Thursday, May 28, 2015

Q Toon: Irish Ayes

Over the weekend, Irish voters overwhelmingly approved granting gay and lesbian couples the same right to marry that heterosexual couples enjoy. Which you already knew, if for no other reason than you read the fake newspaper headline at left.

We cartoonists put these fake newspapers in our cartoons because we can't trust that every reader will have knowledge of the story we are commenting on, or that they will connect the cartoon to it. These newspaper headlines require figuring out some way to compose the cartoon so that it doesn't look out of place to have a newspaper prominently displayed where the reader can read it.

But they do come in handy, because the Irish vote might have been overshadowed by the subsequent vote of the Greenland Parliament in favor of marriage equality. It's so easy to confuse Ireland and Greenland, you know; them both being Atlantic islands and into the color green and so forth.

So, now that I'm quite certain that you have indeed read the headline and located Ireland on a map, here's the cartoon.

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
✒May 28, 2015

This year, the New York chapter of the Ancient Order of Hibernians begrudged the LGBT employees of NBC-Universal to march in its St. Patrick's Day parade, if only at the insistence of NBC, which televises the parade. Before then, the AOH forbade any LGBT group from its parade, ever since the hostile reception to them (and then-Mayor David Dinkins marching with them) in 1991.

Greenlander-Americans, so far as I know, have never barred LGBTs from marching in their parades. Ullortuneq is coming up on June 21, and I expect to see a healthy representation of out and proud Greenlanders marching in cities all across these United States.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Earlier this month, the Proceedings of the Natural Institute of Science -- whose acronym attests to their not being entirely or exclusively serious -- published a series of articles finding a lack of racial and gender diversity among New Yorker cartoons.
In the 47 issues we examined, we recorded 1,810 characters in 639 cartoons by 70 cartoonists. 94.7% of these characters were judged to be white (thus 5.3% were non-white), and 70.6% were judged to be male (29.4% female) (Table 1). For reference, about 72% of the US population is estimated to be white (this categorization includes Hispanics) and about 51% is estimated to be female. ...
This problem of underrepresentation of minorities and females should be an easy fix. Cartoonists can simply draw more female and minority characters. This would amount to more than just pandering. ... For his part, Robert Mankoff can also begin to encourage cartoons featuring more women and minority characters.
I'm not a New Yorker cartoonist, and I do try to diversify the people in my work, but doing so can occasionally distract from the joke. Take for example, the two white guys in this 2001 cartoon:
The boys in this cartoon represent a certain "gay clone" prevalent at the time. There have been certain stereotypical types of lesbian or non-white characters that I could have drawn instead, but I think I would have been accused of being mean-spirited if I had.

The PNIS study (I warned you about the acronym) notes that female cartoonists tend to draw more cartoons about females than male cartoonists do. I would note that female New Yorker cartoonists also tend to draw more autobiographical cartoons than male New Yorker cartoonists do. Still, Roz Chast, for example, is less likely to be accused of sexism if she draws a cartoon in which a female character appears in a not-so-flattering situation than if, say, Christopher Weyant drew the same cartoon.

Sexism and racism aside, there are other considerations when casting the characters in a cartoon. Crowden Satz, a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and other publications, took issue with the PNIS study in a Facebook post today.
For humor to exist, the reader's brain has to be, very quickly, jarred out of its rest position. Setup + unexpected twist = funny. So what happens if, in addition to the gag, the characters don't fit expectations in the setup? Such as, for instance, the overbearing executive is played by a slim woman rather than a big fat old white guy? Well, the humor train gets derailed. One's brain pauses to say to itself "Hey, look at that character. Why is there a slim woman yelling instead of an old guy? What's going on? Is she the boss or what?"
The third installment of the study examined this tendency of cartoonists to draw white males in certain professions (bosses, mobsters, doctors) and white women in others (secretaries, molls, nurses).

One of the professions included was "God," represented 100% of
the time in New Yorker cartoons as a white male. Here again, if a cartoonist tries to break stereotype, the reader is apt to be confused -- unless it is the point of the cartoon, such as the 1975 Bill Plympton cartoon for the Soho Weekly News at right, which depicted Alabama Governor George Wallace, paralyzed in a 1972 assassination attempt, rising from his wheelchair and praising the Lord for the miracle.

Divorced from this context, the reader might be left thinking that maybe the cartoon was about one of the Supremes having just died.

One could, I suppose, draw Morgan Freeman in the role of God; but he's played other characters in the movies, too, including some decidedly unholy men that the reader might have seen on screen more recently than the Bruce/Evan Almighty flicks. Still, it might work, if every cartoonist in the country were to agree that cartoon God would henceforth always be Morgan Freeman.

