Max: If Making America Great Again means 18 cartoons per issue of The New Yorker, I may experience a change of political heart.
Simon: Political heart is an oxymoron.
Max: Should Mr. Mankoff be our next President?
Simon: He’s the King of Cartoons. Why would he want a demotion?
All the cartoons for this issue can be viewed here as made available by The New Yorker.
#1) Page 20: “Newton’s Cradle”, Will McPhail
Simon: We’re starting with another McPhail cartoon. This one features executive steel balls.
Max: I‘m not sure that today’s executives have that kind of testicularity, Simon.
Simon: Let’s look at this cartoon carefully. We have the center steel ball detached from its string and exiting stage right. What do you make of that, Max?
Max: I’m of the opinion that the middle ball just got a pink slip from HR. I could not help but notice the empathic faces on the steel balls left behind; McPhail has a way with this kind of imagery.
Simon: Yes, this ball has gotten the boot. He’s even carrying a little potted plant if I am not mistaken. Mr. McPhail has made a bold choice to anthropomorphize steel balls. But to be realistic in today’s business world, one would think that the other executives would be smiling, not saddened, by one of their peers leaving.
Max: I wonder if it’s a harbinger of what’s to come. Regardless, I’m giving this one a 4—an intriguing gag, a bit cutesy for my taste – but offset by the challenge of no caption.
Simon: I also give it a 4.
For more on Will McPhail, check out willmcphail.com
#2) Page 24: “Yoga Ubiquity”, David Sipress
Max: Here Sipress comments on the recent proliferation of yoga studios.
Simon: It’s a nice take on that phenomenon. Artistically it’s actually three separate drawings. I think he could have been more economical with his art and eliminated the woman sitting at the computer.
Max: Speaking of being economical, did you check out the caption length? It’s a tad prolix; I have to drop this to 3.
Simon: The gag doesn’t work without the lengthy caption. I guess the general rule against wordy captions does not apply to long-term New Yorker cartoonists such as Mr. Sipress. I also give this a 3 because yoga studios are a fairly easy target.
Max: Sipress is a favorite of ours. I’m sure we’ll see him again soon.
Simon: On a personal note, I might add that over the years I have been to more than a dozen yoga studios, and not one of them had what I was looking for, which was a woman to go out with me.
For more on David Sipress, check out facebook.com/david.sipress
#3) Page 26: “Clickbait Victim”, Bruce Eric Kaplan
Simon: In this cartoon Bruce Eric Kaplan offers a surrealistic image. Quite a departure for Mr. Kaplan, would you agree?
Max: Right. Usually he’s got a couple of stocky figures as he does here in the upper right, but the almost slapstick dive into the computer by the clickbait victim is indeed a departure.
Simon: So I imagine this is a husband and wife and a friend of the wife who are featured here.
Max: Yes, this is the classic conversing couple for Kaplan, this time on the right. As you point out, the legs sticking out of the computer is an interesting artistic choice. And the gag? Right on the money in terms of today’s internet environment. I give it a 4.
Simon: I give it a 4, too. I assume that the man has been sucked into the computer rather than diving in. This looks like an involuntary movement on his part.
Max: Oh, no question. This gent was sucked in by the perfidy of clickbait.
For more on Bruce Eric Kaplan, check out bruceerickaplan.com
#4) Page 32: “Covetous Goldfish”, Mick Stevens
Max: Simon, this is a rather sweet cartoon with the grousing goldfish tantalizingly close to that delicious box of fish food. I can’t help but wonder if the fish food box is magnified due to the glass bowl curvature.
Simon: Well, I can’t speak to a goldfish’s ability to perceive refraction. I think it’s a hilarious gag—a solid 5. I do note, however, that the structure inside the goldfish bowl looks a bit more like a shack than the kind of castle that one might expect.
Max: That’s funny, I took it to be the Arc de Triomphe, and since this cartoon is a triumph, I will also give it a 5. One note: we don’t often see an underlined word get by our King of Cartoons, esteemed editor, Mr. Mankoff.
Simon: Yes they are as rare as exclamation points.
