Max:  The NFL and MLK adorn this week’s cover.

Simon:  Another fine illustration by Mark Ulriksen.


1 of 12: “Tough Love, Maybe Too Tough” by William Haefeli

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Simon:  The first cartoon presents a father who does not seem to be in the right frame of mind for a bedtime story. I don’t take cartoon characters too seriously, but I found the hostile attitude of this father disturbing rather than funny.

Max:  Yes, Dad seems quite angry. His poor son appears utterly frightened and doesn‘t know what to do. An interesting subplot concerns the name of the book, The Considerate Cow. Unfortunately, the only one cowed in this cartoon is the young lad.

Simon:  Perhaps that’s why I am bothered by this cartoon. As you noted, the boy seems helpless and terrified, which is not a humorous scenario. Despite the skillful artwork by William Haefeli, I give this cartoon a 2.

Max:  We saw last week with Harry Bliss that there are ways to convey “tough love” parenting humorously. I agree with you that any humor was overwhelmed by the hostile Dad. I give this a 2.

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2 of 12: “Underachieving Cats” by Amy Hwang

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Max:  Amy Hwang skewers the utter indolence of pampered house cats in this cartoon. It’s a nice, snappy caption that’ll be appreciated by cat lovers. You’re not much of a cat lover, are you, Simon?

Simon:  I love cats as much as they love me. This cartoon is the polar opposite of the Haefeli cartoon. It’s gentle to the point of being a bit too cute.

Max:  Having lived in a cat household for many years, the idea that a house cat should chill on the weekend strikes me as funny. Though nicely done, I agree there’s not much bite to this gag. I give it a 3.

Simon:  Lazy cats are an easy subject. The caption is snappy, however. I give it a 3 as well.

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3 of 12: “Interrupting, Again” by Jason Adam Katzenstein

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Simon:  Next is a Jason Adam Katzenstein cartoon, and once again a man is making an ass of himself. That seems to be a theme we’ve been seeing in The New Yorker and the perhaps reflects reality.

Max:  The recent profusion of “mansplaining” cartoons may raise that theme to a full-blown cartoon cliché. In this variation, the gag is primarily expressed by two words in the caption – “expertise” and “confidence”. I do like the exasperated expression on the face of the female dining companion.

Simon:  The caption is well worded, but I think the gag is too on the nose. I give it a low 3.

Max:  I didn’t feel this gag offered much in the way of a humorous twist or lightheartedness to this expanding mansplaining canon, a bit too obvious. I give this a 3 as well.

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4 of 12: “Odd Man in the Box” by P.C. Vey

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Max:  Though this P.C. Vey cartoon is a couple weeks late in terms of the season, I couldn’t help chuckle over the strange “re-gifter” peering out of his beribboned box.

Simon:  This is a really imaginative cartoon by P.C. Vey. Clearly this is a gift that comes as no surprise to the wife.

Max:  It does appear, however, that the odd man in the box anticipates a sense of surprise as he gives himself yet again. It’s a unique concept for such an overwrought season. I give this one a 5.

Simon:  A small quibble, but there is no lid on this box—an odd omission. I give this a high 4.

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5 of 12: “Wrong Time, Wrong Place” by Kim Warp

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Simon:  Next is a Kim Warp cartoon set in the Cretaceous period. This cartoon includes a time traveler and, by implication, multiple previous time travelers arriving in exactly the same spot to serve as dino dinner. Quite clever.

Max:  You can almost hear those baby dinosaurs whine at the lack of variety in their time-traveler diet. Though deceptively simple, the outstanding caption is further enhanced by the underlined word “again” – it just finishes off the gag perfectly.

Simon:  Yes, there is clearly a narrative that adds interest to this cartoon. I give it a 5.

Max:  The primordial forest is well rendered with foreboding grays and ominous flying pterodactyls. The spaceship has that 1950s sci-fi look. Ms. Warp cannily chose a safari outfit for our plucky adventurer rather than a bulky spacesuit. I give it a 5.

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6 of 12: “Skyscraper Meeting” by John O’Brien

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Max:  Wow! In exaggerating Charles Ebbets’ famous “Lunch atop a Skyscraper“ photo, John O’Brien takes this concept to its logical extreme, “Meeting atop a Skyscraper“.

Simon:  A magnificent drawing to soak in. Note the high perspective, the buildings by the piers, the passing boats, and the beautifully rendered girders and cranes. His style suggests an earlier century. And it’s a funny exaggeration type cartoon that does not even require a caption.

Max:  Mr. O’Brien stays true to the Ebbets photo by evoking the 1930s era landscape. Look at how the trio of cranes draws your eye to the top of the drawing. There’s a daredevil aspect to the suspended I-beams; each beam is attached at only one point. Any movement on the part of the seated workers would send them all sliding off into the abyss. A wonderful extrapolation of an iconic photograph, I give this a 5.

