Shit My New Yorker Cartoons

All about New Yorker Cartoons, in intelligent, unsparing detail.

Apr 30

You Can Steal These Ideas

Remember: the new blog is at

Current post: You can steal these cartoon ideas. Including:Image

“Why on earth would I want to be friends with a spaghetti sauce on Facebook?”

Again, the new blog is at:

Apr 17

New blog address:

Friends and followers,

This blog has changed to

Easier to comment on, post on, etc. Go check it out. 

here’s a taste of this week’s post:

This is the humor mainstay of mixing the very old with the very new. It works often, and since The New changes so frequently these days, you know cartoonists will go back to this well often. Expect Instagram and Pinterest cartoons in next week’s issue. Oddly, this composition seems to serve Torb or Jorb’s round headed characters. I’m glad he didn’t limit the drawing to one couple on one moor. It is to his or her credit that we wonder if the other moors got good reviews or not. Still: I would add, could he be looking more in her eyes, could they be interacting more (would it be funnier)? Probably their sad interaction reflects the way we interact these days, shoegazing, and recalling our latest searches and shares.

Apr 9

The rolling right along April 16, 2012 issue

A charming enough one. Leighton is reliable. What helps is that the picture is right over the guy’s head, as if it’s always on his mind. My feeling again, is that this could be the slightest bit funnier, with perhaps a longer caption: “That story reminds me of the time I walked on the moon, have I told you about that?” while he’s leaning in a bit, or maybe nonchalantly drinking some tea, while talking…

There’s been a lot of Mankoff lately, and topical too, as if no one is coming in with the right topical gags. This one’s good, I think.

Why am I not getting the Ziegler cartoons these days? I like the visual he’s going for- enormous cannon, small target, strewn cannonball debris (see the famous Crimean War photo) from but I just don’t know what this is about.

[Note- Tim Kreider writes in via email (

"The one with the cannon is my favorite in a long, long time. Bearing in mind that I am a big Kliban fan and don’t all that much care if a cartoon has a traditional "punchline." This one seems like it does everything you’re always longing for a cartoon to do: it’s all about those characters, their history and relationship—they seem to have sort of a Marcie/Peppermint Patty thing going. Also the awesome contrast between their tiny little Napoleonic hats and plumes and finery and the titanic brute 20th century mass of the gun. And the Sisyphean/Kafkaesque/Wile E. Coyotean futility of their ongoing mission. Ever the Castle stands in the distance, serene and untouchable." ]

I’m skipping ones that bore me.

Despite my giving Crawford so much mean-spirited crap for his past month of cartoons, this has a slight charm. The completely weird stiffness is certainly unique, and nothing in the cartoon is distracting like the past 3 or 5. Except… not to be a jerk, but this is SO weird, it might as well be weirder. First: he’s out of bounds, either off of first or third. Is he coming from the dugout? Second, he’s not really reaching for a ball, he’s sort of floating/stopping in mid-air. Third, the weird tangent formed by his arm and the  main part of the bottom of the stands makes the path of the ball seem like just another aisle in the stands. But as a martini fan and someone who wants it weirder, I want to see this cartoon work. Could it have been weirder? Real floating perhaps? Or maybe he was sitting in the dirt still, or if he’s out of bounds, show us why? I can’t tell what I like about this cartoon, if anything. It certainly made me stop and look. 

My only complaint here is the two don’t seem to be in the same moment, and he’s not going fast, he’s about to fall in front of her. I really do want to know if they know each other, are a pair, are biking together, or if they are strangers or what. Is she taunting him anew or is this part of an old trend? This cartoon doesn’t tell me, and yes, I think it’s important. 

I like Kanin, but to me, this isn’t enough yet. Maybe more wind effecting the woman’s hair too and the toupee, or cheering alien silhouettes in the spaceship or something.

