Max:  This issue has an astounding 23 cartoons, Simon.

Simon:  Ready when you are, Max.

 

 

 

1 of 23: “I’ll Have What No One Else Is Having” by Bruce Eric Kaplan

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Simon:  Our first cartoon is by Bruce Eric Kaplan, who has had quite a run these days, including two recent covers. This cartoon is set in a restaurant, a common locale for New Yorker cartoons.

Max:  The woman’s order takes a giant step beyond the SoCal movie star routine of asking for an entree not on the menu. The waiter – is he from Eastern Europe? – appears to pucker slightly.

Simon:  The impossibly demanding restaurant customer is being made fun of here. It’s a straight ahead BEK cartoon, and deserves a 4.

Max:  Mr. Kaplan skewers the pretentious order to its logical extreme. With a nicely phrased caption, I’ll order up a 4.

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

 

2 of 23: “Trouble in Prehistoric Paradise” by Mick Stevens

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Max:  Mr. Stevens chooses a prehistoric cave setting for this classic marital drama. It seems mere possessions are not the route to happiness.

Simon:  Cavemen with modern day problems are a common cartoon trope, but I’ve never seen anything quite like this, with those giant boulders surrounding the cave couple. This is a cartoon where the drawing really makes the cartoon work. I liked it, and I thought it was a strong comment on materialism.

Max:  The details are wonderful in this composition: the volcano smoking in the distance, a hazy prehistoric sun, and of course our dejected cave-dwelling couple in the foreground. It’s comical to imagine the sisyphean effort Mr. Caveman expended to please his mate. I give this one a 4.

Simon:  It’s a high 4 for me.

For more on Mick Stevens, check out mickstevens.com

 

3 of 23: “Doing It for Art” by Sara Lautman

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Simon:  Next is a cartoon by Sara Lautman, and from what I can make of it, it appears to be a couple of art students who find some satisfaction in reading the bio of the artist in question.

Max:  Interesting drawing, but I struggled to understand the featured pair of museum goers examining the art moderne. The sneakers I got, but the rest of the outfits were all over the map, including the colonial era. Oh, and is that a portfolio or sketchbook the speaker is toting? Why is the hanging artist’s poverty inspiring?

Simon:  I think that they are relieved to know that the successful artist who has his work in an art museum is poor, just as they are, creating a bond between them, I guess. However, as you observed, the two principal characters are not clearly drawn, and it is uncertain who or what they are. I assume art students, but the uncertainty about the art and the gag lowers my score to a 2.

Max:  The museum setting and all the other intriguing characters worked well. Hmmm, the gag eluded me. I give it a 2 as well.

For more on Sara Lautman, check out saralautman.com

 

4 of 23: “Can’t Catch Me” by Danny Shanahan

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Max:  Mr. Shanahan features a carrot cake-man who looks like an earthbound variant of an air dancer. Ugh, not a very appealing image to either the eye or the stomach.

Simon:  Not at all, Max. This is a clever reimagining of the gingerbread man. The figure is both abstract and yet very believable. The caption is a two-parter, and that single word “anybody” in its own word balloon is very effective.

Max:  As we know, Mr. Shanahan is one of The New Yorker’s preeminent cartoonists. Regardless, I found the humor in this piece elusive. I give it a 2.

Simon:  We part ways here, Max. Putting this carrot cake man on is a deserted road is wonderful. My only quibble is that he could have picked a less desirable cake, possibly fruitcake. I give this a high 4.

Max:  Less desirable? Having carrot in cake should simply be outlawed.

For more on Danny Shanahan, check out newyorker.com/contributors/danny-shanahan

 

5 of 23: “Literature Down the Drain” by P.C. Vey

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Simon:  On to a P.C. Vey cartoon with a married couple and the super with an unusual diagnosis regarding clogged pipes.

Max:  It’s impressive the super himself can tell the drain pipes are chockablock with short form American fiction. Nice setup and delivery of a clever caption. What did you think of the drawing, Simon? It seems a bit compressed and flat.

