Max:  What do you suppose all of those people outside the gallery are discussing so animatedly?

Simon:  It can only be one thing: Bob Mankoff stepping down as Cartoon Editor.

Simon: The news that rocked the cartoonists’ world was the announcement that Emma Allen is replacing Bob Mankoff as The New Yorker‘s Cartoon Editor.

Max: The King is dead! Long live the King–er, Queen!

Simon:  He’s not quite dead. The King has been reduced to being a vassal again, submitting cartoons in hopes that his liege will look upon him with favor. Frankly, I’m surprised and a bit miffed that David Remnick didn’t select me. After all, I knew him when he was an undergrad at Princeton.

Max:  You went to Princeton, Simon?

Simon: Several times. I catered some of their campus events. I was an assistant caterer, to be more accurate … clean-up crew to be even more accurate.

Max:  Since neither of us has had cartoons accepted in The New Yorker, perhaps we can get an insider’s take on the change in editorship and what it may mean.

Simon:  Speak, oh Mystery New Yorker Cartoonist!

Mystery New Yorker Cartoonist:  So let’s just get straight to it here. Last week it was announced Bob Mankoff was being replaced by Emma Allen, the young Shouts & Murmur editor. If you are a cartoonist, this is huge. This is arguably the most important new development that will happen in a cartoonist’s career. It’s like a baseball player being told the league is switching to a cube-shaped baseball. For most in the cartoonist pool, there has been only one person they had to please, one person that determined their fate, whose golden touch can make or break you. This power has now been transferred over to someone new (someone with quite a different background) for the first time in over 20 years.

It will be very interesting to see how this changes the cartoon landscape within the magazine, a landscape now that has a spectacular range of quality, and is known for running the best cartoons in the world.

I’ve heard from dozens of cartoonists in the last week, discussing how this will effect them personally and professionally, many who for years have been unable to crack the code and get their first published New Yorker cartoon in the fabled publication. For them this is a open call to get into the big show–a second chance they have been waiting years for.

Meanwhile, Mankoff will be going back to cartooning, a strong writer responsible for some of the most iconic cartoons. I’ve missed his work. In the past 10 years he’s appeared almost never and never is not good for me. Kudos to his accomplishments at the helm–The Cartoonbank, the widely popular Cartoon Caption Contest and being an important vocal ambassador for the medium.

 The new incumbent, Emma Allen, stated the original vision for America’s favorite magazine: “Founding editor Harold Ross referred to his magazine, in 1925, as ‘the comic weekly.’ ” I’ll add I hope the cartoons will not require teams of people to decipher (no offense to Max and Simon). I look forward to seeing this blog track and discuss any perceptible shifts.”

 

1 of 9, Page 31: “A Startling Diagnosis” by P.C. Vey

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Simon:  The first cartoon in this issue is by P.C. Vey, and it’s set in a doctor’s office. The doctor conferring with a patient is, of course, a common premise for cartoons. I really enjoy P.C. Vey’s cartoons, but I did not find this one especially funny.

Max:  Have you watched the news lately, Simon? This is Mr. Vey’s second political cartoon in a row, this time referring to President Trump’s casual aside that he didn’t realize healthcare was so complicated.

Simon:  The quote is: “Nobody knew that healthcare could be so complicated.” Nobody in the sense of him, so I guess your paraphrase is accurate. I like how the doctor has turned the monitor toward the patient as if the information on the screen confirms his conclusion. But I didn’t think the gag was all that strong.

Max:  When it comes to our sitting President, perhaps the doctor should be holding up his phone to show the latest Twitter feed.

Simon:  I think paying attention to Trump’s Twitter tantrums would make anybody sick. I give this cartoon a low 3.

Max:  I also took note of what looked like radios and microwaves on the wall, but of course those are sheepskins for the learned doctor. Topical political humor is hot now, I’ll give this a 4.

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

 

2 of 9, Page 35: “Cocktail Party Conversation” by Tom Toro

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Max:  Simon, this Tom Toro cartoon makes me yearn for the rustic outer exurbs and gracious country living. From the wallpaper border to the braided rug to the ivy on the bookshelves, I believe this interior is from real life. It’s gorgeously rendered.

