Max:  On this week’s cover, the President seems to have dug himself into a hole.

Simon:  And this is not a hole he found on one of his golf courses.


1 of 16: “Conundrum in Wonderland” by Bruce Eric Kaplan

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Simon:  The first cartoon is an uncharacteristically detailed drawn by Bruce Eric Kaplan, with a nod to John Tenniel, the original illustrator of the Alice books. I recall as a child finding Tenniel’s drawings uncanny and disturbing. Kaplan’s art I also find a bit unsettling.

Max:  In addition to the unsettling art, we have a grown-up Alice analyzing a relationship with someone we don’t know.

Simon:  Yes, I was asking myself who is this “he”? Certainly not another character from Alice’s adventures. Not to get too literal or literary, but the March hare is an odd confidant, since he’s basically an insane character. I like BEK’s effort in varying his style, but I give this cartoon a 3 due to ambiguity.

Max:  Well, they’re all insane in Wonderland. I wonder what other peccadillos this implied boyfriend possesses? Did he forget her “unbirthday”? This cartoon is a twisted mix of a revered children’s fantasy and the challenges of an adult relationship. I give it a 4.

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2 of 16: “Senior Rockers” by Farley Katz

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Max:  The venerable “not your father’s Oldsmobile” ad campaign has morphed into many variants over the years. Mr. Katz extends this literal interpretation into the rock arena. Check out Grandma’s compression socks and slippers.

Simon:  I like the illustration, especially the granny peering over the drum kit, but, not to get overly PC, mocking old people for an easy laugh is beneath The New Yorker. I mean, really, do you need to show the bass player with a walker?

Max:  Though political correctness seems on the wane, ageism is still a definite no-no. I liked the second part of the caption, “We’re her friend Irene’s rock band”, I give it a 3.

Simon:  It’s somewhat amusing, but as I said, has a toe over the PC line. I give it a low 3.

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3 of 16: “Texting Turtles” by Liana Finck

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Simon:  Next is a Liana Finck cartoon. It’s a minimalist cartoon that suits her drawing style. This is a whimsical gag, and the “ha ha ha” from within the turtle’s shell is a nice touch.

Max:  This is one of Ms. Finck’s best compositions. Note the three leaves peeking out from the top right—very feng shui. The detail on the closed tortoise shell, and their orientation towards each other, provides indirect narrative. For anyone who’s ridden in a car with teenagers, they furtively text to keep their conversations from the prying ears of driving parents.

Simon:  That’s an excellent parental observation, Max. I hadn’t thought of that. It’s a funny little cartoon, nothing hilarious. I give it a high 3.

Max:  This cartoon opens another window into this secretive texting behavior, I give this a 4.

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4 of 16: “Parched Parking” by Drew Dernavich

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Max:  Our list of cartoon clichés identifies “Crawling through desert” as number 27. In this example, Mr. Dernavich conflates crawling through the desert with the perennial search for a parking place.

Simon:  It’s a strong drawing and a funny gag. He breathes new life into this common cartoon setup.

Max:  Having stalked people to their cars in hopes of a parking spot, I can appreciate the sentiment of this cartoon. It’s a wonderful combination of two very different themes, I give this a 5.

Simon:  I like it, but go only as high as a 4.

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5 of 16: “Hand Jive” by Maddie Dai

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Simon:  Next is a two-panel cartoon by Maddie Dad that relies on another common cartoon theme, the creation of Adam as depicted in the Sistine Chapel. This is amusing but a bit silly.

Max:  Well, Simon, YouTube is filled with videos of cute little kids playing this rhyming game of “Give me five, Up high, Down low, Too slow.” Expressing something so prosaic through Michelangelo’s lofty images could be viewed as somewhat heretical.

Simon:  Irreverent more than heretical. I am familiar with the rhyming shtick. The artwork is nominal and the gag so-so. I give it a nominal 3.

Max:  Ms. Dai has had some fine cartoons of late, but this one fell short. I give it a 2.

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6 of 16: “Love Me, Love My Dog” by Edward Koren

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Max:  Mr. Koren’s bookish dog owner poses an imponderable to his pug. One plausible answer – Virginia Woooof.

