Max:  Betty Boop gets an unwanted eyeful on this week’s cover.

Simon:  Boop-oop-a-dope.

 

1 of 19: “Turkey Fingers” by Mitra Farmand

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Simon:  Our first cartoon is by Mitra Farmand, a cartoonist who has had only two previous cartoons in The New Yorker. This one is a seasonal cartoon. Which turkey is not like the others, Max?

Max:  Let’s see, how about the turkey shaped like a hand? It’s an obvious bit of absurdist humor, but it didn’t work for me. The artwork is okay – I liked the Wellington boots on the farmer’s wife – but I think the gag would have worked better if the “turkey hand” were a little less apparent, perhaps surrounded by turkeys with their feathers fanned out.

Simon:  I thought it was quite imaginative to place the grade school type turkey amidst these realistic turkeys, and to combine that with the concept of a hand opening a door. The artwork is a bit flat and generic, but that is offset by some of the perspective elements she adds. I like it. I give it a 4.

Max:  We part company here, Simon. The gag is unsophisticated—a 2.

For more on Mitra Farmand, check out mitrafarmand.com

 

2 of 19: “All Shook Up” by Tom Toro

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Max:  Tom Toro’s cartoon features a knot of anxious waiters clutching their trusty, oversized pepper grinders. It appears the lowly pepper shaker is back in vogue and threatening their livelihood.

Simon:  Large pepper grinders have been a source of some amusement in cartoons. I really enjoy everything about the artwork: the anxious-looking servers, the tiny pepper shaker in isolation on the shelf, and the kitchen staff in the background. The gag was just okay in my view. It seems to be based on an assumption that the servers have never seen an old-fashioned pepper shaker before.

Max:  Notice how the mouths of the other waiters are completely absent, giving the speaker center stage. The background kitchen staff is so subtle that I first assumed it was a decorative stone wall. Hinging the gag on retro table pepper shakers, however, delivered an insufficient reward—a 2.

Simon:  Yes, this cartoon could have been spiced up. A 3 for me.

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

 

3 of 19: “The World in a Pan” by P.C. Vey

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Simon:  Next is a cartoon by P.C. Vey. Despite the domestic scene, this woman is a cooking up a zeitgeist.

Max:  Readers of Psychology Today will have a field day with this cartoon. The meal preparer conflates a cooking phrase with their socio-cultural context. The mind reels at all the potential analogies between cooking and modern life summed up in this elegant caption.

Simon:  It sums up the skewed worldview of P.C. Vey. The tilt of the cartoon further discombobulated the reader. It’s an interesting combination of an abstract idea with a very concrete object, the frying pan. I give this a 4.

Max:  All the ingredients of this cartoon congeal nicely for me, I give it a 4 as well.

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

 

4 of 19: “At the Trough” by Will McPhail

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Max:  Will McPhail provides us with a coffee house that offers “venti”, “grande”, and “trough” sizes for their brewed libations.

Simon:  This is an exaggeration type cartoon, which I’m not crazy about, but the illustration is so wonderful that it demands your attention and really boosts the gag. I thought the caption would have been improved had it in fact been “Venti, grande, or that”.

Max:  The composition and execution of this drawing is magnificent. The individual postures of the guzzling latte enthusiasts are wonderfully observed. What does this say, Simon—are we a nation of caffeine addicts?

Simon:  These bedraggled-looking coffee imbibers do have a look of desperation about them. Even though this cartoon generates a slight feeling of disgust in me, it’s still quite funny. I give it a 4.

Max:  Incisive commentary, outstanding, I give it a 5.

For more on Will McPhail, check out willmcphail.com

 

5 of 19: “Political Fog” by Bruce Eric Kaplan

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Simon:  Next is a Bruce Eric Kaplan cartoon, this one with a pointed political commentary. It captures how some of us are kind of wondering around aimlessly trying not to think too much about the Presidency, lest our days be ruined.

Max:  But we are bombarded with the unrelenting drumbeat of bizarre news emanating from Washington, DC. The current political drama is riveting no matter what your affiliation.

