold feel, I give it a 3.

Simon:  It’s a funny line, but this is hoary material to trot out. I give it a nominal 3.

For more on Jeremy Nguyen, check out jeremywinslife.com

 

13 of 14: “L.A. State of Mind” by Olivia de Recat

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Simon:  Next is work by a new person, Olivia de Recat. However, this is not a cartoon. This is a humor piece on what appears to be a drawing of a postcard or piece of paper with a couple of simple graphic elements, including an umbrella with an elongated pole. What do you make of this, Max?

Max:  Cartoons of this type are difficult to evaluate. I finally decided it was a postcard, though the ripped edges suggest a poster. There is a ton of handwritten text that echo plots from TV series like Seinfeld. Now some our favorite cartoonists are masters at getting away with the text-heavy cartoons, Joe Dator being among the foremost practitioners. If the text in this postcard were any longer you’d almost have to reclassify it as a “Shouts & Murmurs” piece.

Simon:  In fact, Ms. de Recat has written several humorous “Shouts & Murmurs” pieces. But this just takes up cartoon space. I give it a 1.

Max:  If the New Yorker places a graphical piece in their cartoon space and lists it under the masthead as a cartoon, then we are obligated to rate it. It doesn’t have any artistic merit and the gag is stale—sadly, a 1.

For more on Olivia de Recat, check out oliviaderecat.com/test/

 

14 of 14: “No Dummy” by Paul Noth

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Max:  So the dummy went postal in Paul Noth’s ventriloquist-themed cartoon. Note how the officer has totally bought into the act.

Simon:  Pretty dark stuff from Pall Noth. I like the chair on the floor, suggesting a dramatic moment just before the cop arrives. But why is everyone in the audience so unmoved by this scene?

Max:  Because it’s great performance art! We’ve got a dummy holding a gun on the ventriloquist in a classic role reversal. And look at the officer negotiating with a wooden perpetrator. I give this cartoon a 4.

Simon:  I wouldn’t call it role reversal exactly, but I get your point. This cartoon is troubling on some psychological level for me, but I nevertheless give it a 4 as well.

For more on Paul Noth, check out paulnoth.com