Simon:  A 5 for me as well.

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7 of 12: “Ice Capades” by Matthew Diffee

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Simon:  Next is a cartoon by Matt Diffee depicting two Aleuts. What’s not shown is the food Zamboni, which we can only imagine.

Max:  I believe the food Zamboni is a cross between a taco truck and ice rink machinery. I admire the way Mr. Diffee’s draftsmanship evokes this bitterly cold environment. Look at the depth of the hole scored into the ice. Brrrr, it says January in the Arctic to me. Mr. Diffee makes the caption seem offhand and casual, as if the Zamboni taco truck shows up every day.

Simon:  “Zamboni” is a funny word that has popped up in many cartoons, including quite a few old Peanuts strips. It’s an okay gag. I give it a 3.

Max:  I like the gag and drawing. I give it a 4.

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8 of 12: “Still Us” by Will McPhail

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Max:  I wonder how most of the frigid Eastern seaboard will react to this idyllic beach scene by Will McPhail? Even worse, I believe the dreaming male vacationer just got slammed back to earth by his wife.

Simon:  I think that there’s a little ambiguity in the caption. I don’t know if she’s alarmed or if she’s responding to something he said. Did that bother you at all, Max?

Max:  Yes and no. I like that Mr. McPhail asks us to imagine what the man must have opined to receive such a putdown from his wife. But to your point, it’s not entirely obvious what he was going on about. I’m guessing he allowed the strong drink to give voice to an inflated aggrandizement of their coupledom. I give this a 4.

Simon:  Nice drawing, but I give the cartoon a 2.

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9 of 12: “Subway Twister” by Seth Fleishman

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Simon:  Next is a captionless cartoon by Seth Fleishman. Are these rodents playing Twister?

Max:  Well, Simon, I must inform you that this is yet another subway cartoon. Those letters and numbers represent the subway lines that have caused recent consternation over poor service. What I find diabolical is the notion that rats telepathically caused those delays by playing a twisted version of Twister.

Simon:  You have illuminated this cartoon as only a former New York resident could, Max. I am chastened. With that new insight, I offer up a 3; I henceforth automatically deduct one point for the subject being subways.

Max:  The implication that these grotesque creatures control the service quality of the MTA is nefarious. Strong gag, great use of color, and no caption, I give it a 5.

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10 of 12: “Past the Expiration Date” by Roz Chast

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Max:  Well, I guess it makes sense that if Junior Mints exist, why not the elderly version? Check out the carbuncles and age spots on the those disgusting candies by Roz Chast, yuck!

Simon:  This is a somewhat unusual cartoon by Roz; no people are depicted, although the candies have facial features, and it’s a bit jokey for her.

Max:  The concept is simply presented with no caption. I was a bit of turned off by the decrepit imagery on the boxes and fled to find the Tums. I give this a 3.

Simon:  This cartoon is ageist. I give it a 2.

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11 of 12: “No Social Safety Net” by Brendan Loper

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Simon:  Next is a cartoon by Brendan Loper, featuring an Evil Knievel type, who dares to perform a death-defying jump without a social safety net.

Max:  This drawing has three or four levels: the audience in the foreground, stuntman in the middle ground, and the earthen ramps in the distance. Although the stuntman is only leaping over three cars, they’ve been stoked to an absolute inferno. By the way, Simon, what did you mean by performing without a social safety net – aren’t we talking about event insurance or something?

Simon:  I’m alluding to health insurance, which he may well need should he have a mishap. It gives this cartoon a political quality. A 4.

Max:  Ah, I hadn’t thought of it from that angle. With the additional social overtones, I give this a 4.

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12 of 12: “General Sarcasm” by Julia Suits

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Max:  I doubt Julia Suits’ cartoon would make sense under any other Presidential administration, but with the current regime, I guess a sarcastic “sir” merits a rather gaudy medal. Am I missing something here, Simon?

Simon:  At this point, Trump is low-hanging, overripe fruit, so a strong gag is essential. We’ve seen this setup many times, where a general at a cocktail party is pointing to a ribbon or medal and explaining it to civilian guests. The gag is a little too easy for me.

Max:  But under Trump, I would expect a sarcastic “sir” to result in having all the medals ripped off his chest and a nasty tweet stitched into his forehead. Given the number of military generals serving this administration, I don’t think sarcasm would be rewarded. I’m a fan of Julia Suits, but I couldn’t follow the humor in this particular cartoon—a 2.

Simon:  I think Trump assumed the officer wasn’t being sarcastic. Another quibble here: the hem of the general’s jacket has very peculiar tailoring. The gag is so-so. I give the cartoon a 3.

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