Sunday, December 02, 2007

Cartoon Confusion Due to Midget Punchline

New Yorker cartoons are infamously opaque, but they weren't much so during the 1920s. The multi-panel vignettes by Otto Soglow were particularly easy to "get," usually a simple, surreal, but obvious joke stretched out to six or nine panels.

But this one confuses me and freaks me out. Sure I understand what is happening in each panel, but there's a disconnect between "what appears to be happening" and "what it all means." Part of this confusion comes from my desire to NOT see it as a cheap midget-with-a-cigar-sex-gag, because New Yorker cartoons -- and Soglow's in particular -- just weren't LIKE that at the time.

It says something about the vapidity of the '20s magazine that this cartoon is the most thought-provoking thing I've seen so far.

Incidentally, you may remember Otto Soglow for what he eventually became famous for: the 1930s "Little King" comics.

6 comments:

VanillaJ said...

I think I get it. An onlooker is admiring a seemingly single woman. As he waits to use the phone, he contemplates his attraction to her, maybe even approaching her for a date. But, she is not alone. He did not anticipate her having a companion, and by virtue of being short, his presence was blocked by a partition. His intentions were then staunched by her unexpected and unlikely pairing with a midget. Aaah, ha-ha-ha!

VanillaJ said...

I might add that judging by her expression, it doesn't look like she is getting head.

Muffy St. Bernard said...

I think you're right, Vanilla, and the midget's prominent cigar MIGHT be simply a reflection of the common sideshow midget conceit: contrasting the small size of the man with some hyper-masculine props (soldier's uniform, tarzan outfit, businessman's suit, big bowler hat, big cigar).

jj said...

Thanks for the plain vanilla version, er vanillaj! My mind is so far down the gutter that I too could only see the perverted explaination of the tagline.

P.S. Thanks for the cartoon. I do remember the Lil King Cartoons.

JJ said...

And after a careful look at the cartoon, you nailed it deadon!

Muffy St. Bernard said...

I'd like to hire Vanilla as my "official cartoon analyzer," but I don't have any money...