Max:  For a change of pace, a commuter enjoys a ferry ride.

Simon:  I long for a ferry cartoon.


1 of 11: “Judging Wine Labels” by William Haefeli

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Simon:  The first cartoon is by William Haefeli, a cartoonist known for his superb graphic design. Here he takes a jab at people who judge wine based on graphic design. The word “perfect” in the caption conveys a nasty attitude.

Max:  Nasty indeed—duping their unsuspecting hosts with a gaudily labeled, inferior wine to save a few bucks. Judging from the precious hairstyle of the wine buyer, this pair of mid-career professionals are perhaps living beyond their means.

Simon:  It’s a splendid drawing with punchy albeit snarky caption. I give it a 4.

Max:  Though the wine may be bottom shelf, the gag is top-notch. I give this a 4 as well.

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2 of 11: “The Empty Horizon” by Victoria Roberts

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Max:  It’s been awhile since we’ve seen veteran New Yorker cartoonist Victoria Roberts. I imagine in this metaphor the wife here is gently consoling her retired husband there are no more worlds to conquer at this age.

Simon:  Yes, it’s the same couple she always draws. This cartoon takes a literal approach to the phrase “nothing on the horizon” and suggests something philosophical. One problem I have with this cartoon is that perspective is central to the cartoon, but the perspective of the flooring, or whatever it is, is off.

Max:  The porch does seem a bit askew on the cottage rental. The rolling hills also threw me off; I kept expecting an ocean out there. Nonetheless, I’m guessing the concept would be recognizable to many a retiring Baby Boomer. I give this a 3.

Simon:  It’s an interesting concept, but the drawing does not illustrate it as well as it could. A more dramatic view of the horizon might have helped, but Ms. Roberts is not known for landscapes. I give this a low 3.

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3 of 11: “Stranded in the Subway” by Ellis Rosen

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Simon:  Ellis Rosen offers up another terrific illustration, this time of the New York subway, but – guess what? – I don’t need to see another subway cartoon.

Max:  Well, Simon, subway cartoons are here to stay. New Yorkers can’t live without them – though the deteriorating service has unleashed rider outrage on MTA blog sites. The stoic fellow camped out in anticipation of a 1 2 3 train heading to Midtown and the Upper West Side has settled in for the duration.

Simon:  The subway jokes are low-hanging fruit. I applaud the artwork, but let’s try another topic, please. I begrudgingly give this a 3.

Max:  The drawing is excellent – from the pan hanging off the steel column to the coonskin cap. The challenge of an exaggeration cartoon is to find the right value; in this case, waiting three days for a train probably feels about right for the oppressed MTA ridership. I give it a resounding 4.

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4 of 11: “Memo Inferno” by Roz Chast

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Max:  Centuries prior to the 1987 Tom Wolfe bestseller, “Bonfire of the Vanities” referred to a 16th century ritual burning of sinful objects.

Simon:  You’re a font of knowledge, Max. That information sheds new light on this cartoon. I have a couple of issues with this image. The logs look like oversized breadsticks, and I was not sure if the circle of people are office workers. I guess this is a year-end celebration, when all unneeded paperwork is set ablaze.

Max:  I imagine this event is “Burning Man” for office workers. At the end of every year, these denizens of cubicle-land clear out last year’s reports and memos for a cathartic outdoor immolation. The general atmosphere of the drawing feels festive and involves a wide range of office folk. I give this a 3.

Simon:  I like the paper floating up in the heated air, but I wasn’t sure what to make of the people’s response to this enormous bonfire. Are they happy or relieved or just what? This confusion requires me to drop my rating to a 2.

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5 of 11: “Pegleg from the Pequod” by Lars Kenseth

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Simon:  Captain Ahab and Moby Dick, that literary odd couple, are the subject of many a New Yorker cartoon. Indeed, the pale whale is number 66 on the cartoon cliché list. It’s hard to imagine that such a petite white crustacean pinched off the leg of Ahab in this Lars Kenseth cartoon.

Max:  Oh, I still believe the great white whale gnawed off his leg. What’s hilarious to me is that an off-duty Ahab has stumped his way to a fancy seafood restaurant, judging from the frilly shirt on the waiter. Once seated, is there any doubt the plastic-bibbed Captain would select the great white lobster for his main?

Simon:  Your interpretation is well justified, Max. This is a very strong illustration and a funny gag, plus it’s captionless. I give this a 5.

Max:  A classic literary theme, inventive imagery, and a strong drawing…I give it a 5 as well.

