Max:  Rent-a-guest—what a concept!

Simon:  The neighbor across the street is waiting in vain for his invitation.

 

 

1 of 14: “Figuring It Out” by Liana Finck

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Simon:  First up is a cartoon by Liana Finck, who has become a regular in the magazine. My question is whether the woman is talking about their communication as a couple or their communication generally.

Max:  I’m so distracted by the male character‘s too-short arms terminating into misshapen little hands that I was only half-listening. Her artistic style doesn’t serve the gag because the male looks a bit like a monster. In terms of your question, I’d start by saying these two appear to be friends as opposed to a romantic couple.

Simon:  I tend to agree. And this is one of those captions where a character is self-aware and commenting on something she’s thinking about. That’s not my favorite type of cartoon. Hands —even cartoon hands—are not easy to draw, and cartoonists have come up with various ways of depicting them, but drawing them weirdly is not a good solution. Ms. Finck takes artistic liberties, but the odd art combined with a so-so caption adds up to a 2.

Max:  I’ve gone back through the Cartoon Bank and conclude that Ms. Finck almost always draws shriveled-looking hands. The caption attempts to be original and aphoristic regarding the nature of relationships – never easy to pull off. It’s a miss for me, I give it a 2.

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

 

2 of 14: “Till We Meet Again…Maybe” by Jon Adams

Apologies, but once again The New Yorker Cartoon Bank has not made a cartoon available.

Max:  Our next cartoon is by a relative newcomer, Jon Adams. This week he attempts to climb the Mount Everest of cartoon clichés, the Desert Island theme. Simon, what did you think of this variant on the most venerable of all cartoon tropes?

Simon:  The drawing is dramatic and powerful. The caption is nicely understated but no knee-slapper.

Max:  I agree it’s a very fine drawing; the composition is nicely asymmetrical with all the dynamic mass in the left forefront. The fella on the tree seems confident in a successful catapulting and has pithy parting words. The caption turns effectively on “our friendship was one of circumstance”, and doesn’t hint at a sequel. I give this one a 4.

Simon:  I give this a 4 as well. A quibble: the characters look too much alike.

For more on Jon Adams, check out citycyclops.com/info.php

 

3 of 14: “Zap!” by Julia Suits

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Simon:  Next is a cartoon by veteran New Yorker cartoonist Julia Suits, who we have not seen as much of as I would like. This is a take on another time-honored cartoon trope, the creation of man as depicted on the Sistine Chapel.

Max:  Yes, I believe static just got promoted. I’m guessing the hand on the left is that of a woman in some kind of renaissance or medieval garb. The “garment” on the man’s arm to the right looks like some kind of fur. What are your thoughts, Simon?

Simon:  If you don’t think too much about this, it’s just a funny image with the hairs or filaments sticking out on the right. I’m not entirely sure why the left arm is costumed at all. And it’s a little hard to figure out what those hairs on the right are. Regardless, I smiled. I give this a 4.

Max:  Perhaps this the first case of differing clothing causing an electrostatic event, though typically synthetic materials are the culprit. To think mankind went millions of years before that first annoying zap. I give this one a 4 as well.

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

 

4 of 14: “A Night at the Symphony” by Edward Koren

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Max:  A sumptuous symphony hall is the setting for Mr. Koren’s cartoon. I think his scratchy style is well served by this composition; our attention is easily drawn to the couple in the back of auditorium discussing the evening’s programming.

Simon:  This is an outstanding composition by another veteran New Yorker cartoonist. The gag really works by contrasting the banality of fitness class music with an orchestral composition. Very solid.

Max:  I think many Baby Boomers had this experience as kids when they first heard Rossini’s “Willian Tell Overture” as the theme to an early television series, “The Lone Ranger”. I give this cartoon a 5.

Simon:  I agree. It’s a 5. And now you have me thinking about the meaning of Hi-Ho Silver.

For more on Edward Koren, check out edwardkoren.com

 

5 of 14: “Pet Pizza” by Matthew Diffee

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Simon:  Next is a cartoon by Matt Diffee, who used to appear more regularly in the magazine, although he has a spread in the current issue of Esquire. We have two women whose interest in felines apparently will influence their menu selections.

Max:  I interpreted from her comment that the cat lover‘s pizza had kibble and catnip as toppings. Yuck. I’d like to comment that Mr. Diffee’s use of pencil gives his work a unique look in The New Yorker. Most other cartoonists rely on ink pens and perhaps watercolor wash.

Simon:  Yes, cat lovers pizza topping might be a dead mouse or house wren, but it could also mean what a cat lover—in this case, little, old ladies—might prefer. I imagine something not spicy. The drawing and gag work in a quiet way. I give it a 5.

Max:  The dress and attitudes of these women are keenly observed, right down to the matronly purse on the banquette. I give this a 4.

For more on Matthew Diffee, check out matthewdiffee.com

 

6 of 14: “Crystal Ball Reverie” by Maddie Dai

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Max:  Ms. Dai features a fortuneteller who gives a unusually long and detailed reading. What do you make of this caption’s length, Simon?

Simon:  It’s a funny concept, playing on how fortunetellers offer vague prognostications, but there is no need for this caption to go on as long as it does. It does not become progressively funny. We get it after one or two sentences. Finally, I’m looking at this on my phone, and I can’t read anything after the words “train of thought will be”. Would you mind reading me the rest of the caption, Max?

Max:  Why certainly, Simon. The final line is: “…Anyway, that train of thought will be interrupted by a routine fire drill.” Once again I caution our artists that increasing numbers of New Yorker readers are viewing these cartoons on the tiny screens of a smartphone. Back to the cartoon, I agree the gag doesn’t get funnier as we go along. By contrast, a recent cartoon by Joe Dator about an 1890s woman plopped into a modern-day subway featured a caption of comparable length that did get progressively more hilarious. These long captions have a heavy obligation to pay off. I’m afraid this one didn’t, I give it a 2.

Simon:  I agree, the length of this caption is not justified. And I didn’t miss anything by not being able to read that last sentence. I also was not thrilled with the illustration. The woman’s torso is facing us, but her head is pointed in another direction. And her left arm is in some other hidden position. This could have been a good cartoon with a shorter caption and a better drawing. I also give it 2.

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

 

7 of 14: “No Place Like Home” by David Sipress

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Simon:  Next is a David Sipress cartoon. He’s another veteran New Yorker cartoonist. This cartoon takes aim at the boomerang generation.

Max:  The callow youth plopped onto the living room couch has clearly become possessed of some far-out ideas since last living under the parental roof. It looks like Mom is playing the long game with what she hopes are her son’s passing fancies. Also, I’m not sure the cat fully appreciates his return either.

Simon:  It’s a funny line, but I wasn’t sure if it’s meant to be sarcastic or a mother’s genuine attempt to justify her son’s unrealistic ambitions. I give this a 3.

Max:  I think Mom is hoping her son will hear how bizarre these ideas are if she repeats them. I know, because that’s what my parents did too. My favorite part of this cartoon is that little wave between the taken-aback neighbor and the absorbed young fellow looking for new worlds on his iPad. I’m sure many readers of The New Yorker will find this insightful, I give it a 4.

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

 

8 of 14: “Subway Illuminati” by Roz Chast

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Max:  Ms. Chast, a fixture at The New Yorker for decades, spoofs secret societies. Instead of the famous “Bavarian Illuminati” of history or of Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code”, this cartoon plumbs the depths of New York’s subway society. I’m not sure any jaw-dropping secrets of the universe were revealed with this trio’s claims to fame.

Simon:  “Illuminati” is a great word because it is so grand and inapplicable to anything having to do with the New York subway. As I stated about a dozen subway cartoons ago, I’m a little tired of subway cartoons. All of the gags here are okay, but none bowled me over. Perhaps if I were a frequent commuter on the L, I might enjoy this more.

Max:  The irony of the third panel, and one hopes the funniest, is that the L subway ranked among the best lines according to “The Gothamist”. In fact, they were singled out for “the most understandable announcements of any line”. My personal preference is for the “bottomless Metro card”. I give this one a 3.

Simon:  It’s down the middle Roz—3.

For more on Roz Chast, check out rozchast.com

 

9 of 14: “What’s for Dinner?” by P.C. Vey

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Simon:  Next is a P.C. Vey cartoon with a couple grocery shopping.

Max:  It’s this scenario that’s given rise to the popularity of Hello Fresh and Blue Apron where you’re guaranteed to have all the ingredients every time. It’s very frustrating not to have key ingredients, and the substitutions are always a crap shoot. You start with a recipe and great expectations, then wind up with something half baked and a call for take-out.

Simon:  I can tell you from personal experience that marshmallow cream is not a good substitute for yogurt, even though both of them are white. This is a good gag, and “horrible” provides an unexpected punch at the end of the caption. I would have liked to have seen a little more care in depicting the shelves of ingredients, which almost look like bricks at a Home Depot. I give this a 4.

Max:  I thought Mr. Vey made a good choice by stocking the shelves full of anonymous boxes. He still conveys the overwhelming choice available at many stores yet keeps the focus on the shopping couple. The caption captures the nightly high expectations of gastronomes living a culinary paradise such as New York. I give this one a 4 as well.

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

 

10 of 14: “Big Fig” by Will McPhail

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Max:  Mr. McPhail presents us with a preternaturally shy Adam in the Garden of Eden. That’s a gigantic fig leaf, Simon. What’s he got to be ashamed of?

