Two New Yorker cartoons

Two recent cartoons: a Zach Kanin on the male body in cartoons (in the 9/28 issue), a Liam Francis Walsh on social media (in the 10/5 issue):



#1: The Tin Woodman and his missing penis. Here we see four of the principals of (the 1939 movie version of) The Wizard of Oz, posing on the Yellow Brick Road: The Cowardly Lion, the Tin Woodman, the Scarecrow, and Dorothy Gale (with her little dog Toto behind her). Except for Dorothy and Toto, they’ve been infused by magic, which means they have the powers of language and reason and have great funds of knowledge about the world, but they still lack things they much desire (note that they have emotions too): the lion wants courage, the woodman wants a heart, and the scarecrow wants a brain.

The Cowardly Lion is an actual African lion, and so has an animal body, including (we can suppose) a penis (but a lion penis, not a human penis), but the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow are animated objects and so lack a number of human bodyparts, in particular a penis. The Tin Woodman just wants to get laid.

(I seem not to have looked at the fixed idiom get laid ‘have sex’, which allows a full range of inflectional forms for the verb get but otherwise has a restricted syntax.  And it’s lexically fixed: synonyms for laid, like placed or put, will not do. On the syntax, the idiom has get + passive VP, but at least with reference to men, be + passive VP won’t do (*Tim was laid last night ‘Tim had sex last night’), and (in my speech at any rate), an agentive passive won’t do (*Tim got laid by three people last night ‘Tim had sex with three people last night’). Though the idiom is passive in form, its subject NP denotes not an affected person, but the agent in sexual relations; Tim wants to get laid is close to Tim wants to fuck (someone).)

Earlier postings on Kanin’s cartoons: in “Two linguistics cartoons” of 9/28/14; in “Cartooning: the early days” of 12/20/14.

#2: Soliciting connections on LinkedIn. The guy is going door to door, exhorting all of his neighbors to connect with him on the social medium LinkedIn, using the formula for this purpose:

I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.

(though LinkedIn encourages you to personalize your invitations). That’s funny enough on its own, but funnier if you know that LinkedIn tries to get access to your address list, so that it can carpet-bomb people on the list with such invitations, without your knowledge, much less your consent — a practice that has elicited bitter complaints from LinkedIn account holders. (I have so far managed to keep LinkedIn from getting access to my address list.) So the guy in the cartoon is behaving like a deranged invitation-bot.

But then there’s the rooster under his arm. What are we to make of it?

One possibility is that this cartoon is flat-out surrealism. If this were a Zippy strip, that’s where I’d look; Bill Griffith often introduces totally wacky elements into his comic strips. But I see no evidence that Walsh is so inclined.

Another possibility, suggested by a friend, is that the rooster is there to crow the sunrise; the guy is going from door to door to wake them up and deliver his invitation.

Other possibilities (based on observations from a reader of this blog who mailed me a copy of the cartoon) turn on the fact that cock is another name for a rooster, so maybe there’s a sexual subtext in a guy with a cock under his arm enthusiastically soliciting his neighbors to join him in his professional (as in professional or pro ‘prostitute’ — remember that there are male hustlers) network on LinkedIn (he wants to link in(to) you, wink wink, nudge nudge). Once you start looking for them, double entendres explode; maybe those aren’t apartments in an apartment building, but rooms in a gay bathhouse! Then the cartoon is proudly homophilic (and maybe heterophobic to boot). Or perhaps homophobic, mocking the obsessions of gay men.

I don’t see sexual subtexts, much less gay ones, in Walsh’s other cartoons, or any openly gay humor, of the sort in many of the cartoons of New Yorker artist William Haefeli (who is openly gay), which chronicle the lives of upper-middleclass urban gay men (I’ve posted Haefeli cartoons, not all of them gay-oriented, a number of times). You can’t get much personal information about Walsh from material on the net, beyond the fact that he grew up in Wisconsin (on a dairy farm, with lots of siblings)  and now lives in the Italian part of Switzerland, And has a children’s book coming out next year. Here’s a sweet (but small) photo of him:


Earlier postings on Walsh’s cartoons: “Constraining communication” of 3/1/14; “The Big Kowalski” of 4/17/15.

6 Responses to “Two New Yorker cartoons”

  1. Roger Phillips Says:

    You know about the LinkedIn caption being touted as the new fourth caption that fits any New Yorker cartoon, right? (

  2. Robert Coren Says:

    I would guess that “get laid” arises from a (now apparently obsolete — at least I haven’t heard it for a long time) usage of the verb “lay” = “fuck”.

  3. RF Says:

    On Walsh’s Twitter, he says that his original caption was “Farmer Brown? It’s your wake-up call,” and that an editor changed it to the LinkedIn joke.

  4. Liam Francis Walsh Says:

    Hi, yes, RF is right. The original caption was “Farmer Brown? It’s your wake-up call.”

    What happened: that LinkedIn gag had been going around the internet all week (I thought it was the funniest of the several not-particularly-funny “captions that work for every NYer cartoon” out there), and The New Yorker’s cartoon editor, Bob Mankoff, thought it would be funny to show that we were in on the joke. He asked for my permission to alter the caption and I assented. In retrospect, perhaps internet humor is different from print humor and the twain shouldn’t meet, since the social media crowd seemed to have already moved on to the latest trending trend and the non-social media crowd was bewildered.

    Here’s Bob on the subject:

    And here’s The Atlantic talking about the LinkedIn meme:

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