New Yorker Cartoonists Gather for Cartoon Bank Event

Just a few days after a gathering of New Yorker cartoonists in Brooklyn (for the Not Ok exhibit) there was another gathering — this one last night at 1 World Trade Center.  Conde Nast, The New Yorker’s parent company hosted at get-together to introduce its new Cartoon Bank team to the artists. In the photo above from left to right: Felipe Galindo, Liana Finck, Colin Stokes, Jeremy Nguyen, Colin Tom, Farley Katz, Robert Leighton, and Ben Schwartz.

Above: the placard greeting visitors to the event.

Liza Donnelly provided all the photos here as well as this synopsis of the event:

We were greeted with glasses of wine and fancy little bites of food served on trays, and met by very friendly folks from Condé Nast. At 6:00 on the dot, there were already around six cartoonists there, and many more started filtering in —  the number reaching probably 40-50+ cartoonists. Everyone seemed so happy to be able to just hang out with each other and catch up. I saw friends I hadn’t seen for decades, and met new friends. It was a lovely mixture of new cartoonists and seasoned cartoonists, talking together. Remarks were made by our Condé Nast hosts, as well as from New Yorker editor David Remnick, who went casual in a short sleeved shirt. New cartoon editor, Emma Allen also spoke and welcomed the cartoonists.

There were classic cartoons framed on the gallery wall (all art from those in attendance). Interestingly, the breathtaking view from the 34th floor of the World Trade Center where the event was held quickly took a back seat to talking and laughing with pals. The whole evening had a fun buzz- and by 8:30 when I left, a large group was still lingering.

Photo Sep 25, 6 33 23 PM.jpg

Left photo: foreground, Huguette Martel, David Borchart on the left in profile; Evan Forsch is directly above Ms. Martel, looking over his glasses.  Robert Leighton in checked shirt. Photo right: Tom Hachtman in background, left. Chris Weyant in black polo shirt facing away from camera, Marisa Acocella Marchetto center. Mark Alan Stamaty in background in plum colored shirt talking with Tom Bachtell.

Below: the New Yorker’s cartoon editor, Emma Allen on left, then Ed Steed,  Julia Suits and the magazine’s assistant cartoon editor, Colin Stokes

Below, left photo: David Borchart, Pat Byrnes, John O’Brien; Right photo: New Yorker editor, David Remnick addresses the crowd.

Below, left photo: Frank Cotham, Sam Gross, Ed Steed. Photo right: Julia Suits and Bob Eckstein

Below: Andrea Arroyo, Felipe Galindo and Peter Kuper

Below, left photo: Liana Finck and Liza Donnelly. Photo right: Sam Marlow and Ellis Rosen

Below: Felipe Galindo and George Booth

Below: front and center, Barbara Smaller with Chris Weyant, and to the left, Huguette Martel speaks with Arnie Levin

Below left photo: Emily Flake, Jeremy Nguyen, Sara Lautman.  Photo right: Joe Dator and Ben Schwartz.

Below: Colin Tom, J.A.K. (Jason Adam Katzenstein) and Pat Byrnes, in profile

Below: Glen Le Lievre, John Jonik, and John O’Brien

Below: New Yorker publisher, Lisa Hughes speaks with George Booth. In the background, center, is Teresa Nash, part of the Cartoon Bank team.

 

Below left photo: Tom Bachtell, Marisabina Russo. Photo right: David Sipress, Ben Schwartz.

Below, foreground,  Emma Allen talks with Frank Cotham. That’s George Booth on the left and Barbara Smaller on the far right.

 

Below: Mark Alan Stamaty, Marcellus Hall, and Peter Kuper

Below: Marisa Acocello Marchetto and Sam Gross (Tom Hachtman in the back, right)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker Issue of September 11, 2017

The Monday Tilley Watch is a meandering take on the cartoons in the current issue of The New Yorker.

We’ve come to expect, in these modern New Yorker times, that the cover will likely be a graphic comment on the biggest news of the week, and so it is with this new issue, featuring Chris Ware’s reflection on Hurricane Harvey. On a week like this it’s not really a surprise what the magazine’s cover will be about — the only question is, who will have the cover. Selfishly, I would love to see what other artists had submitted (perhaps the magazine will provide a slide show?).

