The Godfather: Note how this film is calledThe Godfather and notThe Godmother. Dick flick. This is about the complex relationship between fathers and sons, starring Marlon Brando and Al Pacino in an epic display of toxic masculinity. There’s violence and murders and mobsters and, given that I am clearly a chick with boobs and lipstick and blood that comes out of my vagina on a semi-regular monthly basis, I don’t understand why anybody would think I’d be interested in this movie.
Citizen Kane: When I first heard the title, I thought, maybe this will be relatable, as I too am a citizen. But when I saw it starred Orson Welles, I was like, uggh, this is definitely going to be a dick flick. Of course I was right, as it is about the rise and fall of a newspaper magnate in the early 20th century. Now perhaps if this film were about a smart, young woman landing a job as the assistant to the demanding editor-in-chief of a high fashion magazine (wait, that’s The Devil Wears Prada…)
12 Angry Men: Pretty sure the name of the film is self-explanatory. I already have enough angry men in my life.
Lincoln: Anyone who recommends this Spielberg film to me is an idiot. Presidential biopics are the ultimate dick flicks. In America, presidents are men. I mean, what would we do if we had a female president? She’d probably spend 24/7 on her Twitter bitching about everyone who doesn’t agree with her and lauding herself for passing a single shitty piece of legislation.
Saving Private Ryan: This movie is about soldiers during World War II. Several brothers die in combat. Some other soldier dudes want to save the last brother. Every time I try to count the dicks in the movie, I lose track because it’s like, there’s a dick. There’s another dick. Hey, another dick! I know in today’s modern PC culture, I’m supposed to find every story universal, but the truth is, I just can’t connect to films that don’t feature love, romance, and a frivolous, cutesy ending that makes you want to go “Awww.” Ooh, has anyone seen A Christmas Prince?
Whatever Wins the Next Academy Award for Best Picture: It’s been about 15 years since a film with a majority female cast has won an Academy Award for Best Picture (and though I loved Chicago, it’s pretty weird that it beat dick flicks like Polanski’sThe Pianistand Scorsese’s Gangs of New York — certainly collusion). So even thoughLady Bird has a near perfect Rotten Tomatoes score, my clairvoyant, manic pixie dream girl uterus suggests to me that it won’t be nominated Oscar. Let’s be honest — it’s going to beWind River, a celebration of The Weinstein Company’s last hurrah.
Michelle Meyers is a writer based out of Los Angeles. She’s not afraid to make creepy jokes in front of strangers at parties
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS — Famed children’s author Beatrice Willows new picture book HMOs, PPO’s, WTF?! has quickly become a bestseller, but it doesn’t only have the attention of three-to-eight-year-olds. Adults of all ages are running to the stores in hopes of grabbing a copy before they sell out.
“We’re frantically trying to keep the hordes back,” remarks Stan Williams, the manager at a local Barnes and Noble. “But they keep lining up… there are too many people and we simply don’t have enough copies to go around.”
The picture book’s main character, Tina, is forced to find her own healthcare once she turns 26 and is kicked off her parent’s coverage. Detailed illustrations by Willows depict the confused twenty-something as she tries to figure out what healthcare in America means and what coverage is best for her.
“It’s a real eye opener,” says Mia Johnson, 28, who was lucky to get one of the first copies. “I wish I had learned this in college.”
Debra Murphy, 65, was also taken aback at the lessons she learned flipping through the book, which she initially meant to buy for her five-year-old granddaughter as a birthday present. “This book makes way more sense than what’s on those silly government websites.”
President Donald Trump was also rumored to have scored himself a copy. There’s still no word on whether or not he’s decided to share it with anyone else in the White House.
Willows’ other bestselling children’s books include Sally and the Giant W-2, Charlotte’s WiFi, Your Parents Are Terrible People, and #WhatsThePointOfThis?
DENVER, CO – Lauren, 26, is fed up with hearing about the latest Star Wars film, The Last Jedi, and it hasn’t even come out yet.
“I’m tired of seeing the countdowns and the speculations – this has been going on since October. I’m just ready for it to end.”
Lauren thought she’d be OK by the time Friday, December 15th rolled in but she was caught off guard by last night’s world premiere.
“I was minding my own business on Twitter, getting my usual Saturday night dose of quality cat videos when I was blindsided by the Star Wars premiere.”
She almost threw her phone out the window of her apartment when she saw a tweet with potential spoilers. Lauren has since logged out of all social media profiles and is considering never signing back in, even after seeing the film.
Lauren also refused to comment on whether or not she thinks Porgs are going to be the next Jar Jar Binks.