I’m fair. I like this one. These characters from this cartoonist always looked like Janice from the Muppets

[Kreider again from his email: “I think the guy who draws the Janice characters is the second-most hateful NYer cartoonist after that guy everyone hates most. And this one is a terrible cartoon, doing what you call “shooting the outline”: it’s an idea for a cartoon, not a cartoon. Which is what quite a lot of NY’er cartoons are, which is why The Believer can have that feature that just describes NY’er cartoons which are (at least) as funny as actual NY’er cartoons.”  

My response: “  Yes this is true. I also think the New Yorker is not in the business of staying true to the idea of “The Cartoon.” I think they want to ellicit a laugh amongst their ranks. I laughed at the Janice guy bit, actually, and BEK is like that too. Witty dialogue with no need for a drawing. I agree that a great cartoon has a vital drawing, but I also don’t want to complain about the NYer on my terms. I want to do it on theirs.]

This is good writing. “I’ll be right in front of your face” is a shocking and odd image. “Furiously texting” adds an annoying awful layer to it, and the idea that “anyone” would want him right now while he’s just sitting there is funny. What would Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf look like if they had text messaging? Again, BEK rubber stamps his art, but this one, through writing chops and specificity, works.

Wilson is so unique, that we can be in danger of trusting him too much. (He’s not always great, but he is always unique.) What is good about this one is the great weird creature staring upward from under the bed…

Simple, fine. Good stones.

Koren’s been so abstract and in his own world lately, it’s interesting to see him deal with  realities of finance, class, etc. “Bonding with his compensation package” is quite unique, and of course the drawing is too, with the weird smiling little rat-man surrounded by dark hatching in his moral hovel while the secretary/wife whatever remains in the cold light we share with her.

I know a therapist who will love this one. The tissues make it.

Cartoon contest. This cartoon makes me realize that we have completely gone from cartoon-renderable TV screens (they haven’t had rabbit ears in decades and now they are merely thin undrawable rectangles) to something you point a remote at. The remote in this picture gives you a good dramatic specificity. 

A pretty standard, fine issue. No reason to throw the issue across the room in a while, thanks everyone! 

(Be sure to check out the previous post all about 1968’s JB Handelsman)

Apr 8

1968 was JB Handelsman’s Year

So I bought myself a copy of The Complete New Yorker Cartoons cause I wanted to know what I was talking about. You can, and should buy one. Here ‘s a link to it at Powell’s

Going through the book in no particular order. Lots of great surprises. Here’s one: JB Handelsman, who I never knew. 1968 was a good year for him/her. The first one that jumped out at me was this one:

Great for its timelessness (of course it could run now), it’s great long, rolling caption, great staging and composition (the young officer stock still and the older authorities falling into place slightly more organically and care-free), great drawings (every face is different, specific and funny).

Just scrolling through the rest of that year, you’ll find:

Notable for the complete switch in rendering style, this one loose and fast and a real drama/action in the poses, just delightful.

Another good cartoon that fits perfectly into the Bush-era. Note here how far he goes to render this scene. Not just 2 guys, but 3, one staring out the window, framed in light as he surveys the rest of the world below. Great great body language on that right character, legs spread out, butt sitting hard and comfortable in that big easy chair. 

Again, a delightful, full scene. Great detail and flourish in the drawing, and a perfectly relevant, funny joke. Here’s another great us vs. them cartoon:

The blithe stance of the bartender, the slightly crazy face of the speaker, the lost in thought bystander. Again, great everything here. And completely at home in 2012 or 1968, politically and visually.

A charmer. Cartoonists, note that this is one of the few cartoons with a straight-on composition. Not a lot of angles. Why? Because in this one there’s a sense of security. The woman is stable, nothing is threatening her world view. It’s a simple world, the straight forward composition continues this idea. The other ones above, in the bar, in the war room, all skewed and unsettled. This one, calm, the stable suburban home in the dead center. 

Another simple charmer. Almost works without the picture, the text being pretty funny. The fabulous drawing sends it into greatness. The sick man in the back, round, sloppy and troubled, the super lanky, lost girl in the center, her only connection to the real world this wire running off to the side of the panel. GREAT! I love this cartoonist.

