Max:  Isn’t the cover jumping the gun by implying these are the dog days of summer?

Simon:  Oh, dear…a gag writer.



1 of 16: “Panting Pets” by Maggie Larson

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Simon:  First up is a cartoon by Maggie Larson, and it features two images side by side. One image depicts a dog joyfully looking out the window of a car, and the companion image shows a rat similarly enjoying a ride on a subway car.

Max:  I’m surmising the cute dog is out for a little jaunt in the leafy suburbs while our rat gets what pleasure he can in the gritty subway netherworld. This cartoon has a strong graphical element to it; however, I just didn’t feel it was all that funny and, in fact, not really a New Yorker cartoon.

Simon:  Yes, it’s more an illustration than a cartoon. And I get that rats inhabit the New York subways, but this cartoon is more ink than think. Very odd to give this image valuable cartoon space in the magazine. I give this a 2.

Max:  The nice day-versus-night, side-by-side panels lifts this to a 2 for me as well.

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2 of 16: “Mobsters for a Day” by Tom Chitty

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Max:  Mr. Chitty presents a triptych of “Sunday mobsters” in their characteristic gangster get-ups of striped suits and black shirts. Mr. Chitty adheres to the cartooning Rule of Three, saving the best for last. Jimmy Two Brunches was a very funny final character.

Simon:  I agree. The first two characters didn’t do much for me, but the third character saved this cartoon from 2-dom. I rate it a 3.

Max:  Yes, it nicely mocked the more ominous Mafia nicknames, like “Ice Pick Willie”. Look at Jimmy Two Brunches with his hand on his stomach – clearly a Pepto-Bismol moment. It’s a pretty funny gag, I give it a 4.

Simon:  I would’ve preferred that the gangsters’ outfits varied a bit. No need to have the same pinstripe suit, black shirt, and white tie.

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3 of 16: “Distracted-in-Chief” by Sharon Levy

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Simon:  Next is a political cartoon by Sharon Levy. I confess it took me a moment or two to recognize the shape that’s in the box before I recognized it as our President.

Max:  One often sees a cat fascinated by the empty box and ignoring its toys and balls of string. In this case, our distractable President has abandoned his trusty Twitter device to interact with cardboard in the Oval Office.

Simon:  Yes, I’m hoping the Office of the President will offer some cute videos featuring Trump in a box. The illustration bothered me, however, because the black suit seemed out of proportion and unnecessarily bold compared to the rest of the cartoon, which relies on a very thin line. I give this a low 3.

Max:  I liked it more than you, Simon, and thought it was well-conceived and executed. Look at the President’s cat-rooting-around posture! I’m sure his aides will be inspired by this one, I give it a 4.

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4 of 16: “Gun Play” by Eric Lewis

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Max:  Next, we have a cartoon by a Eric Lewis, who we haven’t seen yet this year. The gag plays upon the old admonishment by moms everywhere that the children should be less loud by “using their indoor voices”. Did you like this one, Simon?

Simon:  I like this cartoon, which takes aim, as it were, at the NRA and its ilk. It’s a little heavy-handed, but not bad.

Max:  I like the drawing; in fact, I was interested in that modern art masterpiece on the wall above the recliner. Perhaps I could obtain a reproduction through I give it a 3.

Simon:  I give this a 4. The image is clear and the gag is pretty solid. And what does the Mystery New Yorker cartoonist have say about this?

Mystery New Yorker Cartoonist:  I’m choosing Eric Lewis’ Indoor Gun as the best cartoon of the issue. I’m not just going by what’s the funniest, but I’ll admit I remember Eric’s work when he used to be in the magazine, and I know his work is solid. Good to see him back. I give cartoon this a 4.

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5 of 16: “Off with Their Heads” by Alice Cheng

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Simon:  Next is yet another cartoon that turns on the praying mantis’s habit of biting off the head of her mate. This one juxtaposes that image with a guillotine victim. What did you think of this one, Max?

Max:  Ms. Cheng makes a wildly creative connection between the Reign of Terror and the behavior of the praying mantis. In both cases, it’s off with their heads!

Simon:  The illustration bothered me a bit. If you going to have an image from the Reign of Terror, then you should also have a crowd of roaring Parisians. This one seems to have two images in isolation.

Max:  No, it didn‘t bother me at all. In fact, I thought it knitted the scene into the intimate tableau necessary to overhear the conversation between two insects. And, extra point for a one-word caption. I give this a 5.

Simon:  I give this a low 3.

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6 of 16: “Strange Bedfellows” by Liana Finck

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Max:  Ms. Finck is next with a a cartoon that features a police officer with quite a bedside manner. What do you think is really going on here between the copper and the crook, Simon?

