Max:
  So what’s new?

Simon:  Cartoons by Frank Cotham and Amy Hwang in the Gallery, plus part 1 of the fascinating Harry Bliss interview—that’s what’s new!

 

1 of 10: “Cheesiest” by Farley Katz

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Simon:  The first cartoon is by Farley Katz, and I take it to be a commentary on the extraordinary efforts of pizza chains to cram in as much cheese into a pizza as possible. There are four gag lines. Do they add up to one laugh, Max?

Max:  I rather enjoyed the fourth one – about the mini-cheese pizza on the plastic spacer –  that‘s not bad. And as you know by our judging rules, the last one should be the best.

Simon:  That was also my favorite. But the others … eh. “100% Gouda crust” – is that funny? The other two fall somewhere between slightly amusing and not so much. I will say that Farley Katz is a better illustrator of inanimate objects than of people.

Max:  I also didn’t mind the box made of recycled cheddar sweepings. Simon, you know how I am about the environment! I give this one a 3.

Simon:  For me, a low 3.

For more on Farley Katz, check out farleykatz.com

 

2 of 10: “High Stakes Dive” by Christopher Weyant

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Max: Our next cartoon features a commentary on our increasingly litigious society. The title indicates the degree of dive difficult, which is so high that as opportunistic shyster is poised to begin building a personal injury case. What did you think, Simon?

Simon:  It’s a simple and skilled drawing with a great gag line. This diver is headed toward lawsuit country, given that he’s a middle-aged, bald guy with a less than Olympian physique. The really nice touch though is the glasses he’s wearing on the high dive.

Max:  Well, I suppose they could be swim goggles. Nonetheless, there’s no missing the glasses on the sharp-eyed legal beagle who will overlook nothing on the way to 40% of a huge settlement. A fine composition and strong gag, I award a 4.

Simon:  I give it a high 4, not to be confused with a high dive.

For more on Christopher Weyant, check out christopherweyant.com

 

3 of 10: “Pantheon of One” by Drew Dernavich

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Simon:  Next up is a Drew Dernavich cartoon that appears to be inspired by our autocratic age. He really landed this gag with the last two words. The drawing is solid, too.

Max:  Mr. Dernavich gave this monument a great sense of solidity – unlike that of the current reign he is mocking. The caption is well-phrased and I particularly liked the ever-decreasing plinths leading up to this singular pantheon.

Simon:  I would’ve made the statue larger. It looks too much like one of the passersby. But it’s a good gag. I give it a solid 4.

Max:  Perhaps the size of the statue represents the paucity of the leader’s thoughts. I give this a 4 for commentary on the political narcissism of today.

For more on Drew Dernavich, check out drewdernavich.com

 

4 of 10: “Dissin’ Grandpa” by Emily Flake

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Max:  Ms. Flake gives us a cartoon that perfectly features the quintessential grandpa’s sweater. Oh, and see how it swaddles the melon-like belly; you can practically hear the rasp of his stentorian snoring. On the other hand, grandma doesn’t seem discontented with the situation.

Simon:  The artwork is perfectly fine, but this is just a sitcom line with a drawing associated with it. Plus, grandma knows she’s tossing off this one-liner. I wouldn’t be so hard on Emily Flake if this were cartoon were in, say, The Saturday Evening Post, but this is The New Yorker after all!

Max:  Keep in mind, Simon, the population of New Yorker readers is probably gently aging as well. The caption’s pretty good and the oldsters are well-captured. I give this a 4.

Simon: I’m going to be rough on this one and give it a 2.

Max:  Uh-oh, Simon, sounds like the gloves are coming off!

For more on Emily Flake, check out emilyflake.com

 

5 of 10: “Bug Trust” by John McNamee

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Simon:  Next up is a cartoon by a relative newcomer to The New Yorker, John McNamee. I like this cartoon. The drawing is simple and clean, and the gag is funny.

Max:  Yeah, this is a takeoff on the many anthropological studies where the scientist gains the trust of, say, a tribe of gorillas or some other large, fierce land beast. It’s pretty funny that the guy uses the same method to gain the trust of a microorganism.

Simon:  This cartoon creates a narrative, which is one of the goals that Harry Bliss mentioned in his interview. It makes you wonder what was going on in the 36 days before this journal entry.

Max:  And keeping in mind that the lifecycle of e-Coli is probably significantly shorter than 37 days, that does create a rather rich backstory.

Simon:  You could say it works on a gut level. I give it a high 4.

Max:  I give this a 5. It’s got the think as well as the ink.

For more on John McNamee, check out piecomic.tumblr.com

 

6 of 10: “Herding Bubbles” by Joe Dator

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Max: We’ve got a rather odd cartoon from Mr. Dator that shows a species of animal led off to the slaughterhouse in order to harvest their bubblewrap. Hmmm, a little on the bizarre and disturbing side if the creatures weren’t so cute.

Simon:  I really enjoyed this cartoon. There’s a lot going on, but if you follow the path from the two people, through the flock of bubblewrap, to the lamb-like creatures up the plank, to where they are being mercilessly flayed of their bubblewrap, and then on the left where their bubblewrap hides are being rolled up and put into a truck for of delivery, it’s all a horrifying and wonderful image to me.