Simon:  This is an odd effort by Mr. McPhail. First, if we are to suppose this is Adam and Eve, perhaps we could see a few other elements, such as Eden, and not just a bare stage. The fig leaf is drawn with such precision and accuracy that it’s distracting. This is a cartoon, not a botany book. Eve’s hairstyle gives her an oddly modern appearance. To me, the gag suggests something about body shaming, or perhaps Adam is just ashamed of his existence. So I found this a bit puzzling.

Max:  I agree, it’s body-shaming, but with a twist – usually the taunts are aimed at women from men. Here, the only man in the world shames himself. I also agree the hyper-realism of the giant fig leaf distracts from the overall gag. I give this one a 3.

Simon:  It’s great artwork but not appropriate for a cartoon. And the gag, as I said, is a bit off. I give it a 2.

For more on Will McPhail, check out willmcphail.com

 

11 of 14: “View Seat” by Kate Curtis

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Simon:  Next is another relative newcomer, Kate Curtis. This passenger has an interesting request.

Max:  Indeed, he wants to look down on the lesser airline classes from his throne in business. It’s a somewhat unrealistic request since business class is always toward the front of the plane, but nonetheless the idea comes through.

Simon:  I thought the caption had a possible double meaning. It could refer to a business class passenger with a condescending view of the passengers in coach, as you said, but it also suggests that this businessman wants to keep an eye on the economy. Perhaps that’s not what was intended. Anyway, I think it’s a funny line. I give this a solid 4.

Max:  I wondered that as well; however, the missing “the” squashed that idea for me. The concept is keeping with the times. There’s no false humility anymore when it comes to conspicuous wealth. The line is nicely compact, I give it a 3.

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

 

12 of 14: “Collectible” by Benjamin Schwartz

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Max:  Mr. Schwartz reaches back in time into the mists of English history. Given the comic book look to this cartoon, it might even spoof the Disney movie about the Arthurian legend, “The Sword in the Stone”. In a time-twisting mashup, we also see a contemporary-looking boy in a Spiderman t-shirt.

Simon:  Yes, it’s one of those anachronism cartoons, and this is well done. The upward movement of the sword, the ray of light illuminating the moment of triumph, and the overweight modern child with other priorities in the shadows combine to create an effective tableau. Excellent composition and a funny gag.

Max:  The artwork is outstanding, but I’m not sure about the caption. The condition of sword – for resale, one assumes – is a contemporary concern, so which era are we in? The pudgy boy’s cargo shorts reminded me of Roz Chast’s cargo pajamas from last week’s issue. Nonetheless, I wasn’t as thrilled with this cartoon, I give it a 3.

Simon:  It’s an anachronism, so it exists in two eras. Great art, well phrased gag, and a fine comment on today’s values. I give it a 5. And the sword is a collectible, so no self-respecting nerd would sell it.

For more on Benjamin Schwartz, check out newyorker.com/contributors/benjamin-schwartz

 

13 of 14: “Dungeons, Dragons, and Neighbors” by Avi Steinberg

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Simon:  Next up is a cartoon by Avi Steinberg, and it features a mythical creature that seems to be getting a lot of attention these days, the dragon.

Max:  It’s a great variant of the “keeping up with the Joneses” theme, but set in medieval times. And that dragon! Who wouldn’t want that magnificent creature wrapped around their parapet?

Simon:  Some interesting artistic choices here: towers but no castles, and the addition of the man pushing a lawnmower is a great, anachronistic element that adds balance to the drawing. The dragon is mighty fine. I give this a 5.

Max:  The compositional balance between the humdrum, lawn-mowing schlub and sensational fire-breather on the neighboring keep creates a great diagonal of connection. And look how dismissively the balding hubby checks out the dragon. The caption is a nice, taut five words; well executed all around, a 5.

For more on Avi Steinberg, check out newyorker.com/contributors/avi-steinberg

 

14 of 14: “The Time Is Now” by Eric Lewis

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Max:  The final cartoon this week is by Mr. Lewis, who takes a swing at that old canard, a broken clock is right twice a day. What you think of the two items cited by Mr. Lewis as the gag, Simon?

Simon:  The first one is a funny fact, but the second one is completely unexpected, as it’s not a fact but a piece of advice.

Max:  Agreed, the initial, prosaic fact sets up the zinger perfectly. The protagonist is a middle-aged man, but not any middle-aged man. This one is formally attired in a full suit and tie; clearly he’s a man who’s beholden to his responsibilities…all except to his Mother—looks like he slipped up there. Good setup, I give this a 4.

Simon:  I like that the caption reads “apologize to your mother”, instead of the more prosaic “call your mother.” I give this a 4 as well.

For more on Eric Lewis, check out twitter.com/ericlewis0