Simon:  I think that there is an interesting and possibly intimate relationship between the law enforcement officer and the bandit. It’s a cute but fairly obvious joke.

Max:  This was quite an odd graphic for me. I think this particular gag was helped a bit with the big bag of money on the floor. Hmmm, a little trite for me, I rate this a 2.

Simon:  This is a bit too silly for The New Yorker. I give it a 2.

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7 of 16: “A Bridge Too Far” by Michael Maslin

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Simon:  Next up is a cartoon by our friend, Michael Maslin. It’s the most whimsical cartoon in this issue. Did you like it, Max?

Max:  I thought this is a fun illustration of his concept, “Things I’d Like to See Just Once”. I like the image of such a luxurious vehicle limply draped over the rising drawbridge. Funny gag.

Simon:  I think Mr. Maslin is making comment on the prevalence of oversized limos clogging up the streets of Manhattan. Nice image but to me only moderately amusing. I give it a solid 3.

Max:  I liked it better than you. Such a collision of privilege – the yacht usurping the limo – is deeply comical. I’ll give it a 4.

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8 of 16: “See Who’s at the Door” by Will McPhail

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Max:  Mr. McPhail delivers a rather macabre scene in which the Grim Reaper is a little frustrated with the approach he’s chosen. Of all the powers we ascribe to him, he seems stymied by this ordinary situation.

Simon:  Yes, Death comes for the New Yorker apartment-dweller quite often in the pages of the magazine. The Grim Reaper appears again and again in The New Yorker, but I really like this caption.

Max:  Yes, all the nuances are there. These Grim Reaper scenarios are sometimes hard to pull off, but this one walks the fine line between the impending doom for the victim and the humor of the situation. I give it a 5.

Simon:  I like the idea of Death traipsing up of the stairs and bending his head to speak into the intercom. Well done. A solid 4.

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9 of 16: “Gourmet Hot Dogs” by Roz Chast

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Simon:  Roz Chast offers us heirloom hot dogs. It’s a funny idea to associate something as unhealthy as hot dogs with heirloom comestibles. What did you think of it, Max?

Max:  I thought this was just so-so. She’s been bouncing around between three and five items in her gags of late – tombstones have dominated. My favorite of the five was “Beefs d’Hiver”, a sort of Frenchified gourmet hot dog, I suppose. The others were “meh” for me.

Simon:  I thought there were other funny ones. I especially like “Old Spotties”, which to me suggested some sort of peculiar variety of British banger. I give this a solid 4.

Max:  I think the concept of heirloom hot dogs was solid, just not crazy about the gags. I give this a 3.

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10 of 16: “Walter Mitty Unbound” by Harry Bliss

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Max:  Mr. Bliss brings us a cartoon that features one of the longest of captions we’ve seen in The New Yorker this year.

Simon:  And I thought it was unnecessarily long. We get the gag after one or two statements. He does end up strong though with the Gary Johnson line.

Max:  Some of the items were were fairly funny, though I thought the biggest payoff was “I Watch ‘The Bachelorette’ and I Love It!”. That one to me was most in line with the real milquetoast image of Walter Mitty.

Simon:  We’ve seen more exceptional cartoons from Mr. Bliss. I give this a 3.

Max:  You took the words right out of my mouth – a 3 as well.

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11 of 16: “Biblical Mayhem” by Edward Steed

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Simon:  Next up is Mr. Steed. Well, it’s finally come to this: an actual murder depicted in a cartoon. How did you react to this one, Max?

Max:  I’m afraid Mr. Steed went over the edge with this one in terms of taste. I mean, it looks like the hideous creature on the ground is stoning some poor woman to death. I must be missing something.

Simon:  Oh, Max, you are missing that this is a depiction of Adam and Eve with their sons, Cain and Abel, after Mom and Pop have been expelled from Paradise. Note the fig leafs. We know from Sunday school that their sons had a sibling rivalry which did not end well.

Max:  Ah, well, thank you for the clarification, Simon. Clearly, I should have spent more time in Sunday school instead of watching football. Though funnier, it’s still an incredibly gruesome cartoon. How will you rate this, Simon?

Simon:  This is both hilarious and appalling, as so many of Steed’s cartoons are. Part of me wants to rate this a 6, but another part of me wants to give it a negative number, based on how disturbing the image is. I’m going to drop it down to a 5. I think he could have gotten the idea across in a less gruesome way and still had a very funny gag.

Max:  That’s the challenge in rating many of Steed’s cartoons – it’s either at one end of the spectrum or the other. He’s set a record for the number of times we’ve awarded a “6” to an artist. I can’t give him anything in the middle, and I can’t give him a 6, so a 2, I guess.