And just in case you thought he was going light on us, here’s a killer. Again, the interrogated standing stock still, all lines leading towards her. 

One last good one about race and colonialism:
These are about half of the Handelsman cartoons from 1968, all great. Again, all from  The Complete New Yorker Cartoons  

Apr 5

Random notes reading The Complete New Yorker Cartoons

Just a random post while reading The Complete New Yorker Cartoons, which I received in the mail this week.


  • Wm Hamilton had a much rougher style once, and it’s not without charm
  • Barsotti had a style once, and not merely a “style”, a bit looser, more like Leunig a bit
  • Ziegler’s lackluster sledding gag of last week has a precedent in a good Ziegler gag of a lawyer on a sled with a bunch of boys. Wonder if he was riffing on that.
  • They let Steinberg get away with anything, in a good way.
  • There isn’t a bad drawing in the whole book. Haven’t looked at the CDs yet. 
  • Fun cartoonists I never heard of: Petty, Miller, Stevenson, O’Brian
  • A Kliban in 1963?

Apr 2

The Pretty Good April 9, 2012 issue. Go team!

I’ll start by showing a couple simple (and silent!) cartoons by Andre Francois, another of the best cartoonists no one has heard of. I don’t know much about him, you can click the wikipedia link above and check out more out for yourself. Francois had a lush, curious and adventurous line. I find some of his best comics funny and sad at the same time. Here are two:
Get in close to this one. You may need to zoom if I uploaded properly. This gentle woman is watching a shark fin swimming out her lonesome window. The fin disappears beneath the water, she returns (glumly? resigned?) to her meal. I stared at this for days before I noticed an even more poignant detail: the second meal setting has been placed on the shelf after the shark has disappeared.

(Postscript. A reader points out that this is probably a sail, not a shark fin. I think it’s poignant either way but sadder when it’s a shark. Maybe I’ll make that cartoon.)

Here’s a simple charmer:

Clearly this young sailor is being made very very happy by this tattoo. And the drawing, again, curious, adventurous, celebratory.

Ok, let’s look at the April 9, 2012 of the New Yorker.  I’m pleased to say that, to my sensibilities, it is one of the consistently better ones in a while.

The cartoons and links to the rest of the issue are are all here.

A good start. That’s charming enough. Something’s happening. I have a single-panel cartoonist friend who’s harder to please who would say there’s still not enough detail here. Are those cats? What are these aliens? Can we believe in them more? Was there another step you could have given us? (Imagine if those cats were all just sitting there crapping.) Could the cops be doing something? Filling out a form? Pulling a taser etc? But I think this works efficiently enough. It’s merely a commentary on the NY/NJ Port divide, and as such does its job. It’s not trying to transport you.

I find this one a groaner. 

I think the New Yorker editors haven’t been around enough 12 year olds. You get a 12-year old in front of this costuming era and they’re going to make this gag. I don’t mean to say this flippantly. Ideas are everywhere. You ask any decent idea person: advertiser, poet, novelist, cartoonist, playwright, they will all tell you this. Ideas are everywhere. It’s even more true now. With the internet, with constant flow of culture from the past and the present racing through our eyes and brains, we’ve all had all sorts of ideas: young and old, professional and amateur. At the bar, game console, dinner table, drawing board. What separates, or should separate the professional from the amateur is that what the professional does with his or her ideas is much richer, much deeper, much funnier. I don’t think this cartoon does this. (I liked Walsh’s horse-subway gag last issue though.)

Another decent Hafeez (again crediting a writer), who certainly draws well. This guy feels weighted down by this reality, and the gag is both slightly complex (he doesn’t know what the economy is doing, though he is dressed otherwise. It’s that hard.) and universal.

Good enough. Our future will probably come to this, so let’s applaud the prescience.

I’m starting to think BEK doesn’t try enough. Is “1. Overview” the best text for this first slide? Why not a complicated matrix of how everything will merely repeat? Cause here’s the thing: if the presentation will indeed repeat itself, it presumably will so in a complicated way, and if not, then the superficial simple repetitions on the slide might be funnier than just “Overview”. I know neither is BEK’s style- he/she goes for the short sharp verbal shock, with those harsh blocky characters. Maybe this one is fine.

