Life Imitates Art

Never has life – my life – imitated art so perfectly as it did last week.

I drew up this cartoon earlier this year, which was published in last week’s New Yorker:

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As you can see from my sketchbook entry below, I didn’t get it right on the first try. I don’t really know what I was thinking on my initial doodle – “Would anyone like to give up your seats for an equally crowded flight later on?” It makes some sense but it’s not that funny. My next attempt – “Would anyone like a free voucher in return for helping us count seats?” – is funnier. Like an airplane above Newark airport, I was circling around the idea looking for a place to land. And I finally got there.

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I have no idea why the airlines intentionally overbook flights. I mean, I do, but I don’t. I understand why they might have a policy which would allow for their frequent and well-heeled customers to make last-minute reservations, and then deal with the fallout from there, but it seems like an insane way to do business. A seat is a seat, right? If you’ve ever seen a live taping of a TV show, you know that they sometimes do something similar, in that they give out more tickets than they have seats. However, they solve the problem by making it first come, first serve. And it’s usually free. It’s not “let’s charge people hundreds of dollars on tickets that we can’t accommodate and then try to bribe somebody to change their plans at the last minute.”

Anyway, on the day after the magazine was published, I flew to Los Angeles to speak at the August meeting of the National Cartoonist Society’s LA chapter, among other things. (Jenny Fine snapped a shot of me presenting in front of the graffiti-covered wall at Stories.)

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My return flight home was Saturday at noon. As I was waiting to board, the gate agent repeatedly announced that they were looking for one person to volunteer to give up their seat in return for a $500 voucher. I usually don’t spring for things like that, but the next flight back to NYC was only three hours after, so I figured that was a small price to pay. I didn’t have to be back for anything, and as it was my seat was in the last row, so I didn’t mind giving that one up.

After letting the plane fully board and then approaching the desk to claim my reward, I was then told by the agent to hurry onto the plane. The deal was off. There were half a dozen passengers who hadn’t yet showed up, so I had to board the plane. At least I got a seat upgrade – I was sitting closer to the front of the plane, and some other sucker was in my former seat. But still. I wish I had had a copy of my cartoon with me to show the United gate agent. He would have been possibly the only person who wouldn’t have asked me “Where do you get your ideas?”

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Gratefully Grumpy

The very first week that I submitted cartoons to the New Yorker was in June 0f 2002. I took the train down from Boston and took this issue back home with me:

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So Harry Bliss‘ public library lion has always kind of been on my brain. It’s a great image. One day this spring after I had been in Bryant Park I was revisiting those lion statues and thought of this idea, which eventually made it’s way online and into the magazine this week.

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The cat is the well-known public figure whose name is actually Tardar Sauce (according to her Wikipedia page which will be longer than mine ever will be), probably appearing in the New Yorker for the first time, at least in print. Also a first-time thing for me is using a tool other than a scratchboard knife. I wanted the trees to be a texture other than that which I could create with my own hand, so they’re the result of a sponge dipped in ink. Yes, this was a crafts project!  I did not do dishes with the same sponge afterward.

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(It is a lie that it’s the first time I used a sponge – I used a sponge a little bit in last week’s cartoon about guy-dominated startups, but I had drawn this one first, and I’ve already started writing this blog post.)

So, for those who read my entry on Jane Mattimoe‘s A Case for Pencils blog, consider the process to be updated. Knives and sponges it is. And while we’re talking cats, a true confession:  I really wanted to see the Acro-Cats circus this weekend in Brooklyn – come on, cats playing cowbell! – but the shows were all sold out. Great for Samantha Martin, the creator of the show, but bad for me. Hopefully they will come back again. Are you happy now, Mrs. Sauce?

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Filed under Cartoons, New yorker

#FridayReads

KantYelp

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May 22, 2015 · 3:03 pm

Word wizarding

I did a bit of self-correction on my most recent published cartoon, I think for the better. This is a way-too-long explanation of it, but it’s not my typical gag.

Last month I was thinking about wizards, as cartoonists sometimes find themselves doing, and how their robes are portrayed with moons and stars and planets and such. There was something to that, I thought; like maybe they were better suited to being astronomers. Or weathermen, which is funnier.

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I don’t know what those numbers are to the right of him, but I think that for a minute I was considering a stock market wizard, with a robe full of financial symbols. That probably could have worked, too. But around the same time I was poking around Genius (for several years it had been Rap Genius) so that I could make sense of this song, and when I came back to the wizard, the idea of lyrics seemed like it was a fresher juxtaposition.

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“I’m only a wizard at discerning rap lyrics,” he’s saying. But which lyrics? click here to read the rest of this post

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Holding the mustard

I’m not sad to see winter say goodbye, but I am disappointed that I’ll have nowhere to write my initials in the snow. For a few months, at least.

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Filed under Art, street art

Speaking of speech

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Recently I was asked by my alma mater to participate in a panel discussion regarding the many threats to free speech at the hands of terrorism.  We are all acquainted with the brutal and troubling ways in which this threat has played out in recent months. The panel happens April 6 at The College of William & Mary, so if you’re in the area, feel free to stop by and say hello. The alumni magazine thought it would be great to do a cover story on the same topic, and it made sense that I’d illustrate it.

In terms of imagery, there are few things that have been done to death as frequently as the “pen as weapon of free speech” has. Pen vs. gun: the symbolism is natural and obvious, but it seems to me like every working cartoonist drew their own similar version of it in response to the Charlie Hebdo attacks. My colleagues at the New Yorker offered their takes on the issue as well. Some of the images cartoonists created were brilliant and some were legitimately moving, but I intentionally avoided participating because I felt like I was struggling to come up with anything new on the issue. So this was personally a challenging assignment.

The first bunch of ideas I came up with felt a little too contrived, too gauche, especially since magazine covers are not usually the territory for overwrought editorial concepts.

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The cover idea that the editors picked was chosen not necessarily for it’s poignance or cleverness (because it’s not to be found there), but merely because click here to read the rest of this post

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SX Redux

I went to SXSW once again this year under strange circumstances – long story short, I was supposed to perform but it fell through but I still ended up going to the music portion (which is what I like anyway). I had a fake press conference:

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and I told Ronald McDonald what I thought of the fact that they weren’t handing out free Egg McMuffins despite the fact that they advertised their huge-ass music and food tent with a picture of an Egg McMuffin:

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and I fed “Southie,” the foam Colombian radio mascot who apparently cannot hold his queso:

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And I took some Instagram band pics (also using the Layrs app, which is pretty great):

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and I made a little teaser video. And I’m still trying to catch up on my sleep.

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