And now on to the issue’s cartoons. First, of course, we must page through the Goings On About Town (GOAT) section. As a sidebar, I clearly recall looking through the first copies of The New Yorker I found when I began collecting older issues (by older, I mean issues from the magazine’s earliest decades). A read through GOAT in those issues was (and can still be) a form of time travel. For instance: in the After Theater Entertainment listed in the issue of November 15, 1930 there’s this:

Grill Neptune, Hotel Pierre, 5 Ave. at 61. (Regent 5901) –- A new and unusual room for supper dancing. For the more fastidious. Must dress.

Wow, Peter Arno’s Manhattan did exist, once.

This morning, with my mission quite clear, there’s no time to pause to see what’s happening at the Metropolitan Museum, and yet, sheepishly, I do stop at the full page ad for Zabar’s. For a brief moment, I wish I was a hundred feet from the entrance to Zabar’s instead of a hundred miles away.

Onward to the Talk of The Town — there’ll be a Spill “Posted Note” one day soon about Rea Irvin’s classic masthead — and to the first cartoon ( like last week’s issue, it doesn’t take very long to come upon: page 28). The cartoon is by newish-comer Jeremy Nguyen (recently a subject of Jane Mattimoe’s Case for Pencils blog). It opens up a whole new situation for cartoonists to mine: artists in cages. Mr. Nguyen’s first cartoon appeared in the magazine February 7, 2017.

Flipping through to the next cartoon I can’t help but notice a Personal History piece by  Calvin Trillin (now in his 54th year of contributing to The New Yorker).  Note to myself: read later! Several pages later is a John McNamee Garden of Eden drawing. Mr. McNamee’s first New Yorker work appeared in June of 2016, unless the magazine’s search function is mistaken.  I’ve just realized Mr. McNamee is not on The Spill’s A-Z.  My only excuse is that his work appeared in the year when more new cartoonists appeared (16) in The New Yorker than in any other year in modern times. Things were a little nutty then. [I just added his name. Again, my apologies to Mr. McNamee].  Here’s the Case For Pencils post on him and his tools of the trade.

Seven pages later we come upon an Amy Kurzweil drawing nicely situated in the upper right hand corner of the page. Ms. Kurzweil’s graphic memoir, Flying Couch  (Black Balloon Publishing, 2016) was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice.  In this issue  she visits one of the cartoonist’s tried-and-true situations: the boardroom. I’ve scurried around my memory library for sterling boardroom cartoons and two immediately came to mind, but I’ll mention just one, by the late great Charles Saxon,  published May 25, 1981. “Of course, honesty is one of the better policies.” (also the title of a wonderful 1984 collection of his work).

Five pages later is another standard situation and character utilized by scores of cartoonists: the King on his throne (I’ve done way more than my share).  The curtains In this drawing vaguely remind me of this classic scene from Monty Python’s Holy GrailThe cartoonist, Kaamran Hafeez, first published in The New Yorker in 2010 (you can see his work on the Cartoon Bank site here). For me, Mr. Hafeez’s cartoon (both the setting and the caption itself) is, in a way, a step-child to many drawn by master cartoonist,  Dana Fradon over his long New Yorker career (Mr. Fradon, now in his 90s, is still drawing and occasionally posting the drawings on social media).

Four pages later is a well-placed Tom Chitty drawing of two businessmen. The anatomy here reminded me of those plastic cowboys from the 1950s or 1960s who were designed to sit on a plastic horse.

Mr. Chitty’s work began appearing in the magazine, October 13, 2014.

Three pages later, a Barbara Smaller back-to-school drawing sans Smaller people(!).  Ms. Smaller’s first cartoon appeared in the magazine in 1996. (Ms. Smaller’s work can be found on the Cartoon Bank site). A few pages later is a Robert Leighton drawing that takes place at some sort of event that involves a dais.  It’s fun when a cartoonist widens the scene and gives us a lot to look at. Mr. Leighton’s first drawing in the magazine: 2002. (See his work on the CB site). 

Next up is Liana Finck drawing.  I appreciate the Thurberesque framed piece Ms. Finck has placed on the wall and the electrical socket near the floor. Somewhere in my research for the Arno biography I ran across a cartoonist discussing how, in ancient times at the magazine, certain cartoonists were allowed or not allowed to show plugged-in lamps, depending on their abilities (or was it seniority?). Thanks to Thurber’s influence,  I’ve always drawn sockets and plugged in my lamps — how else would they work?  Ms. Finck’s work first appeared in February of 2013 (visit the Cartoon Bank site to see more).

