Max:  A couple of playground coders grace the cover.

Simon:  But the chalk is old school.


1 of 13: “Atomic Cafe” by Jason Adam Katzenstein

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Simon:  The first cartoon is by Jason Adam Katzenstein. We have an unusual request at the local coffee shop. What do you think of this rather startling drawing, Max?

Max:  It’s a nice nod to “The Big Bang Theory” TV series; this easily could have been a gag on that show. The Collider is impressive and the white-coated scientist believable. The gentleman sitting at the table, however, looks like an insurance salesman.

Simon:  Saying this gag is sitcom-worthy is more of an insult than praise. I like the turn of phrase “my Large Hadron Collider”, but I think it would have been funnier if the device had been drawn closer to life-size. This seems to be a mini-Large Hadron Collider. A good concept, though. I give it a 4.

Max:  The device size feels right in this era of miniaturization, and I’m intimidated by the scientist. I’ll give it a 4 as well.

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2 of 13: “Poppyseed Peril” by Julia Suits

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Max: Julia Suits’ drawing shows a woman’s head practically exploding amidst a pigeon frenzy.

Simon:  It’s an aviary assault, although these birds look less threatening than the Hitchcock variety. It’s a dramatic drawing to be sure. Ms. Suits has become almost a regular in the magazine.

Max:  And I agree with the gag that poppyseeds are nothing but trouble. Whether the profusion of tiny seeds invade clothes, stick between teeth, or attract endless birds – well, they’re just a nuisance. I give it a 4.

Simon:  I like the understated gag line. I also this 4.

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3 of 13: “Cave Dude” by Frank Cotham

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Simon:  Next is Frank Cotham with another anachronism gag. You gotta love the expression of the caveman and what he decides to return with from the 21st century.

Max:  Behold the very first cave dude. Look at him gyrating with joy with his baseball cap, iPhone, and bottle of suds. Perhaps our diplomats can co-opt the North Koreans with the same cultural temptations.

Simon:  This is a fine example of the artwork propelling the gag into the humor heavens. I give this a 5.

Max:  The forbidding cliffs and dour guards expertly contrast the gleeful party animal returning from the future with his booty. I give this a 5 as well.

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4 of 13: “Mouse Murder” by Alice Cheng

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Max:  Alice Cheng’s cartoon features a crime scene, but in miniature. All the elements you’d expect to see on the evening news are covered, though at first I thought the poor victim was lying in the middle of a boxing ring.

Simon:  It’s a fairly good gag—putting a human face on rodent extermination. I thought the little critters made for too busy a scene, however. There’s no center of attention despite the (I guess) police tape around the body. I was somewhat bothered by the odd angle of the guy’s feet.

Max:  My favorite element was the little cameraman and news reporter in the foreground reporting live on scene. And don’t miss the cuffed perp being led to the squad car. It’s an intricate little caption-less tableau, I give it a 4.

Simon:  If the cop is leading a suspect away, they got the wrong guy. I enjoyed the furtive glance over the newspaper of the tenant on the sofa. The artwork could be improved. I give it a 3.

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5 of 13: “Truffle Rustler” by Zachary Kanin

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Simon:  Next is a Zach Kanin cartoon, and, boy, this is a wacky one. Two outlaw cowboys are guarding their loot, but look who’s moseying into the scene.

Max:  Truffle gags are popular now, and with the price of those odiferous Tubers, why not? It’s amusing to think of attempting to rally a pig to crime when truffles are on its mind. Mr. Kanin has created a sturdy gag with his wide open spaces and nicely phrased caption.

Simon:  I like the name Roscoe for the pig. But the gag seems more silly than funny. I give it a 3.

Max:  “…missed the heist” was well chosen. It’s a decent truffle joke. I give it a 3.

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6 of 13: “Editorial Notes” by Amy Kurzweil

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Max: Amy Kurzweil depicts a bookstore in which the schedule for the day deteriorates rapidly after meeting the author at 3 pm.

Simon:  Book signings are a common setting for New Yorker cartoons, and independent bookstore still thrive in much of the city. The problem with this one is that it’s one joke too many. I would’ve deleted that last, lengthy card, which is not the strongest in any case.

Max:  Roz Chast has perfected the gag of threes; this fourth item was a card too far. It also leaves the reader a little depressed, which should be a cartoon no-no. I liked the drawing, but a 2 from me.

Simon:  Well, Ms. Kurzweil appears to be an emerging regular contributor, so I guess we can expect more from her. This cartoon could have been a 4, but the extra card dropped it to a 3.

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7 of 13: “Airplane Mode” by Roz Chast

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Simon:  Speaking of Roz, she’s here in a different sort of airplane mode.