Simon:  I agree. But artistically I think it’s far too complicated for the cartoon. It looks more like an illustration and only incidentally a cartoon. Plus, everything is in sharp focus, which makes the image slightly harder to read. I also think that the cocktail party premise is the most boring premise for cartoons because it’s so generic. Here, however, the cocktail party conversation is actually the subject of the cartoon, and that’s what allows it to rise above the usual cocktail party cartoon.

Max:  Scoring was difficult for me because of the superior artwork; however, the gag rules supreme. I like the concept, but the caption didn’t quite deliver. I give it a 3.

Simon:  I actually like the gag because it makes explicit what is often implicit in a cocktail party conversations. I give this a 4, although I would have preferred less ornate artwork. It’s not necessary.

Max:  Simon, I recall one of your dicta takes exception to the speaker being aware they are saying something funny. It sure looks to me that the young fellow is more than aware of his comedic impact.

Simon:  You’re correct, but I insist on the right to be inconsistent.

For more on Tom Toro, check out tomtoro.com/cartoons

 

3 of 9, Page 36: “The Holdup” by Edward Steed

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Simon:  Next up is our dear Mr. Steed at his macabre best. I really enjoyed this cartoon—so dark, so crude, so Steed.

Max:  Yes, quintessential Steed; however, I have to exhibit a small matter of confusion here: it seems to me “that thing” the horrid couple refers to is the TV, not the pistol that the little tyke is brandishing.

Simon:  Clearly though “that thing” is the pistol that the nasty-looking child is pointing at his mother. I understand from back channels that the word “him” should have inserted in the caption after the word “bought.”

Max:  Simon, I marvel at yet another inside scoop owing to your cartoonist cronyism. Well, that wording change draws one’s attention back to the vicious creature at the end of the couch. In our new era of unfettered access to guns in the U.S., Mr. Steed’s British perspective is sobering. Unfortunately, I have to give this one a 4 over my initial confusion. I think they should repeal and replace all one million copies of this issue to get the caption right!

Simon:  We cannot downgrade the cartoonist when a copy editor has dropped a word in a caption. I give this a 5. And even though Mr. Steed is an Englishman, he is appears to be well-acquainted with our cherished Second Amendment. The youngster in the cartoon is clearly a member of our “well-regulated militia.”

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

 

4 of 9, Page 39: “Biblical Musings” by Trevor Spaulding

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Max:  Next, we have a biblical cartoon by Mr. Spalding. Superb job of illustrating the ancient desert scene – you just don’t see yoked oxen that often anymore. And what about the gag, Simon?

Simon:  I like the turn of phrase “do some damage”, which is so anachronistic given this biblical scene. It upped a 3-rated cartoon to a 4. It’s well drawn, as we expect from Spaulding, but maybe a little too realistically for a cartoon, again almost an illustrator’s style.

Max:  I wonder how to classify this one—a reverse reference to beating swords into plowshares, meaning these gentle folks are musing on using a plowshare as a weapon of blunt force trauma? The gag is a bit of a stretch for me. I’ll give it a 3.

Simon:  But of course that’s the point; it could hardly be clearer.

For more on Trevor Spaulding, check out trevorspaulding.com

 

5 of 9, Page 46: “Anaphylactic Shock” by David Borchart

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Simon:  On next to a David Borchart cartoon. I thought this was a magnificent cartoon mainly because it relies on the drawing to put the joke across. I thought that the absence of people in the cartoon was a brilliant choice.

Max:  I couldn’t agree more! The slave ship is a classic cartoon premise. It’s what we don’t see that’s brilliant about this effort. As we know from every Ben Hur-era movie, the oars are manned by brawny, heavily oiled slaves down below. The image a bee causing such consternation is hilarious.

Simon:  I think we can agree that this is the solid 5, right, Max?

Max:  Well, I’d love to give it a 5 ½ because 6s have been deemed almost beyond the reach of cartooning mortals. I don’t care! I’m giving this a 6, I love it.

Simon:  And I believe our esteemed Mystery New Yorker cartoonist also enjoyed this cartoon. Let’s read what he has to say.

Mystery New Yorker Cartoonist: David Borchart’s ship cartoon made me laugh out loud, and I’m giving it a 5.

For more on David Borchart, check out ghoulisland.com

 

6 of 9, Page 51: “Prison: Your Way” by Lars Kenseth

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Max: We have a cartoon by Mr. Kenseth about the Stress Prison. The drawing of the dank prison fortress is appropriately foreboding, but I’m not so sure about the small print of the gag. Is this some sort of bizarre millennium fantasy? What do you think, Simon?

