Max:  The Halloween-themed cover features a creepy clown President.

Simon:  Boo! That’s what ghosts say and many people do when Trump speaks.


1 of 12: “Stickup by the Slice” by Zachary Kanin

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Simon:  The first cartoon this week is by Zach Kanin. Armed robbery cartoons are fairly common in The New Yorker, but they are usually set on some dark street corner. This one is set in a pizza joint.

Max:  The caption spoofs the classic bank robbery note demand for “small, unmarked non-sequential bills”. Simon, did you notice the name of the establishment on the door?

Simon:  Yes, I did, and I was little surprised that not Ma but Ma’s son is operating the establishment. It’s a well-executed cartoon, but a little on the silly side. I give this a 3.

Max:  I thought the caption and the gag were unexpected and got a laugh out of me. I give it a 4.

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2 of 12: “Gingerbread Man, with Attitude” by Roz Chast

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Max:  Ms. Chast brings her famous living room scene back, this time with a depressed-looking gingerbread man. Could he be having a midlife crisis, Simon?

Simon:  Odd to have another a gingerbread man cartoon. You may remember the carrot cake cartoon recently. This gingerbread man has a particularly doughy look, don’t you think, Max?

Max:  Yuck, a a gingerbread man is a gingerbread man – always unattractive and only rarely edible. I’m just not into gingerbread angst, I give this a 2.

Simon:  We part ways, Max. I really enjoyed the expression of resignation on this gingerbread man’s face. I give this a well-deserved 4. By the way, I wouldn’t mind if Roz Chast introduced a new wallpaper design. We’ve seen those dotted triangles about a dozen times, I would guess.

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3 of 12: “Abs for Naught” by Amy Hwang

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Simon:  Amy Hwang shows us a completely new side of her in this cartoon. Often her cartoons depict domestic scenes featuring a couple of women. Here we have a male executioner, of all characters.

Max:  Ms. Hwang’s image mocks the stereotypical shirtless executioner with the ripped abs and black hood. In addition, we travel into the interior psyche of this axe-wielding tradesman to find the executioner in a crisis of identity – or lack thereof.

Simon:  He appears to be a rather vain executioner. Don’t executioners usually have massive stomachs? Again we’re seeing more detail in the wood grain, as was the case in her cartoon last week. The gag, though, was a bit flat for me. I give this a 3.

Max:  Yes, Ms. Hwang is stepping further afield from her present-day scenarios. I think it’s a novel concept and give it a 4.

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4 of 12: “Milky Way Spat” by Will McPhail

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Max:  Mr. McPhail takes us on an astral journey as a couple stares up into the beautifully rendered nighttime sky. What did you think of the caption, Simon?

Simon:  It’s a funny caption with essentially two punchlines: “statistically average-sized” and “resent the tone”. It’s a nice one-to punch. I guess the speaker resents the tone of her companion’s presumed comment about how she feels looking up into the night sky. Did I read this correctly, Simon?

Max:  Yes, the real humor in this cartoon is imagining the question asked prior to the caption. It goes something like – as you gaze up into the infinite heavens – “Doesn’t it that make you seem small?” The speaker, a hyper-realist, finds this pablum sappy and delivers a harsh comeback. It’s a clever approach and sensational drawing, I give it a 5.

Simon:  The illustration is artistic almost to the point of being beyond the cartoon milieu, which in a sense makes it less funny in my view. I give it a 4.

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5 of 12: “Principal’s Problem Child” by William Haefeli

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Simon:  Next is a William Haefeli cartoon that is an artistic masterpiece. While it’s obviously a cartoon, I think it has more artistic merit than Mr. McPhail’s realistic illustration. Look at the expressions of each of these characters and the scene beyond in the office hallway. I don’t know how he does it.

Max:  That frosted glass inspires dry mouth and hyperventilation just thinking of the principal’s office. Also notice the principal’s monitor screen in which the little miscreant is wearing the same white collar and sweater ensemble. The real winner is Mom, with her coordinated jewelry and clutched handbag.

Simon:  And not just any mom. It’s a mom who has shirked her parental responsibilities. She’s laying it on the principal to address her son’s discipline issues. I love the kid’s reaction, and even the nonplussed expression on the principal’s face is well captured. The caption is also strong. I give this a 5.

Max:  I have to agree. She knows how to delegate and get things done. She’s the aggressor in this conversation and challenging the principal to do his job. Yes, a 5 indeed.

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6 of 12: “Play It Again, Sam” by Julia Suits

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Max:  In the middle of a long, shiny bar, the movie “Casablanca” reappears. Ms. Suits has found yet another variation on this imperishable theme, this time with a cement worker.

Simon:  It’s a great illustration that emphasizes the isolation of the speaker. I wouldn’t mind if The New Yorker spaced out these Casablanca-themed cartoons a bit, however.

Max:  Programming issues aside, the subtle tilt of the beer glass conveys the pining man’s despondency. The caption offers a nice exaggeration of Humphrey Bogart’s famous emotive swoon over Ingrid Bergman. I enjoyed this sendup, I give it a 4.

Simon:  I give it a 4 primarily for the art. The gag was okay.

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7 of 12: “Ragtag Parade” by Joe Dator

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Simon:  Next is a Joe Dator cartoon with a Halloween theme, which is a timely. This is an imaginative comment on unimaginative people or people who wait until the last minute. Very funny stuff.

Max:  Mr. Dator has tapped into the propensity for most of us to scramble at the last minute for an event that’s been on the calendar for eons. These costumes are very funny and thrown together on the way out the door.

Simon:  I like the sparse crowd cheering, or rather observing, this rather pathetic bunch. I give this a 5.

Max:  Yes, I also noticed the quartet of onlookers who seem considerably unimpressed by this ragtag group stumbling by. This is one my favorite Joe Dator cartoons, I give it a 5.

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8 of 12: “Sicilian Retriever” by Seth Fleishman

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Max:  We welcome back Mr. Fleishman after a considerable absence. I just can’t take my eyes off that flowing pinstriped set of slacks on this natty mobster. How about you, Simon?

Simon:  I envy that man for his slacks. Mr. Fleishman creates spare and stylized images that are powerful. The gag is a great take on the line in “The Godfather” about sleeping with the fishes. This is news that this gangster did not want to receive.

Max:  Right, Fido brought back more than the newspaper; he returned with the time-honored Mafioso signal you’re next to get rubbed out. Well, I’d kill for that outfit too! This captionless cartoon is elegance in ink. I give it a 6.

Simon:  It’s a high 5 approaching a 6 in my view.

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9 of 12: “Leave You Hanging” by Drew Panckeri

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Simon:  Next is yet another variation on the “you hang up first” set up. Frankly, I’m getting a little tired of this. Nonetheless, this a pretty funny variation.

Max:  Agreed, this cloying theme is becoming an annoyance. That said, if you’re going to resurrect it one more time, this one ain’t bad. I believe the officer lounging seductively on the bed is a high-ranking Air Force General. I wonder if this diplomacy would work with North Korea.

Simon:  There are some unusual details in this drawing. One is the lava lamp, which seems like an odd addition. Of course there’s a missile on the dresser. On the wall seems to be an Uncle Sam recruiting poster, although I might be wrong about that. Overall, I give this a 3, which is a lower grade I would have given had this been the first cartoon on this particular theme.

Max:  I don’t fault Mr. Penckeri for plowing this field again; I think he’s taken this particular cliché as far as it can go. As long as everyone promises this is the last variation, I give it a 4.

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10 of 12: “A New Chapter” by Bruce Eric Kaplan

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Max: Mr. Kaplan returns, as he has every week this year, with the one of his most spare compositions to date. It revolves around a woman on the phone about to celebrate, of all things, the next chapter of a book she’s reading.

Simon:  That says it all, Max. I guess the humor comes from the fact that this is nothing much to celebrate. But I thought it was a flat gag.

Max:  This was a bit of weak tea after a string of very strong cartoons from Mr. Kaplan. I give this a 2.

Simon:  I agree. It’s a 2 for me.

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11 of 12: “Home Brew” by Liana Finck

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Simon:  Next is a Liana Finck cartoon, which also has a Halloween theme. One witch is giving consideration to modern health considerations. Do you like this one, Max?

Max:  That’s quite a concoction they’re cooking up in the forest. I noticed at least one salamander about to be chucked into that huge cauldron. What would a witch’s brew be without without a healthy dose of amphibians? Ms. Finck certainly captures the mood in this drawing before laying on the oxymoronic caption about diet and death. It’s a funny period piece with a New Age twist.

Simon:  Yes, irony appears to be a major ingredient in this concoction. Ms. Finck’s drawing style works well in this creepy scenario. I give this a 4.

Max:  I liked the facial warts and pointy chins. The gag is clever, I give it a 4.

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12 of 12: “Wine by Mom” by Paul Noth

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Max:  Our final cartoon is by Mr. Noth, in which he melds together a fancy restaurant sommelier and a guilt-inducing mother.

Simon:  The art is well done, especially the soft background. The gag was so-so. I expect more from a Paul Noth cartoon. This is a pretty weak example of wordplay.

Max:  Typically one thinks of a sommelier as a snooty know-it-all. The contrast with a “Don’t bother to turn on the light, I’ll just sit here in the dark” mom couldn’t be farther apart. All in all, a nice drawing, but odd gag – I give it a 3.

Simon:  It barely rates a 3 for me as well.

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