Can you describe your general process for creating cartoons?
My cartoons start as one-sentence descriptions I write in my notebook. I’ll sit down at a cafe or go for a long walk and just let my mind wander. I know I have a potential cartoon when: 1) I’ve constructed a joke (say, a sperm realtor talking to two sperm house hunters in front of an available ovum, saying “It’s perfect for starting a family.”); and 2) I can visualize the picture that goes with it (the “for sale” sign out front, a little tie and clipboard for the sperm realtor). Some cartoonists just start with a blank sheet of paper and doodle until they arrive at a picture that becomes their cartoon. I’ve never worked that way — I think writing a joke out verbally, in longhand, is a better way for me to be sure that the thing actually is a proper joke, as opposed to something whimsical, charming, associational, et cetera… all words that are nice but don’t include “funny.”
Once I have a collection of jokes, I’ll sit down and draw them all out at once. It usually takes me all day to draw sketches of 10 new cartoons, and another day to draw cleaned-up versions. I used to work entirely in traditional media, but now I work with a digital tablet and Photoshop.
When The New Yorker buys a cartoon for publication, I will redraw it at top quality using conventional tools — India ink on watercolor paper with a wash.
Good Cop Great Cop is my comedy duo with Matt Porter. We started as an independent web series in 2011, basically out of a shared desire to have some sort of regular output. We were making a video a week for a long time.
The web series is on a temporary hiatus now, but only accidentally — we have other projects in development, and can’t make a new sketch as often as we’d like.
How did you prepare to play Marco on I Love Dick?
I Love Dick was a total whirlwind. They cast the supporting roles in the series pretty rapidly, so I found out I had the part the same day I flew to LA for it. The next day, Jill Soloway ran a workshop with her acting guru to get the cast up to speed. She has a strong philosophy in place about how the beats within a season or episode motivate key transitional moments called “beat changes.” These in turn motivate things like blocking. It was fascinating. The day after the workshop, I got fitted for wardrobe and my beard prosthesis, and two days after that was my first shoot day.
Wow, that’s bang-bang! I’m glad it worked out. As for cartoons, is there anything you especially like to draw?
Here’s a total non-answer: anything that makes me laugh out loud once I’ve drawn it. It’s rare, but it happens — a certain expression on a character’s face, a totally insane environment to set a cartoon in.
What’s the hardest part about cartooning?
Starting with a blank page every single time. It never gets easier to fill that page.
What makes a cartoon funny?
I think a funny cartoon must be funny both in content and form. On the most basic mechanical level, a cartoon should have a legible, almost text-like joke. I’m not talking about the words in a caption; the best captionless cartoons are text-like. You “read” the image of a cartoon from left to right, top to bottom, and your eye is attracted to continents of black ink.
A funny cartoon sets up an incongruity somewhere near the top left quadrant, and draws the reader towards a resolution near the lower right. This sets up a naturalness to the cartoon that makes it gettable and transparent; readers don’t know they’ve been manipulated, and the mechanics of the manipulation feel invisible.
But mechanics aside, I think a funny cartoon is drawn funny. Some people are so naturally gifted at this it hurts — Sam Gross and Jules Feiffer come to mind. It’s always been a challenge for me to loosen up the way they do, so I tend to mine understatement and restraint for a sort of deadpan alternative. But the best cartoons work at both levels: they entail the mechanical delivery of a funny idea (content) and they do it with a drawing that is itself funny in a vacuum (form).
How has your time at Northwestern influenced the rest of your career?
While I was at Northwestern, I did a number of things that regularly put my work in front of my peers. In particular, I edited the humor magazine and I drew a comic strip for the school paper. I knew my audience was smart and sophisticated, and I would hear (directly or through the grapevine) whether my work was hitting or missing. I had a lot to learn, and still do, but some part of me is still imagining that Northwestern audience out there.
Are single-panel cartoons more difficult to produce than cartoon strips? (Why or why not?)
In retrospect I think writing the comic strip was easier than coming up with single-panel cartoons. Over my four years drawing “Banderooge” at Northwestern I developed a cast of characters, each with his or her own voice. To some extent the characters began to write the strip themselves because of the ways their desires clashed.
In creating single-panel cartoons (I hate the term “gags”), you are dreaming up an entirely new scenario each time, and trying to imbue the players with enough signals so that the humor comes through: This kind of guy saying thatkind of thing to that other sort of person.
What makes a single-panel cartoon particularly effective?