For more on Mick Stevens, check out mickstevens.com
#5) Page 35: “Fit for a King”, Joe Dator
Simon: And just like that, the next cartoon by Joe Dator has a one-word caption followed by an explanation point. This is hilarious. What really makes it is the folding chair that the King currently occupies.
Max: My point exactly! I I think this is one of the most creative and wonderful cartoons of the medieval genre. The folding chair really sends this gag into overdrive. I love this cartoon! I give it a 6.
Simon: I agree, a 6.
For more on Joe Dator, check out joedator.com
#6) Page 38: “DJT Swearing-In”, Paul Noth
Simon: We have a cartoon by Paul Noth, one of the regular cartoonist in The New Yorker, with a timely cartoon about the inauguration of DJT. I thought the gag was brilliant, and we can discuss the art in a minute.
Max: Not sure about the gag—help me out with the marshmallow concept.
Simon: This is a take on the study done of young children who were told that they could either have one cookie or some other sweet now or wait 15 minutes for two sweets as a test of their willpower and ability to think long-term. So the cartoonist is comparing Donald Trump to a youngster with no self-control.
Max: Simon, as always, you have elucidated that which is elusive to me. Equating this fully grown man’s ego with the boundless ego of a child is a killer comparison.
Simon: The art has some problems for me. I believe the stairs are not drawn quite right in terms of perspective. Also the sleeves of Donald’s suit and the venting is a bit off. Nevertheless, I give this cartoon a 5 for its gag.
Max: I compare the complexity of this drawing to scoring Olympic divers: you have to account for the degree of difficulty. The challenge of this drawing is daunting, but Noth succeeds in pulling off this difficult tableau. I’m also intrigued by his mysterious rendering of Melania. No mystery as to who’s underneath that elaborate hairdo up front – The Donald. I give it a 5.
Simon: By the way, according to his bio, Paul Noth used to write for Saturday Night Live, and he still does comedy writing. He and Bruce Eric Kaplan have been quite successful in multiple areas.
For more on Paul Noth, check out paulnoth.com
#7) Page 42: “Standoff”, Jack Ziegler
Max: We have a Ziegler animal classic featuring a cat-dog standoff. Clearly, this canine has made it through at least year one of law school with his cool, “Let me preface my remarks …” phrasing.
Simon: I love the execution of the drawing as seen from behind and to the right. It really helps to bring this cartoon to life and make it vivid.
Max: Yes, the perspective unleashes the horizon in terms of creating open space.
Simon: I give this one a 5, and I caution you not to engage in wordplay over “unleash”.
Max: Yes, a 5. This is Ziegler at the top of his game. It should be under consideration for the cat vs. dog cartoon hall of fame.
For more on Jack Ziegler, check out newyorker.com/contributors/jack-ziegler
#8) Page 44: “The Very Model of a Modern Major General”, Bob Mankoff
Simon: We move on to cartoon number eight by—what you know?—Bob Mankoff. The drawing is a fairly common set piece of a highly decorated military man talking to a woman at a cocktail part, a theme going back many years in The New Yorker.
Max: All those dots, Simon—how does he do it? The gag is funny. Clearly this general or admiral or whatever he is transcends the service division.
Simon: That’s not my read. I think he’s saying that despite all outward appearances there’s no reason to assume that he’s in the military.
Max: Simon, I think this fellow just has a gaudy, martial-style smoking jacket at home and he decided to wear it to the cocktail party. And guess what—it worked! I give this cartoon a… I think I need to recuse myself, I cannot possibly rate the King of Cartoons.
Simon: That’s because you’re a coward. A military man like this one would rate you a zero, unfit for duty.
Max: All right, you’ve thrown down the gauntlet. I will give Mr. Mankoff an entire shoulder of stars—a 3.
Simon: I agree, a 3. I wonder who selected this cartoon from the enormous batch that is presented to Mr. Mankoff every week. And they say Trump has conflict-of-interest issues ….
For more on Bob Mankoff, check out bobmankoff.com
#9) Page 48: “Tip Jar”, Edward Steed
Max: It‘s been too long since we last saw the mad genius of Edward Steed. This cartoon is right in his bizarre medieval torture wheelhouse. And the gag? Well, Simon, it doesn’t even require a caption.