This good Mankoff cartoon riffs on an old famous New Yorker cartoon, below:

It works within tradition, rewards the careful (and loyal!) reader and apparently had something to do with current events. (I had to ask my pal about that.) So, good! I like Mankoff’s teen, too.

This is good. I want to see the other generals busy at THEIR tables (cause we do have two other wars (at least two)) but this is a good enough way to depict this. Vey is reliable.

See the above rule: it’s not the idea, it’s what you do with it. I’m sure dinner tables everywhere have people imagining this scene, but no one can depict it quite like former editor Lee Lorenz does here. Ecstatic. So glad they let his lettering remain.

This is good on a few simple levels. Does Kanin have a rejected book? I bet those are really good. 

Cute! Good lips, great desk shine (which adds believablitiy), and a funny moment. 

This is E. Flake doing what she does best: mental/verbal commentary with a bit of an edge.  A few harmless lines are tempered by the lines about gut flora and Oprah screaming, which I’m surprised they let in; they both seem so… oh i dunno, gauche.

Despite my pleasure with this issue, this is the first to make me laugh out loud. I find this one very funny. The bald eagle enough would have been good, but here, all spread out like it was shot off a United States quarter itself is great. The dog is funny, the line is surprising yet familiar, the scenario is original.

The cartoon caption contest. Have fun. 

A good issue! Thanks for reading and thank you whatever parts of the system worked better this time around. I’ll go spread some ox musk and sagebrush around the fire and give thanks to those unknowable forces.

Mar 28

jaylat88 said: This is a great blog, but I would take (reasonable) issue with your contention that the New Yorker’s essays remain as good as ever. The non-fiction essays are formulaic, to an irritating degree, and the political pieces are the same partisan drivel you can read anywhere on the net. Will anyone care about this stuff in ten years? Ten weeks? And don't even mention the fiction! EB White was a timeless writer whose observations remain poignant after decades. Who is writing like that today?

Well, I don’t read every word of The New Yorker, who has the time? But I get a lot out of the journalism. I don’t think the political pieces are drivel, if you mean long investigative journalism with political agendas like Seymour Hersh for instance. If you don’t then I’m not sure what you mean. The fiction does have its favorites and repetitions. Someone could probably comment on the relative timidness of the fiction more than me. Harper’s seems more adventurous. Thanks for writing.

Quick post to ask why has no one told me what I missed about the tompe-l’oiel cartoon?

Many people have written in to say they got the tree falling cartoon but agreed that it is near impossible to tell the guy is speaking.

Tim Kreider writes in to toot his own horn, which I’ll allow because 15 years have passed since the cartoon of his I posted. I mention 2 strengths to his cartoon: real characters that you believe in, a real REASON for the trap gag, and he mentions a third. “I mean not to toot my own horn, but the best thing in this cartoon is you’re kind of rooting for everyone. I think I used to be 100% on the aliens’ side. Now I feel for the beer guys. It is just another rip-off.”

I think this empathy is an elusive quality in a cartoon, but almost certainly present in the best ones. The George Booth in the garage below, and the animals coming in from the rain one by George Price I think each have a chord of empathy in them as well. 

magicwhistle said: I think a point-by-point breakdown is good for young cartoonists. I think it would also be a good idea to compare it to a random issue from the 40s or so. While the best then may be better than the best now, I'm sure it also had an equal share of clunkers. While in retrospect something by Charles Addams, Peter Arno, or James Thurber may be better, to be fair you only see the best of what they printed in the past. I'd say more but I'm limited in the # of characters.

I admit I don’t own the complete cartoon book, but I think I’ll get it to properly continue this project. And yes, be on the lookout for old issues.

sequentialartistsworkshop said: google Barbara Shermund from Ben Towle

Ah yeah- from the Ohio library. Great! Never seen her work.

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