Tuesday, July 15, 2008

So funny I forgot to laugh

Like Mary Worth and Dr. Jeff Cory, The New Yorker and I have been on a break. We were happy together for a long time -- despite the occasional public tiff -- but the relationship was getting to be too much pressure. We needed time apart to pursue other interests; I wanted to try seeing other reading material. I wanted to stop having endless discussions about why the "Cartoon Caption Contest" results in such lousy cartoons. I wanted John Lahr to stop spoiling plots and punch lines for me. Oh, I've missed it now and then -- when I see someone reading on the subway, or when I wonder what Malcolm Gladwell is writing about these days. But just when I was thinking maybe I should resubscribe, this week's cover changed my mind. I'm not offended by its content. I don't question The New Yorker's right to make this joke. I'm just offended by its lameness. I'm surprised that The New Yorker couldn't make this joke more effectively. I'm disappointed, like I am when "Shouts & Murmurs" is a half-baked Bruce McCall piece that would have worked better as a cartoon, or when a profile of someone fascinating turns out to be a bore. I think, Isn't The New Yorker supposed to be better than this? And if they misfire, shouldn't they be able to admit it? Instead of "defending" his decision to lampoon Obama -- or are they lampooning people who criticize Obama? -- and flattering himself with comparisons to The Colbert Report, Remnick should be offering a simple mea culpa for greenlighting lousy "satire." Because, come on, do you watch The Colbert Report? "Is Barack Obama a secret Muslim?" makes me laugh every time, but this cover just made me roll my eyes. If you have to explain the joke, you told it wrong.

So I guess The New Yorker and I are going to stay separated for a bit longer -- I have several books in the works, anyway. But for more intelligent analysis of why and how this cover disappoints, please visit the blog of my pal Mike Gerber. He breaks down the reasons why this "satire" fails, thanks to Blitt's "slight, watery, wan style," much better than I or anyone else could. I would only add that the inaptness of this style to this joke becomes pretty obvious when you take a look at Blitt's other recent political covers. Did he depict Bush and his advisers in danger of drowning, back in 2005, in order to send up the absurd notion that they are in deep metaphorical water? Did he draw Bush and Cheney as housewife (or maid?) and insensitive, boorish husband to lampoon the ridiculous idea that Cheney dominates the executive office? And if not, why should he, or Remnick, expect the Obama cover to read any differently?

ETA: Mike's take is also posted at A Tiny Revolution, and there's more from him in the comments.

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