For about seven years now, a door in our kitchen has been slowly getting coated with New Yorker cartoons. It is possibly my favorite work of art in our house, in part because William, Gabrielle and I have each contributed to it. Sometimes we clip out a cartoon every few weeks, sometimes a few months go by, but now, the door is nearly entirely covered with scotch tape and clippings.
It started when we first got our subscription to “The New Yorker,” courtesy of my best friend Julie, who thought I would enjoy the magazine because of the short story its editors feature every week (she was right; the stories are terrific).
But quickly, Gabrielle got into the magazine too, so much so that I would eventually knock on the bathroom door to make sure everything was all right.
“Sorry! I’m fine, I was just reading the cartoons,” she’d reply.
I taped the first cartoon — a Russian nesting doll giving a eulogy, with four coffins of diminishing size stacked behind it — onto the door one day and I got a kick out of watching people’s reactions when they inevitably leaned in to look at it.
I realized I was doing exactly what my dad had done at his office for years. Every Christmas, he would buy himself a Gary Larson “Far Side” desk calendar from Costco and spend the rest of the year taping his favorite cartoons up on a cupboard in his little kitchen area. Then, he would bring a pile of them home at once, and Matthew and I would hungrily read them.
I love The Far Side and, boy, I love The New Yorker’s cartoons, too.
My favorite one on our door is of two men in prison, who have been documenting the days of their stay by drawing four vertical lines on the walls with a horizontal line striking through them. One man is re-counting the lines, while the other holds his head in his hands.
“What a couple of clucks we are,” the counting man says to the other. “Here is another mistake right up here.”
I think I could probably spend the rest of my life calling people “a couple of clucks” and never stop thinking that was funny.
My second favorite is a cartoon of two cowboys riding the horses — or knights — of a chess board. One cowboy says to the second cowboy, “I suggest you back up slowly two paces and take one step to the side.”
Several years ago, Gabrielle hung up a cartoon of a doctor talking to a patient who has a triangular piece of facial hair under his bottom lip.
“It’s a soul patch,” the doctor explains. “But luckily we’ve caught it early.”
Gabrielle’s dad, you see, at one time sported a soul patch and she’s never let him live it down.
Then there is the one depicting two astronauts on the moon, sitting in what seems like a lunar veranda, complete with Adirondack chairs, a wind chime, and even a dog sleeping beside them (wearing a space helmet, of course).
One astronaut says to the other astronaut, “I bet you feel pretty ridiculous bringing that wind chime.”
I particularly like to cut cartoons that are food related, in part because the door is in the kitchen, but also because I love food so very, very much.
In this category sits a cartoon of two privileged women sitting on a bench in Central Park.
“How can Greece be doing so badly?” one woman says to the other. “Everyone I know is eating Greek yogurt.”
And then there is the one of a wife talking to her husband as they walk home.
“When you enthusiastically declare Pam’s layered jello salad is ‘better than sex,’ I fear some may see it as a commentary on me, and not the layered jello salad.”
Finally, there are cartoons that are related to literature. Of these, this is my favorite: It’s a drawing of a forlorn-looking Shakespeare sitting at a table with a lit birthday cake on it. Beside him is an unimpressed woman looking at a piece of paper.
“Oh wow,” the woman says. “Another sonnet.”
All of these bring a simple, clean joy, which I hope I’ve been able to pass along to you. If you’re interested, you can also follow New Yorker cartoons on Instagram. They really are pretty terrific.