Max:  Yes, and the couple in the bottom left corner look like they’re about to swear off bubblewrap forever! It’s an intriguing composition, but bordering on the macabre for me. I’ll give this one a 4.

Simon:  Placing right up front that bubblewrap animal staring innocently into the eyes of the couple is a great cartoon decision. I give this a 5.

For more on Joe Dator, check out joedator.com

 

7 of 10: “Caught in the Act” by P.C. Vey

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Simon:  Next up is a P.C. Vey cartoon which seems to be a take on the idea of meeting cute. Pretty funny to me. What you think, Max?

Max:  All couples reminisce about how they met, but this one takes the cake! What were the chances that this relationship would survive beyond the ride to the police station? Quite the plot twist, eh, Simon?

Simon:  Oh, it’s an imaginative gag that’s also well-executed. It was a wise choice on P.C. Vey’s part to show the guy rummaging furtively in a trashcan at night, as opposed to something more sinister, like breaking into the home. This is a solid 4, verging on a 5.

Max:  Indeed, what on earth was the bandit hoping to find? I don’t want to know. You can always count on the weird from P.C. Vey. I give it a 3.

For more on P.C. Vey, check out pcvey.com

 

8 of 10: “Love Birds” by Edward Steed

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Max:  Speaking of weird, Mr. Steed brings us a cartoon that’s off the weirdness charts. We have an iron bedstead – note the heart – surrounded by crows, while one of his awful creatures lights up a smoke. She berates her bedmate for blaming the birds for…yuck… their lack of romance.

Simon:  Yes, that heart is a great touch. Steed charts his own course. No one comes near him for perversity and weirdness. This is both hilarious and awful at the same time.

Max:  If there are implied boundaries for New Yorker cartoons, Steed has shattered them all. I give this a 5.

Simon: I’m right there with you, Max – a 5.

For more on Edward Steed, check out newyorker.com/contributors/edward-steed

 

9 of 10: “Repairman Friending” by Benjamin Schwartz

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Simon:  Next up is a cartoon by Dr. Schwartz. It features an image that makes explicit what is often implicit when a repair person comes to one’s home. Did you like this one, Max?

Max:  Well, this drawing is nicely observed in terms of a familiar situation for most people. I can’t help but harken back to Dan Ackroyd’s repairman portrayal on Saturday Night Live many years ago showing his “half moon”. By comparison, I found this take a little on the polite side.

Simon:  I know what you mean, but maybe we need something to cleanse the palate after Ed Steed’s cartoon. I give this a low 3. I also want to comment that I know that The New Yorker is striving to include greater racial diversity among the cartoon characters, and I applaud that, but really this character just looks like a white guy with some wash on his face.

Max:  Especially with regard to last year’s all-white Academy Awards show, yes, we might have a similiar situation at The New Yorker. In spite of my admiration for Dr. Schwartz’s fine body of work, this one was a miss for me. I give it a 2.

Simon:  I give a low 3.

For more on Benjamin Schwartz, check out newyorker.com/contributors/benjamin-schwartz

 

10 of 10: “Lobby Scene” by William Haefeli

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Max: Mr. Haefeli is back with another one of his unique creations. In contrast to typically posed or static compositions, this cartoon creates the illusion of movement by having the woman dragging her charges behind her. She also tosses a line over her shoulder as she bustles through her Upper East Side lobby, seemingly seeking to address the silent censure of her doorman.

Simon:  No question about it, Haefeli cartoons are 80% great illustration. The gag line is something of an afterthought. But this is really outstanding artwork, and I particularly like that he can draw kids as well as adults. Not all cartoonists can do that.

Max:  In fact, I’ve only seen adults in his work. Mr. Haefeli is so stylized that the funny little kid on the right takes on the appearance of a monkey. I wasn’t bowled over by the gag. I give it a 3.

Simon:  I give this a 4, but in the hands of almost any other cartoonist it wouldn’t rank higher than a 3. The Mystery New Yorker cartoonist has this to say:

Mystery New Yorker Cartoonist:  Hello, gentlemen. I’m writing you this week from the George Gobel Humor Retreat at Tamiment Resort in beautiful Pennsylvania. It’s a one-month comedy detox program, so I don’t get The New Yorker in a very timely matter up here. The only hard copy lying around is an issue from 1979.

But I did check online. I have to wonder out loud why in this age we live in, with so much low-hanging fruit out there, and there being such a great need right now for humor to comfort us, that only the late-night talk hosts are flourishing. This should be the golden age of cartoons, but instead so much of the new work is slight. Light yet heavy on attitude. Yet I see hilarious cartoons by friends each week, but they don’t seem to make it to print. In the new issue there were a couple by veterans which were above average if not laugh inducing. One of them is this last cartoon by William Haefeli with an efficient caption and beautifully executed drawing. It’s the best in the issue and I give it a 4.

For more on William Haefeli, check out condenaststore.com/-st/William-Haefeli-Cartoons-Prints_c146286_.htm