This really is the perfect example of how ideas can start off rough and then marinate over a long period of time to become something good.
I drew this in my sketchbook a long time ago. It’s an usher telling a well-dressed couple that their seats are not in the orchestra pit, but the mosh pit. Yeah, go ahead and groan. I never drew it up for submission because I didn’t think it was worthy. First of all, you have to include both halves of the joke in order for it to work (orchestra/mosh) which means you’re telegraphing the punch line to the reader in advance. And it looks like the couple is getting pranked. Pranking is funny, but not in cartoons. That’s best left to Ashton Kutcher.
But opera vs. mosh pit was still a funny juxtaposition. That’s because mosh pits are outright stupid. Someone should do a different cartoon about them that has more to do with what actually goes on there. I’m not opposed to them. If you’re young enough or drunk enough they’re a great way to blow off steam. I prefer the crazy skank-dancing ones to the ones where people line up and batter each other like angry rams, but it is funny how they spontaneously materialize if the conditions are right and then disappear, almost like the Northern Lights if the Northern Lights had tattoos up it’s arm and grew up listening to System of a Down.
True story: somebody tried to kill me in a mosh pit once. The person kept pushing me into the trombone player, hoping that I would get knocked unconscious with the instrument (it was a ska band – how did you know?). This year at SXSW I was standing well outside of a mosh pit watching people crowd-surf with their backpacks still on. It made me wonder whether mosh pits were less dangerous now, or whether this was just good multi-tasking. I mean, if you’re crowd surfing for more than two minutes then it’s as good an opportunity as any to get some good reading done.
The point is, I never liked this cartoon. And then one day I saw something that had an opera box in it. I don’t remember what it was, specifically, but I had it on the brain when I came across this sketch again and suddenly the problems were solved. The visual cue for the opera box is better than the verbal one for the orchestra pit. That’s the last thing you expect the woman to be looking down upon. And she’s not getting duped. She wants in herself, which is a lot funnier idea from a humor standpoint because it makes you look at her again and say “wha-?”
From there all that was left to do was draw the revised scenario, which appears in the New Yorker this week. I had to use reference because I’ve never been to the opera before. Maybe someday I will get to go to one and dive into the crowd from the balcony.
One of the first cartoons I ever submitted to the New Yorker was this one. Apparently, they didn’t think that an unfinished waiter asking a cross-eyed Mike Ditka a stupid question was going to work. Ah, they were probably right. I remember Bob Mankoff, the carton editor, asking me to explain it and I’m pretty sure I just shrugged my shoulders and said “I don’t think I can.”
Which brings us to the cartoon this week’s issue, which is here. I still had the remnants of this setup swirling around in my caffeinated brain when I thought of this idea. It would have worked if it had taken place on a desert island, as I had originally imagined, but then it might have gotten confused with that other piece of cartoon context, so it’s just the great generic outdoors.
As far as what it means, I’m still not sure, but I think the pictures below will explain it comprehensively.
Have you ever been in a police lineup? It’s a stressful thing. That’s what my friend told me, at least. And since humor often works best when it’s derived from tension, I thought I’d draw something about it. It appears in this week’s New Yorker.
I had been trying to fit a “Peeping Tom” into a cartoon for a while. It makes me laugh that there’s this specific nickname for a voyuer, because there’s no Jaywalking Sam or Shoplifting Linda. But those cartoons never worked out. One day, though, as I was thinking about somebody trying to identify something unidentifiable in a police lineup, I swerved right into the abandoned Peeping Tom idea. And it’s creepy, too!
You can see that in my original notebook sketch, I had the alleged perpetrators peering over a wall. This doesn’t make as much sense as having them look through a set of blinds, which in the end is what I decided was the more appropriate scenario. I don’t have those kind of blinds, though, so I had to find some to draw from. But it was pretty easy! All I had to do was secretly peer into my neighbor’s window.
My cartoon in this week’s New Yorker originally started out, I think, as a wealthy couple deciding they didn’t want to spend money on each other. I’m not even sure I know what I meant by this sketch below: “We need to see cheaper people.” Evidently, I realized that having no money is a lot funnier, which is something I’m sure we all can attest to. I laugh about it all the time. And so you can see how I changed it up to what you see in the current issue.
It wasn’t until I sent in the finished art for this cartoon that I realized that it was kind of a sequel to this cartoon by my friend Matt Diffee. Of course, his idea in no way influenced my drawing in the first place, because us cartoonists produce 100% original ideas that are completely without precedent and are singularly unaffected by anything else in the culture. Except when they’re not, which is basically all the time. But you knew that already.
My cartoon in this week’s New Yorker is about a subject which I consider myself to have a lot of expertise in: napping. The great part about napping is you can do it anywhere: home, work, on the train, a Congressional hearing, playing third base for the Yankees in the playoffs. I wish America was as advanced in napping culture as Europe. They say New York is the city that never sleeps, but I wish they would go curl up somewhere and just stop saying that for five minutes. It would make them feel a whole lot better.
Here is how this drawing evolved:
Here is the sketch that was approved for the magazine:
And here is the preparatory sketch for the final version. If at this point you’re thinking this isn’t just a cartoon but it’s like a James Audubon field guide to all the different kinds of nappers and their native positions, you’re right. Why is there a picture on the windowsill in the previous drawing but not in this one? It’s part of the realism of the situation. People steal stuff from you when you’re napping. But we wouldn’t have it any other way.
And, here is the final version.
This is a thing Jason Mustian and I did for Happyplace.com. Enjoy, unless you see yourself here.
Filed under Art, Cartoons
I’ve never been to Burning Man, but my cartoon in this week’s New Yorker asks whether the festival has turned from a small countercultural freakfest into a corporate theme park of an event, as cited by this New York Times article from last year. Then again, all of these events are starting to feel the same, as the below pictures from this year’s Goldman Sachs annual board meeting show.
Hey Dan2dublin (you know who you are), I don’t appreciate you using an innocent and very popular app to editorialize about the drinking habits of myself and another cartoonist. Plus, you made me hate myself for the words you made me guess. On the other hand, that’s a nice bottle of Maker’s Mark. By the way, it’s your turn.
The original idea for the cartoon in this week’s New Yorker was this, captured roughly in my sketchbook some time last summer. I’ll be the first to admit: the idea is terrible. Or, at least it was terrible. I thought there was something funny about a guy riding a bike on a treadmill. And there is something funny about it, but it’s not a guy standing to the side saying “There are places for people like you.” I drew it up and assumed I’d figure out a better caption to go with it, but I didn’t.
I kept running across the image in my sketchbook, because that’s what happens with sketchbooks. And at some point I realized that it was probably funnier to have the biker sharing the treadmill with a runner. I still had this same unfunny caption in my head, though, even as I started laying this out. But I couldn’t shake it: I wanted the runner to be expressing his surprise at discovering that there was someone else there with him.
As I struggled to find something punchier, I realized that you could change the game, so to speak. Instead of trying to force something witty into the mouth of the runner, it was going to be the bicyclist talking. And it instead of it being a surprising situation, what was funnier was the idea that it would be perfectly normal for a biker and a runner to be sharing the exercise equipment. You make a silly scenario mundane. There eight even be a sign at the gym saying “Please Use Caution When Entering Someone Else’s Workout.” So here’s the sketch I submitted, and then the final image as published.
In case you were wondering why my cartoon in this week’s New Yorker actually made complete sense, in a very non-witty, straightforward kind of way, it’s because somehow the original caption got mistranslated. I submit my captions in German, which is the funniest language of all, and sometimes it’s difficult to capture the subtleties in translation. Anyway, it should have read like this: