The Clowns are running The Circus.
Every last one of the serious adult types at this publication is off mulling some wine, trimming a tree, roasting a chestnut, taking in a matinée of “Little Women,” lighting a candle, putting out a candle-related fire, or catching up on back issues of verbose periodicals. And who happened to be napping under a desk when the office was being securely locked up for the winter break? You guessed it—the Cartoon Department…
Finally, we decided to give the cocktail-party people what they deserve: a cartoon-takeover issue.
To that end, we’ve thumbed through the archives, rummaged around in editors’ waste bins, and peered into the space behind my desk where important things tend to fall, and we’ve pasted together something resembling a magazine. It includes such treasures as a 1997 piece by John Updike on his youthful aspirations to be a gag cartoonist (judge for yourselves); cartoon-inflected fiction and poetry; cartoons about cartooning; musings on early animation; and comics by Liana Finck, Emily Flake, Ebony Flowers, and Emma Hunsinger. Ever wanted to know what Larry David’s or Mindy Kaling’s or Terry Gross’s or Ta-Nehisi Coates’s favorite cartoon is? We’ve got you covered. Been craving a Profile of that patron saint of neurotic geniuses, Roz Chast? Read on. There’s some old stuff and some new stuff, all aimed at keeping you smiling into the New Year, which we have on good authority will be much funnier than its predecessor.
Among those treasures listed above, The New Yorker put the Roz Chast profile online.
“My dream was to be a working cartoonist for the Village Voice,” she says. “Because that was Jules Feiffer, Mark Alan Stamaty, Stan Mack. There was something very idiosyncratic, very New York, about them, all social comment and not a gag panel. And the New Yorker cartoon was a gag panel. I liked that, but I had no interest in doing that. I didn’t see myself as part of that. I submitted because I thought, Why not? I was working for the Voice and for the Lampoon, and I thought I should try The New Yorker. It’s cartoons—same deal.
“I think it was a Wednesday—I called up and found their drop-off day, and I left my portfolio. And that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing ever since. I was absolutely flabbergasted and terrified when I found out I had sold something.”
Also online – a R. Sikoryak interview on his cover homage to New Yorker cartoonists past and present.
For the cover, we tried to find a mix of the classic and the contemporary, the refined and the doodled. It was important to use styles that would be instantly recognizable, and I tried many variations before settling on this collection of characters. From left to right, I imitated the styles of Saul Steinberg, George Booth (the dog), William Steig, Emily Flake, Edward Steed, and, of course, Roz Chast.
Of course you need to get the “Cartoon Takeover” issue for the full effect.
Right off the bat, it should be noted that this issue is unlike the “Cartoon Issue” once produced this time of the year beginning in 1997; that series ended after a fifteen year run. It is also unlike the “Best Cartoons Of The Year” series begun in 2011, and ended five years later. This Cartoon Takeover is unlike those in that it contains a ton of archival material (the issue carries the descriptive “A Semi-Archival Issue” on the Table of Contents). While elements from the Cartoon Issues, and Best Of series are here: the graphic spreads for instance, and a profile of a cartoonist — the old tropes features thankfully haven’t resurfaced. This Takeover is a new and welcome creature, with a pulse I associate with the very oldest issues of The New Yorker. As befits the issue’s theme, The New Yorker‘s cartoon editor, Emma Allen, has taken over Talk’s “Comments” section, leading us into the action.