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6 of 11: “Walk on the Wildlife Side” by Harry Bliss

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Max:  Ah, the famous parental ploy…the “walk-away”. Harry Bliss raises it to a fine art by implying dangerous creatures feast on meltdowns.

Simon:  That enormous tree is the heart of this cartoon. The form and bark are beautifully rendered, and serve as a mighty barrier between daughter and her rather cruel father.

Max:  Yes, that tree evokes a landscape out of Grimm’s Fairytales; but her father is no ogre, he just doesn’t want to carry a squirmy kid. In fact, this illustration rightfully belongs in a parenting manual. I give Mr. Bliss a 4.

Simon:  Max, I guess you are an adherent of the tough love school of parenting. I enjoyed the art and the gag. I give this a 4 as well.

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7 of 11: “Lack of Control Freak” by Teresa Burns Parkhurst

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Simon:  Teresa Burns Parkhurst has become something of a regular in the magazine. I enjoy this composition and the movement of the guy out the door, but the caption stumbles a bit.

Max:  Yes, I agree the caption could use a little tightening. The drawing is evocative – I still recall marveling at those first automated towel dispensers at the airport. I even murmured “Abracadabra” as I waved my hand in front to the sensor. I can envision the restorative nature of such a device.

Simon:  A funny idea, but as I said, the caption doesn’t convey the gag as economically as it could have. I give this a 3.

Max:  It’s a fine drawing, populated with Ms. Parkhurst’s usual idiosyncratic characters. I like the gag, but you raise a good point about the caption. I give this a 4.

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8 of 11: “Extreme Binging” by David Sipress

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Max:  As the Ken Burns documentaries get longer and cover greater ground, I have no doubt he would be the producer of this sprawling 96-part “Mother of all Documentaries.”

Simon:  Yes it’s a funny commentary on the popularity of multi-part documentaries. The setup line, “This looks good”, is perfect.

Max:  Right, the perfect marital TV compromise, midway between Monday Night Football and the Antiques Roadshow. I give this a 5.

Simon:  I guess this is a television show that explains the theory of everything. I give it a 4.

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9 of 11: “Ask Me Anything” by Emily Flake

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Simon:  Emily Flake presents a woman who is willing to communicate without the aid of an electronic device. How novel. I realize the words have to be large enough to read, but slogans on T-shirts are more compact than the one here.

Max:  Though a bit hard to read on a cell phone, it’s worth it. Like many, I’m suffering from overload trying to keep up with the “breaking news” onslaught of politics, storms, shootings, and celebrities. This cartoon offers sage counsel; I may temporarily unplug as well.

Simon:  It’s an original take on a concept that we’ve seen in other cartoons in one form or another, namely, the impact of social media on personal discourse, but I think it would’ve been more effective with a tighter shot of the shirt itself. I give this a 3.

Max:  I also like the expectant attitude of this woman. She’s settled in, coffee at the ready, hoping something palpable will occur. I give this a 4.

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10 of 11: “The Road Not Taken” by Frank Cotham

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Max:  The crusty financial titan in the rear seat is all about profits and efficiencies. The scenic route is for flower sniffing losers.

Simon:  Yes, the liveried chauffeur and the sourpuss passenger, who is always an old white male in a suit, is a favorite target. I thought it was a bit contrived for the driver to be speaking on the phone, but I guess he has to deliver the line to someone.

Max:  And whom is the driver speaking to? My money is on the mogul’s third wife. Hmmm, I wonder why she wants his arrival delayed, wink, wink. This cartoon is a good bit of fun at the expense of a wealthy tycoon. Of course, with the new federal tax provisions, he’ll be laughing all the way to the bank. I give this a 3.

Simon:  Just a so-so cartoon by Frank Cotham. I give this a 3.

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11 of 11: “ACs in the Air” by Andrew Hamm

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Simon:  The final cartoon by Andrew Hamm, who has had only a couple of previous cartoons in the magazine. This is in an arresting image, calling to mind Magritte. It’s also a decent gag. The box around the title is straight out of the book of Jack Ziegler or perhaps Mick Stevens.

Max:  Vast squadrons of AC window units sit dormant in New York for the wintry months. Why not have them migrate south to cool the brows of Miami snowbirds? This is not an easy drawing to pull off, but Mr. Hamm has handled it with precision.

Simon:  Yes, the idea of these bulky objects high in the sky is both implausible and entertaining. I give this a 4.

Max:  With the trailing electrical cords, these in-wall units even formed the migratory “V”. No cliché here—a unique contribution to the cartooning world. I give this a 4 as well.

For more on Andrew Hamm, check out