Simon:  I think many folks are suffering from outrage exhaustion, perhaps tinged with resignation. I don’t think this is a position that Mr. Kaplan is advocating; rather, he sees it as a possible survival technique. The wording of the caption is terrific. I give this a 4.

Max:  The caption wording could almost serve as the lyrics to a Steven Sondheim song—a 4 as well.

For more on Bruce Eric Kaplan, check out bruceerickaplan.com

 

6 of 19: “The Railcar of Babble” by David Sipress

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Max: David Sipress depicts the rail car from hell. Question, Simon: did the reader attempt to shush the shouter, or did the shouter decide the reader just wasn’t conforming to the cultural bubble of this particular car?

Simon:  I think the latter—at least that would have been funnier because reading is a silent activity. This is a reversal cartoon, which again I’m not real fond of, but it’s well executed. All that jabbering and shouting is perhaps overdone, but it’s a moderately funny gag, especially for New York commuters.

Max:  This reminds me of the bygone railroad “bar car”, which would get progressively rowdy as the evening wore on. I give this a 3.

Simon:  It’s a 3 for me as well.

For more on David Sipress, check out facebook.com/david.sipress

 

7 of 19: “Prince Charming and Tidy” by Liana Finck

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Simon:  Next is a Liana Finck cartoon with a clever twist on a fairytale. This a delightful and funny cartoon. It has a certain charm that really suits her quirky style.

Max:  This is one of Liana Finck’s best compositions this year. The serpentine black ribbon of road is mezmerizing as it disappears into the star-strewn sky. The fretting Prince mulls over Cinderella‘s strewn shoes as we wonder how a white background constitues midnight. Well done.

Simon:  I think it’s great that Prince Charming’s neatness could prevent their living happily ever after. I give this a 5.

Max: The Prince teeters on the precipice of married life’s realities. A 5.

For more on Liana Finck, check out newyorker.com/contributors/liana-finck

 

8 of 19: “One Too Many” by Shannon Wheeler

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Max:  The poor fish in the bowl knows his time is nigh – a couple more automated dunks by the insatiable drinking bird and his habitat is toast.

Simon:  We recognize the bold line of Shannon Wheeler. The novelty dipping bird and the goldfish in a bowl are both elements we’ve seen in cartoons, but never together like this. Quite imaginative.

Max: The resigned expression on the goldfish speaks volumes. The width of Mr. Wheeler’s line fits this piece well, a 4.

Simon:  My only quibble with this cartoon is that the bird seems to be a stationary. I’d prefer to see some indication of movement of. I also give it a 4.

For more on Shannon Wheeler, check out condenaststore.com/Shannon-Wheeler

 

9 of 19: “Remembrance of Things Past” by Roz Chast

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Simon:  Roz Chast is back, and so is her comfy couch. The kids want to know about something called pensions.

Max:  Ms. Chast’s timing is impeccable as the last pensions vanish from our financial landscape. The concept of “free money every month after you retire” is foreign to the Millenial and Gen Z who increasingly make up today’s workforce. My favorite part is the “Grandpa, tell us again…”.

Simon:  Yes, the idea that pensions could be such a source of bemused entertainment for the young ‘uns is a nice touch. And the title “Once upon a time” suggests that pensions may have existed only in fairytales. I give this a solid 4.

Max: Yes, pensions are rapidly becoming part of yesteryear’s lore–a 4 from this 401(k) contributor.

For more on Roz Chast, check out rozchast.com

 

10 of 19: “Scaredy Cat Dog” by Harry Bliss

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Max: Ah, the art of the caption. Harry Bliss inserts the word “feeble” to adroitly capture tremulousness of the petrified pup in this magnificent landscape.

Simon:  It’s always a pleasure to see Harry’s art. The man is well-centered amidst this landscape, and his fearful dog is inching out of the frame. But I didn’t think much of the gag. It’s just a mildly amusing remark, although I do like how he refers to his dog “my friend”.

