New film on New Yorker Cartoonists: “Very Semi-Serious”

We’ve known that Leah Wolchok has been hard at work on her film about New Yorker cartoonists and thought this was an excellent time to check in with her (Ink Spill will revisit Very Semi-Serious in a matter of weeks).  We asked Leah to describe her film, and give us an idea of who’s in it (so far). Here’s what she had to say:


Very Semi-Serious is an offbeat meditation on humor, art and the genius of the single panel.  The film takes an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at the 88-year old New Yorker and introduces the cartooning legends and hopefuls who create the iconic cartoons that have inspired, baffled—and occasionally pissed off—all of us for decades.

The film has been a labor of love and obsession for 6 ½ years. The film is supported by Tribeca Film Institute, IFP, the Pacific Pioneer Fund, Women Make Movies and BAVC. We are working closely with cartoon editor Bob Mankoff, and we’ve interviewed a dozen cartoonists, including Roz Chast, Michael Maslin, Liza Donnelly, Sam Gross, Mort Gerberg, Lee Lorenz, Matt Diffee, Drew Dernavich, Zach Kanin, Emily Flake, Liam Walsh and Liana Finck, who recently published her first cartoon in The New Yorker.  Next up is Bruce Eric Kaplan. 

We’ve also filmed scenes with Gahan Wilson, PC Vey, Sidney Harris, David Sipress, Mike Twohy, Joe Dator, Bob Eckstein, Robert Leighton, Farley Katz, Benjamin Schwartz, Carolita Johnson, Felippe Galindo, David Borchardt, Corey Pandolph, Paul Noth and Barbara Smaller.

Jack Ziegler and Andy Friedman both created original artwork for the film.

In a few weeks we are launching our website and trailer, featuring animation, interviews and never-before-seen footage from the New Yorker headquarters, cartoonists’ studios and inside the homes of caption contest devotees.  Plus a killer ping pong match between Bob Mankoff and Puzzlemaster Will Shortz.

New Yorker Caption Contest Documentary in the Works

Filming has begun on Made Funny, a documentary web series about The New Yorker’s caption contest.  Davis Chambers, who is producing and directing, tells Ink Spill that he’s  been “working hard at finding caption contest winners and academics to contribute to the project.” New Yorker cartoonists Bob Eckstein, David Sipress and Joe Dator  have sat in front of the cameras thus far.

Book of Interest: Punch Cartoons in Color


Coming in October, The Best of Punch Cartoons in Colour.

From the publisher’s description:

Punch‘s move into color illustrations early in the 20th century is now all but unknown. The magnificent results are shown in this collection with hundreds of stunning cartoons from the 1920 through 1992. Showcased here are exquisite illustrations from E. H. Shepard, Art Deco masterpieces from Fougasse, and the eccentrically whimsical creations of Rowland Emett. Other greats represented include H. M. Bateman, Arthur Watts, Anton, Ronald Searle, Russell Brockbank, Quentin Blake, Ralph Steadman, Trog, Mike Williams, Stan Eagles, and more. There are special features on the brilliant caricatures, the magazine’s take on the Royal Family, the funny and poignant cartoons of World War II, and more.


For many years The New Yorker and the now defunct Punch “shared” artists such as Fougasse, Ronald Searle, Henry Martin, Ed Fisher, Michael ffolkes, J.B. “Bud” Handelsman, Kenneth Mahood, Leslie Starke, Dana Fradon, Lou Myers, and Rowland B. Wilson.

In the introduction to a much earlier collection, The Punch Line (Simon & Schuster, 1969) there’s this quaint passage regarding cross-over cartoons :

“…most of the cartoons could just as easily have appeared in The New Yorker as in Punch. Except — and this is really a surprise — many of them are too sexy for The New Yorker! The two magazines even share many of the cartoonists; the English artists study the details of American life, and are thus enabled to sell to such relatively high paying markets as The New Yorker and Playboy. “It’s easy to make people look American, ” says the English cartoonist Smilby: “you draw them fat.”



Five New “One Club” Members Added

A handful of hitherto unknown (to me) cartoonists have been added to the New Yorker Cartoonists A-Z, and as it turns out, all five have something else in common besides being New Yorker cartoonists:  they all had just one drawing published in the magazine during their careers, thus qualifying them for Ink Spill’s One Club (all One Club members appear in red on The New Yorker Cartoonists A-Z).


The newly added are:

Ernest Hamlin Baker (date of his drawing: June 25, 1927)

Cyrus Baldridge  (November 10, 1951)

H. Barnes  (February 2, 1929)

P. Chapman  (April 10, 1926)

Loy Byrnes  (September 14, 1929)


As always, if anyone  has information about any of the above cartoonists please contact me.

Just a Few Words with Jack Ziegler about Breakfast Foods

Jack Ziegler has been sharing his unusual cartoon world with us in the pages of the New Yorker for close to 40 years.  I recently asked him about his current drawing in the magazine.


 MM: Your cartoon in this week’s issue of the man sitting on the edge of his bed watching  toast, eggs, and bacon rise over the horizon sent me off to the New Yorker’s Cartoon Bank to search for “toast” – and guess what? Of the 59 cartoons that came up, the largest percentage of them are yours (Peter Mueller is, I think, second runner-up). This probably explains why, when I think of toast and/or toasters, I think “Jack Ziegler” (the same goes for hamburgers, but that’s for another post on another day).  What is it about breakfast foods that keeps you coming back to them (for work, I mean)?

JZ: I’ve done a lot of toast cartoons over the years, many of which found their way into the NYer.  Toast is inherently funny – white toast, basically – it’s the ultimate of bland.  Not rye, whole wheat, pumpernickel, def. not english muffins.  The current cartoon, however, is all about the eggs – sunnyside up.  The toast & bacon are there to make the cartoon more readable & logical.  Breakfast alone isn’t funny, whereas lunch is.  Dinner/supper not funny at all.


MM: Are bacon, eggs, and toast funnier than lunch and dinner foods?  Which is funnier: toast, eggs or bacon?  Is orange juice funny?

JZ: See #1 above.  Orange juice?  Not funny.  Tasty & a great way to start the day.


MM: This recent drawing of toast, eggs, and bacon rising like the morning sun — you referred to it as “sunnysideuprise” in an earlier email to me — I don’t suppose you recall how the idea came to you?

JZ: It was probably just a doodle of a guy getting up, staring out the window, trying to figure out what the day has in store.  When I doodle, I just keep adding stuff & sometimes I like what I see.  Most doodles, however, wind up in the trash.  Or – sometimes I’ll hold onto one because I like something about the drawing & know there’s eventually going to be something there.


MM: I love the monumental toaster drawings you’ve done. Do you have a toaster?  If so, has it inspired you?  If so, how?

JZ: I do have a toaster which I haven’t used in over 3 years now.  It’s there basically for toast-lovin’ guests.  No inspiration there.  When I was a kid, we used to have a toaster like the ones I draw & that’s always my reference.  I like the way a lot of older stuff looks.  Older antenna’d TVs are more fun to look at (in a drawing) than the giant flat screens of today.  I also gravitate towards older parking meters, fire hydrants, cars.  I used to do lots of public phone booths also, but kids these days probably wouldn’t know what they were.  Hey, what can I say?  I’m an old fart.


MM: May I ask what you had for breakfast this morning?

JZ: Raisin bran – but only because I ran out of blueberries to put in my corn flakes, which I much prefer.  I only do bacon & eggs on the weekend – & that in a restaurant where someone else can clean up the mess.  Oh, and toast.