Simon:  I didn’t mind the drawing, even though the door practically bangs into the bathtub. The tile floor suggests depth, so I disagree that it’s flat looking. I like the look of the submerged reader and the book placed almost in the middle of the tub. I also like the benign look on the super’s face. It’s a very funny New Yorker style cartoon, and I give it a 5.

Max:  Yes, The New Yorker continues to carry the literary flame in these times of non-stop video pouring from every screen. Incidentally, just how did those pipes get clogged? Does this chap routinely fall asleep in the warm bath water and allow his book to sink and disintegrate? Regardless, the gag’s a smart one, I give it a 4.

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

 

6 of 23: “She Loves Me, She Loves Me, She Loves Me” by Liana Finck

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Max:  Our next cartoon requires some understanding of the Tinder dating app where a “right-swipe” on someone’s picture indicates approval – the first step toward an electronic match. Ms. Finck adds in the reinforcing love arrows of Cupid to create a never-ending loop of amore.

Simon:  It’s quite clever. I like that the humor derives from repetition, which you don’t see often.

Max:  Yes, the repetition was a master stroke. You’ll note that the Tinder operator in the cartoon is male; men significantly outnumber women on dating apps. So the idea of casting one’s net wide by relentlessly right-swiping makes sense. For inquiring readers about the Tinder phenomenon, I stumbled across a funny story about the dating app, “I Swiped Right on Everyone On Tinder For A Day, And Here’s What Happended”. I give both the story and this cartoon a 5.

Simon:  It’s a solid 4 for me.

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

 

7 of 23: “Women in the Workplace” by Maddie Dai

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Simon:  Next up is a Maddie Dai cartoon with a cover for a magazine she calls  “Working Woman” magazine. I’m looking at this on my phone and can barely read it.

Max:  We here at Cartoon Companion are doing our best to provide these fine artists feedback that the smaller details on many pieces are indistinghishable on a smartphone. Though Ms. Dai’s cartoon has a lot going on in terms of text, the gags are quite funny. Of course, all of the items parody a deeper truth of the issues women face in the workplace. My favorite bit was “5 Outfits that say dependable and unlikely to get PREGNANT”.

Simon:  Yes, the gags are a funny comment on women’s challenges in the workplace as well as women’s insecurities in the workplace. The artwork, however, leaves a lot to be desired. First, the dimensions of the magazine are off; it’s simply too wide. Second, if you’re going to have lettering that looks like a magazine logo, then spend a little bit of time with the titles of the articles. Finally, the image of the woman is too bland.

Max:  I think that was the point – she looks so sensible. An assertive person wouldn’t need an article called, “How To Find Small Gaps in Conversation to Speak!”. I found this cartoon appealing and insightful. I give it a 4.

Simon:  I understand that the woman is supposed to be sensible in a bland way, but that could be conveyed a lot more effectively than the simple image presented. The gags are funny, but the art work is mediocre. I give this a 3.

For more on Maddie Dai, check out maddie-dai.com

 

8 of 23: “By Gum” by Kate Curtis

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Max:  Next up is a cartoon by Ms. Curtis that’s set at a posh, catered event. This is one of those cartoons that earned the right to add some color, and I think the pink works well with the gag line. What do you think, Simon?

Simon:  The added color helped the cartoon, and I like the serving spoons on which the gum is being presented. Is the gag that funny, though? To me, it’s so-so.

Max:  The word “tempt”, as in “may I tempt you”, makes the gag work in my view. There’s raft of pompous restaurant phraseology that’s infected the nation’s servers of late, and this is one of them. The physical attitudes of the interacting pair are effective, but the drawing style is a bit distracting. It’s a split verdict for me, I give it a 3.

Simon:  The artwork is not bad, and the gag is just okay. I give it a 3 as well.

For more on Katie Curtis, check out cluestolife.wordpress.com

 

9 of 23: “A Kick in the Rear” by Will McPhail

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Simon:  Mr. MacPhail is next with a cartoon that pokes fun at the artisanal movement. The man with the man bun makes another appearance, so we know we are on Hipster Street.

Max:  The hip couple is heading into a shop that has the traditional awning and old-fashioned lettering of an ice cream store. The only problem is that they offer a rather painful-looking kick in the back as administered by a woman wielding 3 ½ inch stilettos heels. Uhhh, this concept strays over the border towards S&M – with a pinch of lethality.

Simon:  As an illustration, it’s wonderful. The lettering everywhere is a really splendid. The gag, though, just doesn’t do it for me. It’s a heavy-handed assault on an easy target. It’s a 2.

Max:  Much as I admire Mr. McPhail’s extraordinary illustrative skill, this gag misses for me. I give it a 2 as well.

For more on Will McPhail, check out willmcphail.com

 

10 of 23: “Marching Orders” by Zachary Kanin

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Max:  Mr. Kanin is next with a cartoon that features a diminuative lad in an elaborate marching costume who looks like he’s being admonished by his father. Hmmm, what’s the punishment here, Simon?

Simon:  Not punishment, Max. I think he’s advising his boy to show his stuff to the marching band coach. It’s a long caption, but a long caption is needed in this case. The cartoon is funny as an absurd commentary on parenting and marching bands, which I find ridiculous in any context.

Max:  Must be a flashback—every time I heard my parents order me to march someplace it generally spelled trouble. I wonder what the little fella did to get cut from the team? I didn’t know marching band was that competitive. This cartoon was just okay for me, I give it a 3.

Simon:  I liked it better than you. A 4.

For more on Zachary Kanin, check out newyorker.com/contributors/zachary-kanin

 

11 of 23: “Pay It Backward” by Trevor Spaulding

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Simon:  Next is a cartoon by Trevor Spaulding. He’s a fine artist, and the high view on this cartoon and the composition in general are really effective. Look at those long shadows and the the body language of all the participants, including the solitary subordinate.

Max:  I got a bit queasy thinking about being called into this office. Such portent, sweating out the request that you know will be financially devastating. And the caption? Perfectly phrased. It wouldn’t surprise me if this cartoon makes it into the 2017 yearly compilation.

Simon:  Just the idea of a corporation asking something back from an employee by virtue of its contributing to a 401(k) is inspired. This is a solid 5.

Max:  The sober flanking officers looking serious, the high ceiling, the dizzying view – you know the poor schlub (who could be any of us) is sweating bullets. This is a brilliant and original cartoon, I give it a 6.

For more on Trevor Spaulding, check out trevorspaulding.com

 

12 of 23: “Pick a Country, Any Country” by Roz Chast

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Max:  Now it’s Roz Chast’s turn to take a potshot at our President’s world knowledge or lack thereof. She’d better be careful or she might wind up the subject of his next Twitter lashing! This map is hilarious. With every fractured country designation, it just gets better. Of course, the genesis for the idea was Mr. Trump’s pronouncement at the UN in front of the African delegation about the country, Nambia. There is no such country, but we suspect a conflation of Namibia and nearby Zambia.

Simon:  I love how she includes some actual places and words, such as Ecuador and the former Belgian Congo, not to mention the fictional land of Narnia. Very clever stuff.

Max:  Oh, yes, and Ecuador’s in South America. And who could forget the nation of Zamboni, whose sole export is those ice-smoothing machines seen at skating rinks. This is my favorite Roz Chast cartoon of the year, I give it a 5.

Simon:  I almost laughed out loud. I give it a 5 as well.

For more on Roz Chast, check out rozchast.com

 

13 of 23: “Science Experiment – Limited Results” by Tom Toro

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Simon:  Next is a cartoon by Tom Toro. It has a familiar setting, namely, Dr. Frankenstein and his monster. In this case, however, the mad doctor has not created a monster at all.

Max:  Ah, I understand this cartoon very well because according to my experience the average cat sleeps approximately 23 hours a day. The scene is rife with atomospheric touches: lightning against an inky night, torches illuminating castle walls, and ominous machinery zapping away. Nice contrast with the snoozing tabby – although it bears the characteristic zipper-like incisions and bolts you‘d expect from an awakening Frankenstein.

Simon:  The illustration is wonderful. It’s a dramatic scene that mirrors the Frankenstein movies. My only quibble is that the mad scientist looks fairly normal. But it’s a beautiful drawing and a well-phrased caption. I give this a 5.

Max:  Yes, Dr. Frankenstein looks more like a realtor in a fright wig out for some disco dancing. Igor’s hunched attitude, on the other hand, conveys disappointment in the results. Well done, a 5.

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

 

14 of 23: “Play it Again, Sam” by Emily Flake and Rob Kutner

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Max:  We have a cartoon from Emily Flake, who I gather did the artwork and her collaborator supplied the caption. This is the first team effort we’ve seen this year in The New Yorker.

Simon:  It’s uncommon these days in The New Yorker, but in the old days that’s how almost all of the cartoons were done, as Michael Maslin has noted in Inkspsill. This is a funny twist on one of the last scenes in “Casablanca”—a less than excellent rendering of Bogart, however. Your view, Max?

Max:  I would bet this drawing was based on a publicity still or poster from the movie. It was instant recognition for me of these high-wattage stars. I like the way the caption completely trivializes the high drama of this World War II separation of between former lovers. I’ve experienced the Atlanta layover myself, so I give this one a 4.

Simon:  I also wasn’t sure about the plane image in the background; it’s a little hard to read. But the gag is very funny. I also give this cartoon a 4.

For more on Emily Flake, check out emilyflake.com

 

15 of 23: “Seeds of the Resistance Movement” by Frank Cotham

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Simon:  Next up is the cartoon by Frank Cotham. Apparently the resistance movement did not begin with the Donald’s administration.

Max:  No, its antecedents began in the time of Mr. Cotham‘s signature barbarians. It’s amusing that these normally ruthless heathens are discussing the escalating resistance rather than simply laying waste to his village.

Simon:  Frank Cotham doesn’t do many political cartoons but this one is lays it out pretty clearly in a funny way. I give it a 4.

Max:  I enjoy these barbarians every time I see them, and it’s a nice, snappy line with a strong image of the fella up on the hill. I give this one a 4 as well.

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

 

16 of 23: “A Tall Tail” by Joseph Dottino

This cartoon currently unavailable at The New Yorker Cartoon Bank.

Max:  We have a cartoonist appearing for the first time this year in The New Yorker. Mr. Dottino portrays of young boy joshing with His Maker before getting to the point about an unusual appendage.

Simon:  A funny caption with the irrelevant preliminaries before getting to the heart of the matter, or should I say the tail of the matter. It’s an interesting and in some ways subtle drawing. I like it.

Max:  It’s a nice debut cartoon, with clean lines and a fine caption that brings home the gag. I give this a 4.

Simon:  The gag works because of the last two lines. I give it a 4 as well.

If you have a web site, Joseph, let us know! 

 

17 of 23: “French Horn Solo” by John O’Brien

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Simon:  Next is a cartoon by John O’Brien, who has a very distinctive artistic style. We have the street musician and a pedestrian with us some commentary of his own.

Max:  Yes, the classic “American in Paris” approach to making use of their Rosetta Stone French; they request the speaker to talk very slowly. In this case, though, it’s a French horn.

Simon:  This cartoon is set in New York, no?

Max:  Oh, it’s definitely set in a New York subway. The iron-riveted I-beam and the sign listing the N and Q trains of the BMT Broadway line. This drawing style is a bit unusual, but has elegance. I like the gag and give this one a 4.

Simon:  It’s a funny idea, although I found it a tad contrived. I give it a 3.

For more on John O’Brien, check out johnobrienillustrator.com

 

18 of 23: “From Generation to Generation” by Jason Adam Katzenstein

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Max:  Mr. Katzenstein provides us with yet another variation on the evolution of man. In this case, however, the more primordial of the species would like to email something to the more current homo sapien. What you think of that, Simon?

Simon:  It’s a little bit backwards in the sense that the more primitive person, who precedes the modern person, is complaining about “your generation”, which presumably refers to the prior generation. If you set aside that logical inconsistency, it makes sense as a gag.

Max:  Yes, I see–only the previous generation can ruin everything for those coming up. Logical exegesis aside, its an interesting version of this well-worn cartoon cliché. I give this a 3.

Simon:  It’s a fairly imaginative approach, but the gag is just so-so. I give it a 3 as well.