After a page-and-a-half color politically-themed spread (called a”Sketchbook” on The Table of Contents) by the great Edward Sorel, we come to a Will McPhail drawing based on the ever popular Whac-A-Mole.  I did not know, until this moment that Whac-A-Mole was invented in 1975.  An unscientific survey of Whac-A-Moles images show most moles with their mouths closed.  Mr. McPhail’s mole’s mouth is open, suggesting the mole is speaking. I suppose that makes sense as the seated fellow pictured is trying to understand the mole. How I wish I knew what the mole was saying. (Link here to Mr. McPhail’s website.  His first New Yorker appearance was in 2014).

Immediately following Mr. McPhail’s mole drawing is a beautifully placed color piece by Roz Chast with a political twist.  Ms. Chast’s work first appeared in the New Yorker in 1978. Five pages later is a full page Ed Steed piece about the eclipse.  Responding to this piece just graphically, it seems like a page out of The National Lampoon (sort of a graphic mixture of Mark Marek‘s work with Randall Enos’s and Charles Rodrigues’s). Mr. Steed’s work first appeared in The New Yorker in March of 2013.  You can see more here on the Cartoon Bank site.

Five pages later is an Avi Steinberg drawing incorporating boxing and music. My personal laugh-o-meter responds well to this drawing even though the “kid” looks like he’s well past a career in boxing. Mr. Steinberg’s work first appeared in the magazine in December of 2012. His work can be found on the CB site.

In the final cartoon of the issue, not counting the Cartoon Caption Contest work on the back page, is a David Sipress drawing (first New Yorker cartoon: 1998…see his work on the CB here). Mr. Sipress mashes tennis with Shakespeare. The caption immediately  takes me away from the tennis court to the televised court of public opinion, to the  McCarthy era and to William R. Murrow’s famous use of the line.  None of that had anything to do with tennis, but then again — and here we return to Mr. Ware’s Hurricane Harvey cover — everything is political. 

 — See you next Monday.

 

 

 

The Monday Tilley Watch

A new feature in the new week. Around here at the Spill this roller coaster cartoon life begins anew every monday with the publication of the latest issue of the New Yorker. 

The latest issue is the klieg light for cartoonists; we go to it with some higher level of curiosity: to see who’s in and what our colleagues have come up with; to see, and yes, judge, whether we believe the work is great, good, bad, or so-so; whether there’s a just published drawing exactly like the one we were about to submit; whether there’s a drawing we’ll never forget, or never remember.  I’ve always thought of every new issue’s cartoons as fuel — whether I like what I see or dislike it, it somehow gets the new week going…with a bang.

The Monday Tilley Watch is a look at the latest issue. I’ll record whose work we see, and whatever peripheral thought about the cartoon or cartoonist hits me at the moment. I’ll likely wander into other departments as well (at least mentioning the Art Department’s baby: the cover).  It is not at all like what my friends over at the Cartoon Companion do. They dissect each cartoon and then rate it, bringing an objectivity to this party I can’t (neither of the Cartoon Companion fellows contribute to The New Yorker…yet).

And off we go. 

  The issue of July 24, 2017

… We begin with a political cover by Barry Blitt (surprise!) featuring the President and two of his children —  the cover was already mentioned, and shown here at the end of last week…I note on the Table of Contents that there are no special cartoon features this week (no full pages…at least, none listed here… no spreads, etc.)..and then onto The Talk of The Town, still headed by the newly modernized Rea Irvin masthead. I’m going to keep wishing the previous masthead returns — the one that was in place for 91 years. The magazine has, in very recent times, tried out redesigns up front only to pull them back. If only it would happen here.  I also note on the Talk page that there’s a wonderful Tom Bachtell drawing of the President and his in-the-news son; Donald and Donald, Jr. making their second appearance in the issue and we’re only 15 pages in. 