My favorites (whether my own or by others) have an incongruous visual element that is resolved by the caption. Reading a cartoon happens over a number of almost imperceptible steps. First, because the visual elements register effortlessly, I think you glance at the drawing just long enough to think, “Oh, it’s cavemen admiring a cave drawing” or “Oh, it’s two frogs, one of them has a paddleball,” but you don’t understand what you’ve seen until you read the caption, which ideally should cause you to look again at the picture. And then the incongruity in the picture should cause you to want to read that caption again to enjoy it more fully. Back and forth and back.
Do you have any themes or motifs that you especially enjoy?
I think I’ve sold more cartoons about cavemen than any other topic, so I must find them a rich area to contemplate. Of course, a caveman cartoon isn’t usually about cavemen at all. It’s about relationships, or snobbery, or whatever — you’re just presenting it in a caveman motif.
I do like to write cartoons about childrearing. But again, that theme is woven into cartoons that might appear to be about bullfighting or evolving fish or what-have-you. I don’t have a ton of drawings depicting Mom and Dad raising the children.
How did Puzzability first come together?
My first job out of Northwestern was as an editor at Games Magazine. This was really a dream job for someone like me. That magazine was an extremely creative, playful publication with a staff that rivaled The New Yorker for wit and intelligence (they had no business hiring me; I had never written a puzzle in my life). Some years down the road, the magazine fell on hard times and many people associated with it scattered to the winds. I reached out to some of them to form our own puzzle-writing company. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve always worked with people who pushed me to stretch what I could do.
I’m no expert. But I know when I’ve done something good, and so instead of your question I’ll answer this one: “How does one get to be someone who can write a good puzzle?” It’s a craft like any creative endeavor. You work at it constantly, you develop a vocabulary of ideas you’re comfortable with, and you combine those ideas in new ways just to see where they take you.
An odd thing about writing a puzzle is that you need someone else to test-solve it to make sure it works. If it needs refining, your tester (which in my case would be one of my co-workers) needs to retest it “dumb” — that is, pretending that they don’t already know the solution. Those notes, and that refinement, help you anticipate problems for next time. Puzzle writers want to give their audience just enough to solve the puzzle, but no more than that.
How cool was it to work on Mr. Robot?
Recently Puzzability has worked on a number of cutting-edge projects; one of them was a Mr. Robot tie-in book. The project was very cool to work on, particularly when we got the call, because we were told the season’s big reveal before anyone else. If you watched Season 2, you know that Elliot was keeping a diary while he was in prison. But meanwhile his alter-ego, Mr. Robot, was trying to break him out.
Elliot was unaware of the plans of this other part of his psyche. A writer on the show’s staff wrote the meat of the diary, but Puzzability was brought in to craft hidden messages that Mr. Robot was sending to, and receiving from, the outside world. They had to be accessible enough for readers to find them, while being so well hidden that Elliot wouldn’t recognize them as codes. And Elliot is a brilliant hacker, nobody’s fool, so it was a fine line to walk.
The book was produced to look exactly like a composition notebook with pencil handwriting inside. But there are also tipped-in items that look like prison artifacts, and we created many of those. One of them is a photocopied list of bible quotations that Elliot was given in his mandatory prison bible class. There’s a code hidden in that, but Elliot just tucked it into his notebook and never gave it a second look. Mr. Robot figured it out, and so did readers.
That is awesome (thank you for sharing). Generally speaking, what makes for a good work space?
I’m the wrong one to ask. I feel like I can work anywhere. My puzzle work is definitely augmented by computers and occasionally graph paper, but a lot of the noodling (and cartoon-writing) actually happens while I’m walking. It’s good to have the Notes program on my phone for ideas that have to be written down. I don’t rely on having a clean surface or perfect silence, although yes — I do prefer those to their opposites.
I also just grab the blank side of scrap paper to work out ideas for cartoons. I used to do them in sketchbooks but they began to feel too “precious.” I prefer the throw-away nature of working on scrap paper. It’s liberating.
Why do you think cartoonists become cartoonists?
I don’t think that cartoonists ever decide to become cartoonists. I think they just don’t decide to become something else. I think that when we are little we are instinctively creative and open about the world, and we can’t draw all that well, and we think the world we see is confusing and adults are dumb, and all that stuff. And we simply continue along that path until we learn how to draw better. Then we’re cartoonists.
What makes you laugh?
Something really, really clever. It doesn’t even have to be funny per se. But if it’s just so carefully thought-out and well-realized that I never could have thought of it, it’ll elicit laughter. From a Buster Keaton sight gag to a wonderful anagram. It tickles my brain (I don’t necessarily laugh out loud, although that happens, too). As a cartoonist slash puzzle-writer, I get those reactions all the time. Nice way to spend the day.