Simon:  I would not limit this to millennials. I think it’s a fairly common fantasy among people who feel they don’t have enough time to relax. The sign is a bit wordy, but I think it captures the concept. Maybe you never feel a desire to hide away and indulge yourself, but many folks do, including me from time to time.

Max:  But Simon, you’re unemployed!

Simon:  Well, if you’re going to get personal, Max, I wouldn’t say that someone who is a professional focus group member is fully employed. I will add on a personal note that they don’t allow you to watch Netflix in prison.

Max:  Which is why I don’t think this is a great cartoon, so I’m giving it a 2.

Simon:  I disagree. I think this is a funny concept and hits close to home. I award it a 4.

 For more on Lars Kenseth, check out patreon.com/larskenseth

 

7 of 9, Page 56: “Scary Story” by Harry Bliss

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Simon:  Next up we have another Harry Bliss cartoon, and once again it features a man and his dog or in this case dogs. I might add that these dogs, like all of his dogs, seem to be of the same litter.

Max:  I wish I were sitting around this campfire. The fella is obviously a spellbinding storyteller. Look at those dogs; they appear absolutely rapt. I find this cartoon enchanting in both its theme and execution. Plus a funny gag about the squeaky toy being inside!

Simon:  Of course, the ghost story around the campfire is another common cartoon premise, and this one is imaginative. One quibble I have with this otherwise excellent drawing is his odd choice to render the smoke white. Very puzzling.

Max:  Well, perhaps he’s also signaling the election of a new Pope?

Simon:  I believe you’re thinking of a cartoon that appears only in your head, Max. But I do love the shadows against the rock. The gag for me is not all that great, but I’m giving it a 4 mostly on the strength of the drawing.

Max:  Having witnessed both dogs and cats go a little bit wacky about squeaky toys, I give this a solid 5.

For more on Harry Bliss, check out harrybliss.com

 

8 of 9, Page 60: “Rocky!” by Roz Chast

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Max:  Another week, another cartoon by Roz Chast. We’ve got a strange one with a coin- operated strip mall ride consisting of a wooden rocker. Judging from old fellow’s expression, he seems panicked by riding “Rocky!”.

Simon:  I was a little surprised by this cartoon. She frequently draws older people or anxious people, as here, but this cartoon edged into being disrespectful to the elderly. Did that bother you at all, Max?

Max:  Yes, I would’ve thought that Gramps would light up upon slipping into the familiar confines of the old rocker.

Simon:  And what are those people doing behind the window? They seem to be watching as if they are entertained by this elderly man’s anxiety.

Max:  Possibly they’re delivering a subconscious message about our treatment of aging Americans. Perhaps they’re cruelly jeering at his predicament. Most likely of all, we’re reading way too much into these cartoons! Unfortunately, I found this effort a Rocky ride from our perennial hit-maker. I give it a 2.

Simon:  Maybe I’m experiencing some forgetfulness in my dotage, but did I mention that I thought this cartoon was edging into being disrespectful? I did? Hm. With some reluctance I award this a 3.

For more on Roz Chast, check out rozchast.com

 

9 of 9, Page 72: “Cup o’ Jitters” by Ken Krimstein

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Simon:  Our final cartoon is by Ken Krimstein, who we haven’t seen in a while. I think this is a nice cartoon because it captures in a very simple drawing what New Yorker cartoons are often about: dread.

Max:  This looks like the featured drink from the Stress Prison.

Simon:  It’s a bitter drink.

Max:  This cartoon was a little on the easy side for me. We’ve seen innumerable Starbucks-themed cartoons; I don’t think it stands out in the pack. I will give this one a 3.

Simon:  Anguish, dread, and angst are all basically the same thing, so I would have enjoyed the cartoon more had there been words with different shades of meaning. I give this at a 4, mostly because it’s a new take on a somewhat old theme, namely, the customized coffee order.

Max:  Simon, I’d like to hear you expound further on your “Rule of 3” theory. This cartoon seems in violation.

Simon: An interesting point, but I would argue that the three non-coffee terms follow the Rule of 3.

Max:  “Extra foam” keeps this one in the 3 range.

For more on Ken Krimstein, check out kenkrimstein.com