Max:  The dog owner’s heroic stance – one foot boldly atop a small rock – amplified this gag. I also enjoyed the subtle quiver of the leash by the retreating retriever. For dog lovers, this is a 4.

Simon:  I expect more punch in a punchline. A 3 for me.

For more on Harry Bliss, check out harrybliss.com

 

11 of 19: “Honest Introductions” by Emily Flake

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Simon:  Emily Flake offers a cartoon featuring a perfect, or at least perfectly candid, hostess. I like how this cartoon rips off the masks that society often demands of us.

Max:  Yes, this traditional face-to-face meeting is far removed from the brave face and puffed resumé one uploads to a dating app. I found “negative bank balance” to be devastating!

Simon:  It’s a long caption, but the gag demands it. Speaking of faces, Ms. Flake seems to prefer very delicate features on her characters. The gag works for me. I give it a 4.

Max:  Check out the stylish hostess in her well-appointed apartment with sweeping city views. Her more earthbound companions pale in comparison. I give this a 4 as well.

For more on Emily Flake, check out emilyflake.com

 

12 of 19: “Wind Instrument” by Julia Suits

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Max: Can I get a signed copy of this cartoon? Julia Suits perfectly skewers the most irritating sound on the planet. The arc of her wash imitates the proscenium arch, the leaf blower is realized in great detail, and the ear protection delivers the gag’s punch.

Simon:  Yes, everything about this illustration is terrific. The enormous leaf blower looks like a cannon ready to explode. The accompanist at the piano waits patiently, as if nothing is amiss. And the ear protection is a lovely touch. The gag is just right for the fall season.

Max:  The caption is as dry as 20-year-old scotch. I award a 6.

Simon: The art moves this up from a 4 to a 5.

For more on Julia Suits, check out juliasuits.net/cartoons

 

13 of 19: “Remote Representation” by Frank Cotham

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Simon:  Frank Cotham’s familiar shack appears in the next cartoon. I usually think of his characters as hillbillies, but these folks live in the flatlands, and that cactus suggests the southwestern U.S. How about that agent, Max? He could pass for an undertaker.

Max:  The ludicriously tall hat screams flim-flam man. It’s worth a second look at the speaker to pick up the old-fashioned typewriter in his lap with the Great Americal Novel in progress. The smoking pipe rounds out our rustic author.

Simon: I wonder where the author finds inspiration in this desert world. All the wonderful details are in the drawing, including the detritus under the house. The idea that in this godforsaken landscape is a working novelist, with an agent no less, makes this cartoon work. A pretty good gag. I give this cartoon a 3.

Max:  One has only to look to the author’s right to find his charming muses. The gag is okay; I‘m not sure how well the city-slicker agent connects with the desert shack-dwellers. A 3.

For more on Frank Cotham, check out condenaststore.com/Frank-Cotham

 

14 of 19: “Cube Clutter” by Drew Dernavich

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Max: Drew Dernavich’s characteristic heavy line compounds the cluttering effect in this drawing. It’s interesting to note that we can have messy physical lives while appearing organized electronically.

Simon:  People exist in the real world and in the virtual world, and sometimes it’s difficult for a person to step wholly into one world or the other. Mr. Dernavich has been doing double duty, with cartoons both in The New Yorker and Esquire these days.

Max:  It’s worth the effort to categorize all the clutter: yoga mat, Chinese lunch carton, vase of dead flowers, stuffed bags, and draped clothes. She seems serene enough calmly chatting through her headphones to someone who gets it. I give this a 4.

Simon:  It’s an impressive drawing, but almost difficult to take in. The cartoon is a fine commentary on our times. A 4.

For more on Drew Dernavich, check out drewdernavich.com

 

15 of 19: “Dangerous Doll” by Emma Hunsinger

The New Yorker Cartoon Bank has once again failed to include a cartoon by a new cartoonist.

Simon:  The next cartoon is by a newcomer to The New Yorker, Emma Hunsinger. There are plenty of Chuckie evil doll parodies in popular culture, so it’s not an entirely original gag. The doll is drawn great and the rest of the artwork is fine, but the two policemen look like they were drawn by another cartoonist—one who prefers a more exaggerated style.