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12 of 16: “Dog Demotion” by William Haefeli

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Max:  Mr. Haefeli brings another of his genteel cartoons of sophisticated manners. This one shows the subtle status change of a dog now that his owners, who are gay, have adopted a child. Interestingly, this cartoon would equally apply to a straight couple, but perhaps not as funny.

Simon:  Yes, Mr. Haefeli has mastered the art of the cartoon of manners. Again, we have a gay couple commenting on their growing family. It’s a cute idea and beautifully drawn. It’s smile- worthy.

Max:  Smile-worthy? Is that a 3.5 on our scale, Simon? As always with Mr. Haefeli, the details are worth examining. The couple on the left clutches their fancy summer concoctions, the couple on the right sports the requisite extender dog leash, a snuggly for the kid, and the de rigueur trendy diaper bag. That said, the gag was a little too mannered, so I give this a 3.

Simon:  Yes, the details are all there and worth a second look. But it’s just a 3 for me.

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13 of 16: “Looking Good” by Amy Hwang

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Simon:  Up next is an Amy Hwang cartoon, again featuring two women commenting on modern life. Did you like this one, Max?

Max:  What‘s subtly funny about this cartoon is that a multibillion-dollar cosmetics industry relies on the notion that you can become good-looking by buying and applying their products. Ms. Hwang adroitly pops that balloon by pointing out the obvious, that the secret to looking good is indeed to be good-looking.

Simon:  Yes, I think it’s a nicely pointed commentary on the beauty world. I mark down cartoons, however, where the speaker is aware that she or he is making a pointed comment. The character becomes the obvious mouthpiece of the cartoonist. For that reason, I give this a 3.

Max:  I enjoyed the essential truth underneath the advertising slight-of-hand, I give it a 4.

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14 of 16: “Vlad Who?” by Jason Chatfield

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Max:  Jason Chatfield, in his first cartoon for The New Yorker, conjures up “Vlad the Employer“ in our next cartoon. Who is this economic buccaneer, Simon?

Simon:  Not a buccaneer, Max, but a parody of Vlad the Impaler. Instead, we have a more benevolent tyrant. It’s a very bold image but inconsistent the drawing of the applicant, which owes something to Jack Ziegler in my opinion.

Max:  Ah, that Vlad, the 15th century iron-fisted ruler of Wallachia. I was thinking of my Uncle Morty’s Russian partner who established a string of successful stores in Flatbush. We nicknamed him “Vlad the Retailer”. In the cartoon, look how the awed applicant seems stunned by the job-creating power of Vlad the Employer. I like this mix of styles: the florid fantasy brushwork versus the more traditional cartoon style. I give this a 4.

Simon:  I give it a 4 as well. It’s an interesting image, and the gag is solid. I’d like to see more of Mr. Chatfield’s work.

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15 of 16: “Partying with Thing Two” by Bruce Eric Kaplan

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Simon:  Next is a surprising image from Bruce Eric Kaplan, who injects a character from the work of the beloved Dr. Seuss into one of his austere scenes.

Max:  Yes, quite a departure indeed. Normally we have these blocky middle-aged types with drink in hand making arch comments. Now, suddenly, Thing Two bursts into Mr. Kaplan‘s antiseptic world. Also, I have to reassess that matronly woman with the martini – I believe she has a past.

Simon:  Yes, it’s jarring to see Thing 2 in a BEK cartoon. It’s almost as if Alfred E. Neuman dropped in on a Peter Arno cartoon. I give this a 4.

Max:  I think this is one of the more imaginative Bruce Eric Kaplan cartoons. He also pops out a pretty decent gag. I’m giving this one a 4.

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16 of 16: “Romper Room” by Sara Lautman

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Max:  Our final cartoon features a gag by Ms. Lautman in which the longish caption leans on an article of women’s clothing. Not exactly sure about the definition of a romper; is that a girl’s gym suit?

Simon:  I believe a romper is an article of women’s casual clothing. This cartoon suffers by comparison with a cartoon I can recall from decades ago, in which a middle-aged woman says to her seated husband something like “You always wear a jumpsuit, but you never jump.” I couldn’t find that cartoon in the Cartoon Bank or Conde Nast store, but I’m fairly sure that I saw in The New Yorker.

Max:  Tell me, Simon, how many cartoons live in that fevered brainpan of yours? That’s quite a reach back into cartoon history for that comparison. I did think this cartoon was a quiet interior cartoon, sort of a Sylvia Plath “Bell Jar” moment. For me it was a so-so drawing and a meh gag, I give this a 2.

Simon:  The caption is too long, and the artwork is mediocre. This cartoon barely registers a 2.

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