The first cartoon of the issue is by a relative newcomer, Amy Hwang, who’s closing in on her seventh year contributing to the magazine…it’s followed by a P.C. Vey cartoon featuring nudity. There haven’t been all that many nude cartoon characters in the New Yorker in recent years, so, a novelty.  Mr. Vey’s been contributing to The New Yorker for quite some time (his first appeared in 1993)…then a Barbara Smaller drawing — it might possibly be related to the Trump family, or not (Ms. Smaller’s first New Yorker cartoon appeared in 1996); an Edward Koren drawing is up next.  Mr. Koren is our senior (in terms of years contributing) cartoonist, and a national treasure — his first New Yorker drawing appeared in May of 1962…

Paul Karasik, whose first drawing appeared in 1999, has the next drawing. No cartoonist can resist drawing talking fish in a fishbowl.  Mr. Karasik’s other lines of work include teaching and authoring (his new book, How to Read Nancy, was noted on the Spill  last week). Liana Finck is next.  We rarely see scout drawings in the magazine anymore.  I think back to some classics by Peter Arno and Charles Addams.  It should be noted that Ms. Finck, whose first drawing appeared in the magazine in 2013,  has an opening this week of her Instagram work.   Next is a doctor-themed drawing by one who knows about doctors, Ben Schwartz

…Sam Gross, another national treasure, has the next cartoon — let’s just say it’s about the working life of dogs.  Mr. Gross’s first New Yorker cartoon appeared in 1969. Mr. Gross is among a small group whose work I enjoy at first sight, before even taking in the what the drawing is all about (George Booth and the aforementioned Edward Koren come to mind as among the others in that group — I love seeing their work).  Next up is another relative newcomer (first drawing in The New Yorker in 2013), Ed Steed.  Three on-the-dark-side cartoons by Mr. Steed in the last three issues. Of note: this one stretches along the very bottom of two pages…

…Mr. Steed’s drawing is followed by the veteran, Roz Chast (her first cartoon was published in the magazine in 1978).  I love how this particular cartoon looks on the page (yesterday’s Spill concerned itself with placement). William Haefeli‘s drawing is next (first New Yorker drawing: 1998).  Mr. Haefeli has one of the most distinctive styles of this current stable of cartoonists.  And speaking of distinctive styles, Drew Dernavich has the next cartoon.  Some cartoonist’s styles are easily summarized (“the dot guy” for instance) —  Mr. Dernavich’s tag might be “the woodcut guy.” (Mr. Dernavich should not be confused with John Held, Jr., the New Yorker ‘s much earlier “woodcut guy”).   A Robert Leighton cartoon is next. Mr. Leighton is the artist behind this classic cartoon. His first drawing appeared in The New Yorker in 2002. In this new drawing he mixes crime with a food cart.   Alex Gregory’s very Summery drawing follows.  Mr. Gregory, like a few other cartoonists, has another whole career: he’s a writer for the award-winning televison show, VEEP.  His first New Yorker cartoon appeared in 1999.

As usual, The Cartoon Caption Contest ends the issue. Drawings by David Borchart (first New Yorker cartoon published 2007), Tom Cheney (first New Yorker cartoon published 1978), and P.C. Vey. The drawings feature a food cart (two food carts in this issue!), a whole lot of business men following some ancient warriors on horses, and a hospital scene that blends in a little stadium gear.   

 

 

 

Seven New Yorker Cartoonists Walk Into a Book Barn; Latest Cartoon Companion Posted; Q & A With Jacob Samuel

Seven New Yorker Cartoonists Walk Into a Book Barn

 

In my hundreds of visits to the always interesting  Rodgers Book Barn in Hillsdale, New York I’d never walked in with six other New Yorker cartoonists…until yesterday.  The Book Barn’s owner, Maureen Rodgers  allowed us to sort of take over the place as we browsed and talked and generally hung out for an hour or so. 

Photo above: from left to right: Bob Eckstein, Sam Gross, Michael Maslin, Robert Leighton, Danny Shanahan, Peter Steiner, and Ken Krimstein

This group then moved on to the classic Martindale Diner, and eventually made its way to the Spill‘s world headquarters. Below is a photo of  Danny Shanahan, Ken Krimstein, and Bob Eckstein looking at a copy of Charles Addams’ Groaning Board. And that’s Sam Gross looking at Peter Arno’s Parade. (photos courtesy of Robert Leighton).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Latest Cartoon Companion Posted

Speaking of cartoons and cartoonists…the latest Cartoon Companion has been posted. The CC boys rate the latest the cartoons in the New Yorker;  this issue features, among others, the Grim Reaper playing hide-and-seek, Orpheus in an elevator, and the big bad wolf using an inhaler.  See it all here.

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A Q&A With Jacob Samuel

From CJNews.com, June 22, 2017 , “Cartoonist Depicts Millennial Misery With Slinky Hell” — this Q&A with Jacob Samuel, who began contributing to The New Yorker in 2014.

Link here to visit Mr. Samuel’s website.

New Yorker Cartoonists Remember Michael Crawford

This has been an unusually tough year within this peculiar family — this family of New Yorker cartoonists. Within seven months our ranks have been thinned by four:  Frank Modell, William Hamilton, Anatol Kovarsky and now, this past week, Michael Crawford. Michael is remembered below by some of his  cartoonist colleagues. My thanks to all for their contributions.

Note: Link here to Mr. Crawford’s New York Times obit...and here for The New Yorker‘s

 

Drew Dernavich:

crawford card

I made this for Crawford hoping to give it to him this week, but it was not meant to be. It was the only thing I could think of to do. I tried to capture his somewhat bonkers art aesthetic, which I liked a lot, and I thought it might bring a smile to his face.

Take some pitches” is a piece of baseball chatter (which is somewhat amusing in the context of recreational softball, which made it funny, and of course he knew that) which Michael frequently repeated during the New Yorker softball games, which was one place where he really enjoyed himself.

 

Joe Dator:

Mr. Crawford had an absurd space-cadet sense of humor that I always admired. One of his cartoons I’ll never forget was a man walking down the street wearing a  t-shirt that said “Not A Fan Of My Ex Wife’s New Boyfriend”. It’s a simple enough joke but when you look under the hood there’s a lot going on. His logic trail must have been “t-shirts … people wear t-shirts to show what they are a fan of … other people use the passive aggressive term ‘not a fan’ … a person could wear a ‘not a fan’ t-shirt”.

It takes a very supple mind to make those kinds of mental leaps, but that’s pretty much the meaning of creativity. I always think about that cartoon and Michael’s inspiring mental acrobatics.
On a more personal note, it meant a great deal to me that I once surprised him with an off-the-cuff joke. He asked me if a marker I was using was indelible, and I said “I’ve never known it to del” and he looked at me the way you’d look at a cat that suddenly opened a can of food by itself. It has always made me feel good to remember the moment when I must have gotten within hailing distance of his unique wavelength.
Jack Ziegler:
 When visiting at Casa Crawford in Newtown, MA, sometime in the early eighties, my kids would disappear downstairs with his kids into the basement where Michael kept all sorts of found objects in boxes: old castoff bits of wood, metal, office supplies, packaging, nuts and bolts, etc.  It was a workshop dedicated to fun creativity.  I still have the piece that my daughter Jessica created down there, a combined facial portrait of my then wife & me glued down on a slab of wood, she sporting hair curlers made of wine corks and me with a beard of paper clips, both of us with a cigarette butt drooping from our single mouth.  It hangs in my living room and you can’t miss it as you come through the front door.  I always remember that visit each time I walk past it.  Now it’s a treasured Michael Memento.
Ziegler Maslin Crawford Anne[photo: In Boston, 1993 for the opening of Lines of the Times: 50 Years of Great American Cartoons at the Art Institute of Boston. Left to right: Jack Ziegler, Michael Maslin, Michael Crawford, and Anne Hall (now Anne Hall Elser), Lee Lorenz’s long-time Art Assistant  at The New Yorker. Ms. Elser’s wonderful photographs of New Yorker cartoonists, including one of Mr. Crawford in a rowboat,  can be found here].
Liza Donnelly:
I’ve  always thought that The New Yorker is a place for cartoonists who are artists.  That sounds snooty, but it’s not meant to be. People for whom drawing is their medium, but who also love to make people laugh. People who sometimes have ideas that are not just about the laugh and want to express them in a drawing.   This was the work of Michael Crawford. He made us laugh in his cartoons, but they were also little paintings that we just enjoyed looking at. He also created paintings and they were the flip of his drawings. Sometimes his paintings made us laugh.   I loved Crawford’s work, and his embodiment of all this as a person. He was a unique mixture of funny and serious, here and there, present and not present.  He was always kind and generous to me when I saw him, smiling and laughing as if to say, “isn’t this life just nuts?”  He will be sorely missed in the world, but his work remains and it will continue to make us very happy.
Robert Leighton:
The thing that stood out to me about Crawford’s cartoons was the way he depicted married life. There were no thrown toasters in his cartoons. The couples always seemed to be pre- or post-coital. (Often with equipment.) They seemed playful, happy and fulfilled. I’d like to think that this reflected the satisfaction he found in his own life.
Corey Pandolph:

I’ll never forget Michael’s advice and support when I sold my first cartoon to the New Yorker. We were walking to our regular bar after softball and he explained his view of the never-ending grind that is New Yorker cartooning, and how he had batches of cartoons all ready to go in PDF form, in case he needed to send something in last minute. I remember thinking that’s a smart idea and then I remember thinking how surreal it was that I just played softball with Michael Crawford and now he’s giving me cartoon advice at Broadway and 103rd Street.

I’ll never forget the button down shirt and red jeans he wore while diving head first into home plate.

I’ll never forget his birthday party at Fanelli’s and getting tipsy with Drew Dernavich.

I’ll never forget his little red digital camera and how quickly he could get a hipshot of a play, the bench or the team on the sly.

I’ll never forget his paintings he would post on social media. The US maps were my favorite.

I’ll never forget the white shirt he wore one of the last games of the season – It was clearly homemade with a sharpie and read simply “take some pitches”. No one really noticed it, but I did and I can still hear him yelling it to me nearly every time I was at the plate.

I’ll never forget to take some pitches.

Peter Steiner:
When Michael Crawford died, we lost an interesting and gifted artist. He did paintings and cartoons, and his works in both genres were substantial and of a piece. You could recognize his distinctive style in both kinds of work.
 On the occasion of the deaths of Frank Modell and Anatol Kovarsky, Bob Mankoff, the New Yorker cartoon editor wrote Ars longa, vita brevis. For cartoonists, especially long-lived ones like Frank Modell, who died two weeks ago, at the age of ninety-eight, or Anatol Kovarsky, who passed away last week, at ninety-seven, it’s often the other way around. That just comes with the territory. The job of the cartoonist is to connect with your time, for a time, not for all time.”
I think Mankoff is wrong about this.  Cartoons are more than current jokes with a picture attached, or at least they should be.  And while it is true that many, even most, gags grow stale with the times, the best ones don’t.  And when the drawing is interesting and masterful, it lives on and on even as the joke grows stale, just as any interesting painting or drawing or etching does, even though its topic may no longer be “relevant.”  It’s true that very few cartoons rise to that level, but I think good cartoonists aspire to that with each cartoon they make.  That aspiration was true of Crawford’s work whether he was painting or writing/drawing a cartoon.  And sometimes he hit the mark.
Mick Stevens:
I love Michael’s work. He was among the first NYer cartoonists I met when I moved to New York City. I remember him taking a photo of a few of us, all but one relative newcomers to the NYer then, in the anteroom just outside Lee Lorenz’s office. If I recall correctly after all this time, he set up the camera to shoot on a delay, giving him time to join us in the picture. The result is a photo of Jack Ziegler, Sam Gross, myself, Bob Mankoff, (long before Bob became the cartoon editor of the magazine), and Roz Chast. Michael is seen behind us, his smiling face just visible and slightly ghost-like. It seems to me he was always a little shy, always a bit on the periphery, and I only got a few chances to hang out with him over the years, but it was always a quality experience when I did. Michael lived in his own world more than some of us do, I think, and would drop into our worlds only for brief visits. In my experience, he never stuck around long enough.
Mick Steven's Crawford group photo
Tom Toro:
I have a pet theory that if all of the captions from Michael Crawford’s cartoons were put together it would create the great post-modern American novel.  He was certainly one of the cleverest humor writers to ever grace The New Yorker’s pages – sharp, off-beat, always surprising – and yet what was it that he wrote, exactly?  Not gags per se.  Not zingers.  His wit didn’t lean on outlandishness, his jokes weren’t quirky just because.  What he produced were pure Crawfordisms.  They come across as wiser than typical cartoon punchlines, somehow hinting at deeper experiences best left unspoken, like comments that tipsy adults let slip when they think the kids are asleep.  A Crawford one-liner leaves us giddy and curious.  My reaction to his work typically swings during the span of a moment from “I don’t get it” to “It gets me better than I get myself.”  As with the passing of any true original, Crawford cannot be replaced.  Let’s not even try.
Mort Gerberg:

While Michael Crawford was well-known as a wonderful cartoonist by a vast number of people, I’d guess that relatively few thought of him as a “sports guy” who was a terrific softball player.