Simon: Absolutely right. And even the focus of the cartoon, the tip jar, is so small that you might miss it. Instead he features the instruments of torture. Very dark, very strange, very Steed. I’m giving it a 6, although it would be lovely if Mr. Steed were to address issues besides human suffering.
Max: One of the reason to award the coveted 6 score is the need to look again at the rewarding details. It’s not just the upturned tip jar; look at the two tiniest coins of the realm – mixed in with bits of fluff and perhaps a fingernail. Wow!
Simon: And you can almost detect that the torturer’s a little disappointed, even though there are only two holes in his mask.
Max: The whole slump of the fellow just gives off waves of disappointment. This is brilliant cartooning!
For more on Edward Steed, check out newyorker.com/contributors/edward-steed
#10) Page 49: “Puffin’ Dolphins”, Liana Finck
Simon: Next is another Liana Finck cartoon. She has really stepped up her game of late. This is a very funny gag with the dolphins coming up for a smoke.
Max: Yes, I agree, Liana Finck has really vaulted herself into the front rank of staff cartoonists. I want your take on this drawing. It implies to me that these dolphins are adopting our human vices. Could it be that they’re bored as well?
Simon: I think you are identifying a little too much with our mammalian friends of the sea.
Max: That may be; however, I thought that this cartoon got to the point quickly with an effective caption. I give it a 4.
Simon: I give it a 5. I believe it’s a commentary on the no-smoking policies that have permeated our society.
Max: Oh, of course! These are the poor creatures you normally see huddled like criminals 50 feet from the front door in the freezing rain. OK, I raise it to a 5.
Simon: The choice of dolphins adds irony because you often find dolphins in New Age sculptures and to associate them with smoking is not New Age-y.
Max: Poor dolphins—adopted as the hip beast of the moment. Tomorrow it’ll be the wildebeest or something.
For more on Liana Finck, check out newyorker.com/contributors/liana-finck
#11) Page 50: “Time-and-a-Half”, Drew Dernavich
Simon: Next is a Drew Dernavich cartoon. I thought this was a great gag. And you, Max?
Max: Mr. Dernavich hit this one out of the park with his signature strong lines and an inspired take on the time-and-a-half theme. These municipal workers obviously triggered the appearance of Father Time-and-a-Half by entering their 9th hour of labor.
Simon: And of course what makes this really funny and strange is the pint-size Father Time.
Max: And what is this “Mini-me” holding—the Torah?
Simon: I believe an hourglass, an item often associated with Father Time.
Max: Hmmm, I still don’t know, but it doesn’t really matter; this is an outstanding cartoon. I shall issue my first award of a 6 to Dernavich.
Simon: Agree, a 6.
For more on Drew Dernavich, check out drewdernavich.com
#12) Page 51: “Wheatgrass”, Alex Gregory
Max: Mr. Gregory’s got a clean vocabulary of lines that draw our focus on the juice master – the new hip barista of life-enhancing pseudo-science.
Simon: This is a funny gag. You know that Gregory works strictly on the computer, so his line doesn’t vary much.
Max: Not surprising to hear, not a hair’s out of place in this cartoon, nor on the guy that’s ordered the wheatgrass. This customer looks a little taken aback by the idea that this additive is going to neutralize joy. I give this one a 5, computerized drawing notwithstanding.
Simon: If you’ve ever tried wheatgrass, you can truly appreciate the humor. I give this one a 5. Parenthetically, I read on afinecaseforpencils.com that Alex Gregory also writes and directs indie films.
For more on Alex Gregory, check out newyorker.com/contributors/alex-gregory
#13) Page 52: “Comic Strip”, Roz Chast
Simon: Number 13 is a Roz Chast cartoon unlike anything I have ever seen from her. This is essentially a cartoon that plays out as a mini-graphic novel. What you think of this, Max?
Max: It’s hysterical. Yes, this is a major departure from her, but these longer strips are not unusual in The New Yorker. I like the way the panel lays out the actual look of a comic book – this is new territory.
Simon: And the humor is quite good. I see it as a commentary on French movies, often without resolution, something that American audiences find maddening.
Max: I never thought I’d call a cartoon existential, but this one merits that weighty description. I give it a 6 because of its great originality, and yet it’s unmistakably a Roz Chast creation.
Simon: I give it a 6, too. It almost falls into the realm of underground comics—not something The New Yorker typically runs (other than the rare Robert Crumb contribution), but when you’re Roz Chast, you break barriers.
Max: I also enjoyed her deployment of malaprop “Franglais”. My favorite line was “Voulez-vous climbez le hille?”
For more on Roz Chast, check out rozchast.com
#14) Page 54: “Joyful Penance”, Zachary Kanin
Max: I image it’s difficult to create a cartoon set in a monastery with tonsured monks. Simon, what did you think of the scene of the supplicating monk contrasted with the sprightly hotelier monk offering to lift the spirit?
Simon: It was certainly a funny view of monkish life.
Max: The gag seems to pivot on one word: dirge. Perfect choice! I give it a 5.
Simon: I wasn’t quite as enthralled as you. I give it a 4.
For more on Zachary Kanin, check out newyorker.com/contributors/zachary-kanin
#15) Page 55: “Sceptic Pigeons”, Kaamran Hafeez
Simon: Next is a Hafeez cartoon. This drawing is quite strong and the gag is really funny. The idea of these tiny pigeons commenting on the T. Rex’s skeleton fossil is inspired.
Max: I admire the sense of a soaring atrium here, with the fierce T. Rex as the central exhibit. Look at the beautiful reflections to create depth and grandeur … and to contrast all that with two absolutely common pigeons.
Simon: I’m going for broke and give it a 6.
Max: I can’t argue with that, I’ll follow suit with a 6. It’s not just the superb artwork, but the high comedy of these nuisance birds discussing evolution in such fluted and condescending tones is priceless.
For more on Kaamran Hafeez, check out kaamranhafeez.com
#16) Page 60: “Lost”, Harry Bliss
Max: Here we have a deep, dark cavern with lost adventurers—a suburban couple engaging in a classic marital tug of war: “You’re lost, aren’t you? … No, I’m not!…I thought so…”.
Simon: This is another Harry Bliss cartoon where the artwork is front and center. Look at the dark columns in the foreground and the misty, hanging vegetation or whatever the heck it is, perhaps stalagmites or stalactites, in the background. I love the art.
Max: Whether stalactites or stalagmite – I could never get them straight – I can get straight with this cartoon; it deserves a solid 5.
Simon: Yes, I give it a 5, although the theme is a little tired.
For more on Harry Bliss, check out harrybliss.com
#17) Page 65: “News Junkie”, Kim Warp
Simon: Number 17 is a Kim Warp cartoon. I view this one as a commentary on today’s low standards in the television journalism.
Max: I got a chuckle out of this one; torture by 24-hour CNN, and the guy is loving it!
Simon: It could very well be Fox News, which raises all sorts of other issues.
Max: To me the gag revolves around the word “unbreakable” – well-chosen. I believe I’ve approximated the same goofy look about 90 minutes into a news binge. It’s a 5 for me.
Simon: For me this is just a 3. It’s really just criticizing what has been criticized many times already—kind of low-hanging fruit.
For more on Kim Warp, check out warpcartoons.com
#18) Page 70: “Zombie Podcast Apocalypse”, Sara Lautman
Max: We have a terror cartoon here, a first. Simon, what you think this podcast they’re referring to is all about?
Simon: Does it matter? I think the idea is that there is some invisible negative force that is causing them to run and panic when they realize that the podcast is somehow within their very abode.
Max: I admire the look of utter fear on the tense woman wielding a baseball bat, and I can’t help noticing the guy’s finger pounding away at the laptop’s space bar to stop the madness in his head. Is this podcast by Tony Robbins? Or perhaps a particularly contrived TED talk? I’m intimidated into a 5 for this one.
Simon: This is a cartoon by Sarah Lautman. We haven’t seen much of in The New Yorker. It’s a pretty good gag and I think the perspective really helps. I give this a 4.
For more on Sarah Lautman, check out saralautman.com
Max: Tonight I’ll be looking under my bed for Russian spies and a huge golden pompadour. Good night!
Simon: And God bless America.