Chast, Haefeli, Kaplan

Three cartoons from the latest issue (July 10th and 17th) of the New Yorker, by Roz Chast (heirloom hot dogs), William Haefeli (gay couple with dog and baby), and Bruce Eric Kaplan (a visit from Dr. Seuss).


(As always with Chast, the names are a hoot. Beefs d’Hiver is especially nice, allowing for a possible play on English beef the meat vs. beef ‘grudge, dislike’ and also a possible play on French d’Hiver ‘of winter’ vs. divers ‘various, miscellaneous’.)

(#2) “Back when we got him, Rufus was a child substitute. Now he’s just a dog.”

(#3) “The craziest part is that I dated Thing One years ago.”

Chast and the hot dogs. #1 jokes with the heirloom of heirloom tomatoes and heirloom apples. Heirloom hot dogs — the great hot dogs of yesteryear — for summer grill and picnic time, especially the Fourth of July. So American!

Here are three actual proposals for hot dogs representing American traditions, from a recent Pinterest posting with a bewildering variety of ideas: (representing Southern picnic traditions) a bacon hot dog loaded with Southern slaw, baked beans, and pickled okra; (exploiting the more recent Southern and Midwestern tradition of slathering on ranch dressing wherever possible) a BLAT dog, a bacon-wrapped hot dog topped with lettuce, avocado, tomatoes, and ranch dressing; (and dipping into an ethnic food heritage) a hot dog topped with Thai-inspired slaw, peanut sauce, chopped peanuts,and cilantro.


(#5) The BLAT dog, with ranch


Eating a wiener for Independence. A traditional lunch on the Fourth for me. I ordered a ¼ lb. all-beef hot dog with relish and red onions, with cole slaw and pickle chips on the side.

And then three different staff members at the Palo Alto Creamery (diner-style atmosphere and food) remarked to me that this was exactly what I’d ordered last Fourth of July. Well, yes, I replied, it’s a tradition for me, and I once again marveled at what experienced restaurant staff remember.

Haefeli’s gay couple. Haefeli’s cartoons are single-panel pieces of affectionate social criticism, targeting the urban upper middle class. A recurrent subtheme is the lives of gay men, especially gay couples, as in #2, where he skewers both the tendency of childless couples (other-sex as well as same-sex) to project nurturing behavior onto pets, especially dogs; and also the spreading fashion for same-sex couples becoming parents (by any of several routes).

A lot of it is about facial expressions: the men’s satisfied smirks, Rufus’s aggressive disgruntlement.

Kaplan’s cross-comic allusion. BEK’s #3 is typically absurd, with the extra feature of incorporating characters from another comic, in this case Thing 1 and Thing 2 from Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hatdepicted here, where they’re introduced (by the Cat) in these rhymes:

“I will pick up the hook.
you will see something new.
Two things. And I call them
Thing One and Thing Two.
These Things will not bite you.
They want to have fun.”
Then, out of the box
came Thing Two and Thing One!

The hapless, probably self-deluded, woman in a relationship is a regular in BEK’s cartoons, as here:


Both here and in #3, you need to recognize a character in the cartoon if you are to make any sense of the cartoon at all. Thing 2 as a Seuss character in #3, Count Dracula in #7.

As with Haefeli, there’s social criticism in many of BEK’s strips. As here, with a couple sliding into old-folks’ music without recognizing the effects of time:


From Wikipedia on Kaplan:

Bruce Eric Kaplan (born September 9, 1964), known as BEK, is an American cartoonist whose single-panel cartoons frequently appear in The New Yorker. His cartoons are known for their signature simple style and often dark humor. Kaplan is also a screenwriter and has worked on Seinfeld and on Six Feet Under.

A photo of him, looking characteristically wary or sardonic, you can’t be sure which:


One Response to “Chast, Haefeli, Kaplan”

  1. Ralph Steadman Pencilled; Andy Friedman on Andrew Wyeth’s 100th; A Language Blog Looks at the Language of New Yorker Cartoons | Inkspill Says:

    […] As you see, Mr. Zwicky’s blog is “mostly about language”; when it’s about the language of New Yorker cartoons it will be mentioned here,  such as this post.  […]

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