The Monday Tilley Watch is a meandering take on the cartoons in the current issue of The New Yorker.
As this is the Style Issue I decided to tackle the issue while listening to Starring Fred Astaire, a set of songs recorded by Mr. Astaire between 1936 through 1940. What a great photograph. What style. What a great top hat.
And now to the issue:
In the habit of expecting some political commentary on the cover of the new issue, I paused to examine the cover art, wondering if president Trump’s face was hidden in the leaves (ala the hidden Beatles on the Rolling Stones album, Their Satanic Majesties Request cover). No such luck.
It takes seconds, once past the cover, to get to the very first cartoon. If it’s a theme issue, there’s an excellent chance the first cartoon will tie-in to the theme. Bingo! The first drawing, by Carolita Johnson, whose first New Yorker cartoon appeared in the issue of October 20, 2003, features Elton John-ish stage shoes. As is always the case, my mind associates what I’m seeing with what I’ve previously seen in the New Yorker, and the first thought was this fabulous Steinberg cover from May of 1993:
Flipping through the Goings On About Time (or GOAT) section, page 28 stood out. Why? It is a page completely devoid of graphics (no illustration, photographs, etc.). The layout is a throwback to what was once common place in the magazine. The only design element is the renovated Rea Irvin nervous horizontal line across the top (“renovated” in that it is slightly less nervous than his original lines). Beautiful nonetheless.
We don’t arrive at the next cartoon until page 40, where we’re greeted by Tom Chitty’s frankfurter-ish figures involved in the age-old scenario of a couple arriving at a home, bringing a bottle of wine. Mr. Chitty’s first New Yorker appearance was in the issue of October 13, 2014. Nice use (essential use!) of the phrase “limited expectations” here. Four pages later is a David Sipress cartoon. I note that Mr. Sipress’s drawing and Mr. Chitty’s drawing share similar standard rectangular space on the lower left of their respective pages. The drawings have just enough breathing room on the page. Mr. Sipress’s first New Yorker appearance: July 1998. Perhaps Mr. Sipress will someday give us a ten years later sequel to this drawing (it’s about a couple possibly about to explore the idea of whether or not to have children). I’m curious if they had children and if they did, if it was the right decision for them.
Eleven pages later we come to a Charlie Hankin courtroom scene (Mr. Hankin’s first New Yorker appearance: August 2013). The drawing is given some nice breathing room at the upper right hand corner of the page. I love courtroom scenes (Perry Mason, and all that). The Monday Tilley Watch, as I keep reminding visitors (and myself), is not an overtly critical column. However, with a nod to my friends over at Cartoon Companion, I occasionally find myself wanting to applaud a certain drawing. This week I applaud Mr. Hankin’s drawing. There’s a (James) Thurber, (Charles) Barsotti feel to it — and that is always a very good thing.
Mr. Hankin’s drawing is immediately followed by a BEK drawing (and we’re back to the lower left rectangular space). I think of every issue of the magazine as having at least one anchor artist, and hopefully three or four. Mr. Kaplan is the definition of an anchor artist. Contributing since 1991, his work does not disappoint.
Three pages later, given a full page, is the now much talked about Hillary Clinton cover that would have been had she, well, you know. Two pages later, a cartoon by another anchor cartoonist: Roz Chast (first New Yorker cartoon: 1978). With cargo clothing as Ms. Chast’s focus (remember, this is the style issue) I cannot help but think of the late Leo Cullum’s classic drawing from the issue of August 17, 1998:
Sidenote: good spacing (breathing room) for Ms. Chast’s drawing.
On the very next page is a Liana Finck drawing (first New Yorker drawing: 2013). The subject is one of those “head-in-the-hole” props you see at carnivals. Here’s an example I lifted off of (out of?) the internet:
Ms. Finck’s drawing has a decidedly Charles Addams quality to it (I was wondering if we could get through today’s Monday Tilley Watch without mentioning Addams). I like that Ms. Finck’s cartoon camera has a strap. Three pages later is a well-placed Emily Flake drawing (first New Yorker drawing: 2008). I’ve never used Uber or their app-minded competition (cabs I have used), but I gather what’s happenin’ here. I wonder if the clown is a reference to the current clown film (It) scaring the pants off of everyone, or is it just a generic scary clown thing.
Turning the page we have a newbie’s cartoon. Kate Curtis began publishing in the magazine in January of this year. I spent time examining the “vintage” clothing in this drawing, it being the Style Issue and all. Note to myself: E.T. looks kind’ve like a turtle. I will remember that next time I’m drawing a turtle, or E.T.. On the opposite page from Ms. Curtis’s drawing is a Will McPhail cartoon (first New Yorker appearance: 2014). Mr. McPhail’s is a romance tinged football drawing. Again, my mental library of imagery takes me immediately to this 2003 New Yorker cover by Harry Bliss:
Next up is a hot air balloon drawing by Ed Steed (first New Yorker cartoon: 2013). I know zero about hot air balloons — was only up in one once. I’m deeply sorry the bearded passenger had to toss his musical instrument out of the balloon’s passenger basket. My first thought — a typical cartoonist’s mash-up thought — was that I would’ve tossed the actual speech balloon, say perhaps in the vicinity of where a caption would ordinarily go, thus saving a perfectly good cartoon accordion, but hey, I wasn’t there — it wasn’t my call.
Fifteen pages later we come to a domestic bean-centered P. C. Vey drawing, nicely placed. Mr. Vey’s been contributing to the magazine since 1993. I hate to admit it, and I don’t like recalling it, but I’ve seen even bigger cans of beans than the one Mr. Vey’s cartoon character is eating from. Five pages later is a Sara Lautman energetic carnival drawing. Her first New Yorker cartoon appeared in March of last year. The way Ms. Lautman uses the word “things” — it’s printed as “Thiiiings” — makes the word vibrate.
And that is that until next Monday. By the way, I have not abandoned my campaign to encourage the return of Rea Irvin’s long running iconic masthead to the Talk of The Town. I leave you with a common chant of wisdom, commonly heard on sports fields:
“Don’t mess, don’t mess with the best…”
Here’s the best: