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I don’t recommend reading the New Yorker magazine, but if you do you will love the cartoons. They are terrific. They trade on the foibles and silliness of modern American life.

I once talked to a woman who had spent twenty years in a cultic commune. Since she had been out of circulation for many years she was unable to see the New Yorker’s cartoonists’ humor. They were empty for her. She reminded me of another woman I know who is dyslexic. A written sentence is, likewise, empty for her. Weird.

My point is … how reliant the NY cartoons are on the subtle nuances of American culture and news, which is why the cultist lady didn’t understand them. But whether you “get” the New Yorker cartoonists’ humor or not, you will see several “visual vehicles” that always recur in NY cartoons. You’ll see lonely souls on deserted islands, cavemen puzzling over possible uses for some new invention like a stone wheel, mom and pop watching television, end of the world guys in sandwich signs, variously sized Grim Reapers, cowboys and Indians trying to make sense of each others’ antics. My personal favorite is Mom and Pop observing the modern crap that surrounds us and analyzing it with basic common sense (or something slightly out of kilter to common sense).

Formerly I drew stuff on the TV screen being watched by Mom and Pop (actually Mr. and Mrs. America), but I got tired of picturing people whose actions were so boorish that attempting a likeness (an important thing for cartoons) seemed a waste of time and drawing. An example of this “boorish” factor is just about any time Bill Clinton shows up in some questionable situation. Or any situation Mrs. Clinton appears in, of which all seem highly questionable. Does she do anything properly and lawfully? Is the Press completely blind towards her stuff? She isn’t a “Teflon” person so much as a person on whom the Press just cannot see or smell the excrement clinging to her persona …tightly attached to whatever form of flawed Teflon she covers herself with.

The main reason I like the “Mom and Pop” device is that Mom and Pop seem immune to worrying about the rubbish our political hacks engage in. They happily snuggle and just comment. They are wonderfully normal (which is not just a setting on a washing machine) and unruffled by the carnival freak-show atmosphere whirling around in America.

Unfortunately, they may awaken one day soon to discover the Bearded Lady and JO-JO the Dog Faced Boy have somehow wandered into the Oval Office as long term tenants. Whether Mom and Pop remain calm or not, there will be even more fun/stupid stuff to cartoon about, which is small consolation.

Steve Bowers

Steve Bowers grew up on a farm in Indiana, attended Indiana University and went into the construction business. While working on a construction project at a law school he was appalled at how lawyers could screw stuff up on a simple building project. Thinking he could do better, Steve went to law school. He’s pretty naive.