Max:  A couple notes about the caption: a 417K is the penal code designation for “brandishing a weapon”; and a Ka-Bar is a Marine-issued, multi-purpose knife – perfect for brandishing. The police officier is amazingly accurate in describing the doll‘s accessories.

Simon:  But what about this gag, Max? It’s an amusing drawing just having that American Doll clutching this lethal weapon, but the caption is a bit longer than necessary. I give this a 3.

Max:  Yes, the drawing is slightly unbalanced between the hyper-realism of the doll and the two-dimensional-looking officers. The length of the caption is necessary to deliver “black Mary Janes, and a nine-inch Ka-Bar“ in the same sentence. A good horror cartoon deserves a 4.

For more on Emma Hunsinger, check out emmahunsinger.com

 

16 of 19: “BYOB” by Michael Maslin

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Max:  When quite a bit younger I once had this debate over the meaning of BYOB. Similar to the trailing ape pair, I too was wrong.

Simon:  This cartoon by Michael Maslin shows the influence of James Thurber. The line and the absurdity of the gag are Thurberesque. The cartoon is a funny little slice of life made ridiculous by replacing a bickering suburban couple with a pair of apes.

Max: I wonder what Mr. Maslin would have given a typical suburban couple as a gag prop. Regardless, who can resist talking apes with bananas and booze? I give this a 4.

Simon:  This cartoon borders on the silly, but I like it enough to award it a 4.

For more on Michael Maslin, check out michaelmaslin.com

 

17 of 19: “Meltdown” by Sofia Warren

Yep, you guessed it. New cartoonist, so no cartoon in The New Yorker Cartoon Bank.

Simon:  The next cartoon is by another cartoonist new to the magazine, Sofia Warren. Her cartoon presents a child with a low battery life. It’s a strong image and I like the art, but the big tag struck me as heavy-handed. At the same time, I had to pause to think about the gag. I guess the child is cranky because she needs a nap.

Max:  When my electronic devices hit the dreaded “Low battery” state, they start acting out too. I found the artwork bold in terms of line and dark wash.

Simon:  But the gag didn’t do it for me. I’ve seen variations of how a person’s behavior is registered in terms of electronics–images of “still loading” on T-shirts and such. But plastering a label on top of an image seems contrived. Nevertheless, this is Ms. Warren’s first cartoon, so I cut her some slack and give her a 3.

Max:  The corollary with adults is the low blood sugar state. Similar to you, I thought the over-sized label a bit intrusive. I gave it a 3 as well.

For more on Sofia Warren, check out https://vimeo.com/sofiawarren

 

18 of 19: “Packers Backers” by Paul Noth

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Max:  These Green Bay Packers fans thought of everything – except to turn on the game itself. Perhaps they’re suffering symtoms of CTE from too much celebratory head-butting?

Simon: There’s a lot to like about this cartoon, which of course plays on a single theme. The only living thing not with a foam cheese head is Vince Lombardi in that framed picture. He prefers more standard headgear. The understated caption works well with the completely over-the-top decor.

Max:  A classic example of all dressed up and nowhere to go, a 5.

Simon:  I’ll go with a high 4, not to be confused with a fan-type high-five.

For more on Paul Noth, check out paulnoth.com

 

19 of 19: “Thinking Ahead” by Edward Koren

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Simon:  Veteran New Yorker cartoonist Edward Koren reappears with a cartoon that mixes parental pride with a pinch of anxiety.

Max:  We live a world that competes for admission to the best pre-schools, so why not muse about a child’s legacy in the first month?

Simon:  Yes, the Age of Anxiety, whenever it began, is the age we continue to live in. The gag has that old and somewhat dated New Yorker sensibility. I give it a 3.

Max:  Koren’s scratchy, cluttered style conveys the situation quite well. I’m not a fan of these parenting anxienty gags; I give it a 3.

For more on Edward Koren, check out edwardkoren.com