Max:  Yes, and as if to demonstrate the grouping of three, Ms. Chast takes wing with a trio of airplane observations—except they’re scattered and don’t progress in terms of turning up the humor. With the vast ocean of airplane jokes out there, I expected something sharper.

Simon:  I guess these are random thoughts floating through this passenger’s head, but I would have preferred a more consistent emotional tone. The second one indicates high anxiety, but the other two seem to be exuberant. I give this a low 3.

Max:  As big a fan I am of Roz, this one underperformed. A 2. 

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8 of 13: “Animals in Charge” by Edward Steed

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Max:  Mr. Steed is next with a triptych about animals in charge. Hmmm, it doesn’t look like they’re up to the task.

Simon:  Not at all. The first two creatures lack the capacity for careful judgment required of the job. The third one has a slightly different feel, not least of which because the duck seems like such a cute critter compared to the other two animals. The cartoon’s a bit inconsistent, and it didn’t lead to a climactic laugh.

Max:  The third panel is not only a letdown, but seems somewhat unrelated. A rare miss for Mr. Steed, I give this a 2.

Simon:  The first two panels are funny, and the wording is excellent, but the last panel is weak. I will give this a 3.

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9 of 13: “Gravity Wins” by Charlie Hankin

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Simon:  Next is a cartoon by Charlie Hankin. This is a funny and original take on the Icarus myth, or should I say Icarus cartoon trope.

Max:  They flipped the cause of demise around; it wasn’t the sun after all – it was slamming into the ground at terminal velocity that did Icarus in.

Simon:  You would have thought a cartoonist would’ve come up with this gag before, but this is a first. I give it a 5.

Max:  It’s a nice twist and well executed, I’ll give it a 4.

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10 of 13: “Fragile” by Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell

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Max:  We have a new cartoonist this week, Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell, with a postal label gag. I’m torn on this one because I like the concept of the gag. On the other hand, none of the four  individual label jokes stood out. I wonder if the Cartooning Academy warns against having four ideas in a single-panel cartoon.

Simon:  I like the idea, but I tend to agree with you. Plus, there’s an element of self-pity in this cartoon that I felt detracted from the humor.

Max:  Yes, there was a bittersweet, self-deprecating humor here, I’ll give it a 3.

Simon:  This cartoon doesn’t give me much basis to judge the artwork. Not to discourage this new cartoonist, but I also give it a 3.

For more on Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell, check out


11 of 13: “Low-Level Support” by William Haefeli

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Simon:  Next is a veteran cartoonist, William Haefeli. We have yet another party scene peopled with sophisticated urbanites. The focus is the Kickstarter phenomenon.

Max:  It’s a nice spoof on all these various patron levels aimed at making donors feel appreciated. The “T-shirt level“ probably equates to $20—not the road to riches, even with crowdsource funding.

Simon:  Yes, funding at the T-shirt level is like acknowledging someone’s effort without really supporting it, at least that’s how this irate fellow sees it, not that I have much sympathy for him. A nice skewering by Mr. Haefeli—a high 4.

Max:  We know without much effort that the object of scorn is the bearded fellow in the $1,200 blazer. Haefeli brings enormous subtlety to his work, a 5.

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12 of 13: “Bot Peeves” by Tom Chitty

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Max:  This is an absurd sendup of couples who can’t pry themselves away from their way-too-Smartphones. Mr. Chitty freshens up this oft-observed phenomenon with anachronistic robots and a potted flower.

Simon:  The gag is a basic switcheroo, with robots replacing people and a flower replacing the phone. I grant you that the flower is an interesting choice, and I prefer Mr. Chitty’s depiction of robots to his drawings of people.

Max:  This is Mr. Chitty’s strong suit, I give it a 4.

Simon: I agree: a 4.

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13 of 13: “Goals Supplant Wishes” by Sara Lautman

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Simon:  Sara Lautman provides us with the final cartoon of this issue. The genie in a bottle is a tired trope, so she has a tough row to hoe.

Max:  But this genie’s got attitude! Ms. Lautman’s imbued just the right “float” to her magic man, aided by the little shadow/swirl on the floor. The caption is right at home in today’s tough political bombast.

Simon:  This is sort of an anachronism cartoon, where the genie is like a modern-day, tough love motivational speaker or maybe a trainer. Not much of a gag, and the genie looks to me like it was drawn by a different cartoonist, almost like it was pasted on. I give it a 2.

Max:  Well, we differ here Max, I thought the gag was contemporary and drawing worked well in support of the idea. A 4. Oh, and given the grand scale of the kitchen, I’m guessing this woman found the genie container in the employee break room.

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