Monday, May 25, 2015

This Week's Sneak Peek

Having this story break on what in the U.S. is a holiday weekend probably means that this cartoon won't make it into a number of my client newspapers, but how could I draw about anything else?

Saturday, May 23, 2015

For the Fallen

For Spyback Saturday this week: Memorial Day cartoons generally fall into two categories. One scolds the reader for using the first holiday of Spring as a holiday. The other tries, after a century and a half of Memorial Days, to find something original to say about remembering those who laid down their life for their country.

This cartoon by Abel Faivre for Echo de Paris in 1916 was drawn for All Saints' Day (Memorial Day not being a thing in France), but it pretty well sums up category #2.
"Where must I pray for papa if he has no grave?"
"On my heart, dearest."

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Q Toon: Patchwork Uniformity

This week's cartoon was touched off by Republicans' proposed measure in Michigan to nullify local anti-discrimination ordinances, and a similar measure which went into law in Arkansas.
LGBT activists breathed a sigh of relief when a provision that could have invalidated all 38 LGBT inclusive anti-discrimination ordinances in Michigan was removed from the final version of a bill passed 11-7 by the House Commerce and Trade Committee May 19. The Republican sponsors of the original version of the "Local Government Employer Mandate Prohibition Act" claimed they were simply trying to unify employment practices across the state.
In the final version passed out of committee, communities will not be allowed to pass ordinances regarding wages, benefits or working conditions in their towns. 
Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
May 21, 2015

I apologize, dear reader, that this cartoon works a whole lot better in a newspaper, which is easy to turn upside down, than on a desktop computer, which isn't, or a smart phone, which will keep trying to turn the image right-side up. (At last, an advantage dead trees have over live circuits!)

This cartoon is probably the result of my having recently read a mention of The Upside-Downs of Little Lady Lovekins and Old Man Muffaroo. The six-panel cartoon by Gustave Verbeck (starting in 1903) was ingeniously designed so that the second half of the story was told when you turned the page up-side down.

Verbeck's reader had to overlook the fact that Old Man Muffaroo's legs were extending up from the top of Little Lady Lovekins's hat, or that a stream the heroes had waded across in panel #3 was flowing through the sky in panel #10. But it was a weekly tour de force nevertheless: a story aimed at children but presented in a way that adults could appreciate.

At first, I was going to have a human character in the cartoon, talking out of his ass, as it were --  one of the preliminary sketches is at the top of this post. In the end (ahem), I decided that some of my editors endeavor to run respectable news publications in which exposed derrières belong in the club photos and phone sex ads in the back pages, not the editorial page. So I went with an elephant instead -- the traditional symbol of the Republican Party, whence these laws superseding local ordinances on everything from the above mentioned labor conditions to gun safety and fracking bans originate these days.

With an elephant instead of a human, the aspect of talking out of one's ass still remains, but not quite so explicitly that the League of Perpetually Offended Complainers should catch it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Late Night

Tonight is David Letterman's last Late Show, so I thought I'd dredge up the one cartoon I ever drew of him.

This was in May of 1997. Ellen DeGeneres's "Yep, I'm Gay" Time magazine cover story was still making waves when Bruce Willis came on Dave's show promising to make a groundbreaking personal announcement. "Yep," he proclaimed at length, "I'm straight!"
I've been watching Letterman since his very first Late Night with David Letterman on NBC in 1982 -- well, not every show; I had a job where I sometimes worked third shift at one point, and some nights I even had a social life. Then he moved to an earlier time slot on CBS and there were some nights there was a reason to watch Leno instead. And then Stephen Colbert's show spun off of The Daily Show and the choice had to be made between Letterman and Colbert.

Well, now that choice has been made for us. (Coming soon: What will it be this evening: Colbert or Wilmore?)

Letterman's comedic style brought back to television the inventive zanyness of Steve Allen and Ernie Kovacs. Who can forget Larry "Bud" Melman, the Library Lady, the Guy Under the Stairs, Stupid Pet Tricks, dropping things off a five-story-tower, the Top Ten List, Oprah transcripts, or the sneezing monkey that made you laugh no matter how many times they ran that clip? And how great was it for all those kids who got their moment in the late-night sun bringing their classroom science experiments onto the show -- or performing their award-winning bird calls -- year after year after year?

There have been one or two changes in the world since 1997. I should commend Letterman for sticking up for LGBT Hoosiers earlier this year when Indiana passed its "Religious Liberty Protection Act" into law. And he did have Wisconsin's Senior Senator pegged a couple years ago.

And as for Bruce Willis, some time after this appearance on Letterman's show, he did eventually come out of the closet as a proud member of the balding community.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Happy Centennial to Me

And on this day in 1915, Mrs. Hazel Fordingham of Shaker Heights, Illinois, invented the selfie.