But that’s the first association I have when I think about Michael, since he and I, beyond being cartooning colleagues, were, more importantly, teammates for over 20 years on the usually- hapless New Yorker softball team. So, in a season of about 10 games, we might have played ball together 200 times.

It’s said that shared adversity often brings people close together, and so, because the New Yorker softball team lost far more often than it won, Michael and I bonded and fretted more about our softball game than striving for OKs [an “OK” is the New Yorker‘s terminology for a bought cartoon] .

The team has been an odd assemblage that shows up in Central Park every Tuesday at 7pm in the summer months.  It’s been made up of two distinct groups: the first, very large, composed of maybe two-dozen Twenty-Something writers, fact-checkers, etc., full of enthusiasm and team spirit, many of whom, however, possessing little knowledge of the rules of the game or an ability to run, throw or hit a ball with a bat; and the second group, much smaller, comprising “the old guys,” meaning anybody over 30, who knew the game and could play it pretty well.

Michael was in the second group, along with myself, occasionally other “oldies” like Mark Singer and Rick Hertzberg and some other editors, and I guess I could safely say that until the last four or so years, Michael was an anchor of the team.

For one thing, he was a regular.  He hated missing a game and he was  missed when he did.  A passionate, baseball fan, he knew everything about the game, so he was a valuable tactician, as well as a sure-handed fielder and a dependable, long-ball hitter who would deliver a big hit to drive in a run in clutch situations.

On and off the field, he served as a coach and leader to those (and there were many) who were coming out to play for the first time.  As soon as he arrived at the field, he’d start warmups, play catch, or start batting practice.  And when the game started, he’d  stay involved in it, even when we’d find ourselves on the short end of a 19-2 score after only two innings.

But Michael made it fun.  When our less-proficient teammates would make errors in the field or strike out at the plate, Michael would still shout encouragement, cheering us all on.  Sure, he wanted to win the game, but, he would remind me, when I got upset over all the messing up, it still was just a game.

Because often 25 people came out to play 10 positions, the coach would rotate players from inning to inning so everyone got a chance to play, but Michael was always the reliable, sure-handed first baseman. Until recently, when I’ve been pitching,  I usually played second base, which meant that sometimes, after I fielded a ground ball, my throw to first might have been off line, but Michael would  grab it for the out.  If a batter hit a spinning pop fly between first and second base, I’d usually defer to Michael’s shout, “I got it!” because I felt that he would be less likely to muff the catch. And if Michael remembered an opposing batter’s previous hit, he might position our players to afford us a better defense.

Michael’s softball presence even extended outside himself.  I remember that after he’d been playing for a few years, Michael’s grown son and daughter showed up at the games — not just to watch Dad but to play themselves.  Not surprisingly, both were solid, in the field and at bat.  It was also not a surprise, after some more years, that Carolita [Johnson] also came to play.  Of course, being the free spirit she is, she participated in her own way, showing up on occasions after a photo shoot, wearing heels, and going out to play right field barefoot …very well.

It occurs to me now, that when Michael was at the softball game, he was totally in the moment, which, when I think about it, did not always seem the case.  Off the field he seemed different.  When I’d see him at normal social situations, like cartoonist gatherings, or on look days at the magazine, Michael might be operating on his own private wave length, there but, you know, not there.  But on the ball field, Michael was always present with everyone else around him.  Talking it up at first base, digging in at the plate, shouting encouragement to runners or batters if he was coaching at first or third.  And, if he wasn’t “playing” in those roles, he would be roaming around the field taking photographs.  Photos of the action.  Photos of us playing.  Photos of us  just hanging out.  Baseball photos, probably thousands of them, many of which probably wound up in his paintings and cartoons.  A seamless blending of two of Michael’s greatest passions — baseball and art.

So, a salute to a teammate, and a remembrance of a Most Valuable Player.

opening day 2014[Mr. Crawford, far left, with members of The New Yorker‘s softball team, celebrating an opening day victory]