Simon:  I give that pun a minus 1, but turning to the cartoon, if you ever want a loyal friend who thinks you’re the best, get a dog. This is a funny concept that plays on a parlor game type question. One issue I have is that poster on cycles above the fireplace. Did that raise a question in your mind, Max?

Max:  Yes, I found it at odds with the piles of open books suggesting a dedication to the sedentary life by the bearded chap. What answer was the pet owner expecting from his pooch? I’ll give this a 3.

Simon:  I think the answer will be given in the form of tail wagging and face licking, which the owner would interpret to mean only one person fits that bill. I thought it was funny, and I give it a 4.

Max:  As a non-dog owner, I found it a little too cute, I’ll stick with a 3.

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7 of 16: “Underwhelmed Explorers” by Sara Lautman

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Simon:  Next is a Sara Lautman cartoon, and she presents a couple of early explorers in the New World. The gag is a bit silly, but I like the execution, and the secondary word bubble is a nice touch.

Max:  This cartoon takes us back in time to the era of grand exploration. European conquistadors  come upon one of the great natural wonders of the upper Midwest, and oh, ho-hum, more lakes is the reaction. The idea that the name for this sprawling, water-world resulted from someone’s off-hand, underwhelmed comment strikes me as funny and original.

Simon:  I agree, but have one quibble, and that is that the explorer in the foreground seems to be rather formally dressed for outdoor adventure. But it’s a good gag, and I like the drawing. I give this a high 4.

Max:  Ms. Lautman’s imaginative conquistador costuming is the artist’s prerogative. The antique outfits contrasts nicely with the pristine landscape. A great gag, I give it a 5.

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8 of 16: “Bug Patrol” by P.C. Vey

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Max:  Which is stranger looking: the bug picture, or the weird bug detective whose nose seems to run off the side of his face? This concept could actually work if the apartment dwellers were bacteriologists.

Simon:  The premise of this cartoon is rather weak—it’s almost a play on words—but I like that the visitors seem to be something between house detectives and epidemiologists.

Max:  The concerned couple was obviously interrupted from their household routine. The influenza squad is making its grim rounds in this nice apartment building. Well executed, I give it a 4.

Simon:  I also like the silent partner standing in the hallway. He gives an added element of seriousness. I give it a 3.

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9 of 16: “Sweat and Post” by Julia Suits

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Simon:  We have another Julia Suits cartoon this week, playing on the tagline “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” She has taken a bold approach to illustration, and the cartoon is a well-deserved skewering of fitness enthusiasts who can’t stop Facebooking about their gym exploits.

Max:  Yes, the set-up is fine and the caption well crafted; but I’m confused by the garage with a stack of tires outside. Did that bother you, Simon?

Simon:  I’m no expert in CrossFit gyms, but I think they have a bare bones look. I like the long shadows and the almost invisible patrons, no doubt texting their way to a cool down. I give this a 4.

Max:  The trainer is certainly imposing, a nod to the Marine drill sergeant type. And Google indicates Crossfit gyms tend to have an intense, camaraderie culture in small, no-frills spaces. This cartoon is outside my realm, I give it a 3.

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10 of 16: “Livid at His Laptop” by William Haefeli

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Max:  Mr. Haefeli resuscitates an old adage about never going to bed mad at one’s mate. In this case, as the Internet looms larger and larger in everyone’s life, it looks like this advice now extends to our laptops.

Simon:  This is another variation on a common expression, and a funny one, too. One might quibble that one’s parents wouldn’t make that comment about computers because they are less tied to their computers than the current generation.

Max:  While I understand how Mr. Haefeli is stretching the original premise, I just don’t find extending an emotional relationship to a plastic laptop that funny. I give it a 2.

Simon:  I part ways with you, Max. I thought it was a punchy caption and another beautiful drawing. I give this a 5.

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11 of 16: “Pick Your Poison” by Teresa Burns Parkhurst

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Simon:  Teresa Burns Parkhurst offers the next cartoon. These office workers have a choice of elevators, and none are appealing, but at least the elevator passengers know what they are getting into. “Apathetic” appears to be the most popular choice.

Max:  Notice how the least popular elevator choice is “Chatty”. Many people, especially introverts, can’t stand getting into the elevators with strangers and the ensuing social discomfort as the floors crawl by. I wonder if the three passengers, one of whom is blowing her nose, know what they’re getting themselves into?

Simon:  Each of the signs is funny, and “Contagious” is the best. I give the cartoon a 4.

Max:  One additional comment: as we’ve seen over many “scenario” cartoons, we tend to see them presented in groups of three, as in three elevator doors. Ms. Parkhurst violated this guideline to good result, leading to a well-balanced composition. I give this a 4 as well.

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12 of 16: “One Bomb Good, Two Bombs Better” by Shannon Wheeler

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Max:  Mr. Wheeler takes on nuclear proliferation in this cartoon close-up. The woman sensibly points out that more bombs provide no greater safety, just additional “mutually assured destruction”…the acronym for which is M.A.D.

Simon:  This is a comment on the dangerous times we live in, particularly with North Korea in the news. The corner of the room is an odd place to situate a sofa, but I guess Mr. Wheeler intended to convey a sense of the inescapability of the situation.

Max:  I took it to visually suggest the straitened conditions of an impoverished country – one that has chosen to invest in weapons over improved living conditions. I give this a 4.

Simon:  The cartoon is more grim than funny, although I agree with the sentiment. I give it a 3.

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13 of 16: “Go Fish” by Edward Steed

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Simon:  Ed Steed is back with a cartoon that has a bit of color for the dead fish on display to hypothetically enjoy. Sick, twisted, and hilarious.

Max:  Actually, Simon, I think these fish might be alive, at least for now. Edward Steed knows no bounds, no humanity; this cartoon is positively depraved…and, I agree, hilariously funny!

Simon:  I believe these are definitely ex-fish. I like how the tourists seem not at all fazed by this bizarre scenario. This comes out of the mind of a truly original cartoonist. I give it a high  5.

Max:  Look at the entertained tourists as the poor fish gasp their last breath. Their last sight on Earth is a painted version of an aquarium. Funny stuff, a 5.

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14 of 16: “Jester Coaching” by Mick Stevens

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Max:  This is a first, “jester coaching”. Mr. Stevens’ funnyman faces a tough audience with such a grumpy looking king. Did you notice the jester advisor seemed from a different empire – like the Ottoman empire? Is this an exchange program?

Simon:  I didn’t consider that situation. I thought he seemed more like a stage manager in the wings. The king clearly does not take a joke well, which reminds me of a certain humorless President.

Max:  I imagine a comedian about to go on in front of a hostile audience – then receiving advice to add “Just kidding” after every joke … a 4.

Simon:  Yes, this is a solid Mick Stevens’ effort. I also give it 4.

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15 of 16: “Nothing to See Here” by Mary Lawton

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Simon:  Next cartoon is by Mary Lawton, and it’s a variation on the “meet the author” setup.

Max:  I’ve often stumbled upon this species during the workday…enviously…and commented to a co-worker, “Who are these people, what are they doing here, and why can’t I be one of them?” I’ve noticed a backlash on the part of some coffeehouse proprietors of late – “No Laptop” zones, time limits, etc.; we’ll continue to monitor this trend.

Simon:  I don’t think it’s such a recent phenomenon, and if she’s going to rely on a cartoon cliché, she needs stronger material. I give this a 2.

Max:  The drawing’s okay, except for the nearest chair back, which looks like a laptop. It’s a 3 from me.

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16 of 16: “A Growing Distance” by Tom Toro

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Max:  It’s not just that a collector’s frenzy has sublimated the more primal aspects of their relationship, but these are egg-shaped salt shakers, in a sense, replacing her reproductive ovum.

Simon:  You’ve gone all Freudian on me, Max. What I see is a collection of tchotchkes, perhaps painted eggs, but it doesn’t much matter. What I especially like about the cartoon is the space between the couple and the cupboard. It’s a distance that is both literal and metaphorical.

Max:  I appreciate the multi-level psychodrama in this cartoon and give it a 4.

Simon:  I also give a 4.

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