For more on Jason Adam Katzenstein, check out jasonkatzenstein.tumblr.com

 

19 of 23: “Not Worth Getting Up About” by Sophia Wiedeman

This cartoon currently unavailable at The New Yorker Cartoon Bank.

Simon:  The next cartoon is by another new cartoonist, Sophia Wiedeman. It’s a bold drawing with a short caption in a balloon. What do you think, Max?

Max:  Clearly this a cartoonist with considerable artistic skill. Having said that, I think this effort has a comic book flavor to it. The crumb versus mole gag, delivered via a thought balloon, is only so-so.

Simon:  The cartoon seems like the first panel in a graphic novel. I also would liked to have seen a lot more artistic background. This woman seems to be floating in space, which is odd, given the detail of the drawing. I give this a 3.

Max:  The floating didn’t bother me; I do like the artwork. The gag let down this composition, I give it a 2.

For more on Sophia Wiedeman, check out sophiadraws.com

 

20 of 23: “From the Sublime to the Ridiculous” by Robert Leighton

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Max:  We’re in outer space with Mr. Leighton, as the lead astronaut muses about the difference between Earth’s problems and the irritating slumbers of a certain Astronaut Rodriquez.

Simon:  This cartoon relies on comparing the sublime and the banal, a common cartoon convention, but this a good variation.

Max:  Transitioning from a discussion of the Earth’s problems to commenting on tea kettle-like snoring is the definition of anticlimax. All that aside, I give it a 3.

Simon:  I like it a bit more than you. I give it a 4.

For more on Robert Leighton, check out robert-leighton.com

 

21 of 23: “Fear of Being Left Out” by William Haefili

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Simon:  Next is the return of William Haefeli, and I’m glad to see his work again. I am simply bewitched by those shadows.

Max:  I agree, Mr. Haefili has some of the most complex compositions in The New Yorker. In this cartoon he creates several dimensional aspects from the ghostly light of a laptop. The dark creates a bedroom intimacy – even though we imagine that his wife just told him to shut down and go to sleep. And look at the three fingers of the man shadowed on his t-shirt.

Simon:  And the shadows on the wall. I also love his cropping, particularly the wife, who is just an observer in this scene. As much as I love the art, I thought the gag was weak. I give it a 3 on the strength of the art.

Max:  I admire the artwork and confess to suffering from this national discussion syndrome during these tumultuous political times. I give this one a 4.

For more on William Haefeli, check out condenaststore.com/William-Haefeli

 

22 of 23: “A Day in the Country” by Teresa Burns Parkhurst

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Simon:  We have another long caption, something seen more often in recent New Yorker cartoons. It’s a funny gag that lands on the neologism “fallish”. Well drawn and not a bad gag.

Max:  Ms. Parkhurst’s rural shopper is looking for apples as decorative items, which stuns the poor farmer. We suspect she’s escaped from the urban jungle for the day, but can’t let go of her urban sensibilies.

Simon:  Funny gag, well-executed. I award it a 4.

Max:  The artwork is splendidly executed. I noted the pies in the bakery, a kid in a snuggie, and other nice details in the background. Poor Farmer John appears uncomprehending of this request from a downstater. The gag is fairly solid, I give this one a 4.

For more on Teresa Burns Parkhurst, check out linkedin.com/in/teresa-burns-parkhurst

 

23 of 23: “But Sherlock!” by Harry Bliss

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Simon:  Finally, we have a cartoon by Harry Bliss. Here is a Sherlock Holmes mystery that the detective’s fans may not be aware of.

Max:  Mr. Bliss is a master at taking 19th century themes and twisting them into 21st century laughs. I can understand why Sherlock is a little edgy after straight-arrow Watson has lost his cocaine stash.

Simon:  It’s a dark commentary on Sherlock Holmes’s drug addiction as chronicled by Arthur Conan Doyle. The drawing is excellent. I give this a 5.

Max:  It’s strong stuff. Watson’s left eye is already swelling from Sherlock’s rough interrogation. The underlined “idiot” and idiomatic use of “bloody” creates an aggrieved English accent in the mind. This cartoon tells a complete story, I give it a 5 as well.

For more on Harry Bliss, check out harrybliss.com