September 14, 2007

What's so funny?

Waiting to be selected for a jury on Wednesday (which I was, and will have to report for duty a week from Monday) I got a chance to catch up on this week's New Yorker. I've never understood the reputation New Yorker cartoons have for being obscure. If anything, I've always found the opposite to be true. But I admit to being totally stumped by this one.


Seriously. I stared at this for five minutes trying to figure out the joke. The description at the Cartoon Bank provides little help: "A person quiets another sitting next to them in the movie theater where a crazy action movie plays."

Quieting people at movie theaters is an utterly routine event. There's nothing funny about it. Crazy action movies are also quite mundane, and while this one is crazier than most — they're shooting machine guns at burning buildings in outer space! — it is not inherently humorous. Therefore the joke must somehow be in the juxtaposition: Ha ha! The person is quieting another person at a movie that is itself quite loud. But that makes no sense either. No matter how loud the film is, if the person speaking is speaking loud enough to be heard over it by his friend, then he is speaking loud enough to be heard by the stranger quieting him, and so quieting him is the ordinary and common sense reaction to that behavior. The only thing I could come up with is that there is nothing worth hearing in an action movie, so asking someone to be quiet during one is comical, but the worth of an action film's dialogue or sound design would seem to be something best determined by its audience, so the fact that a person in the theater would rather hear the movie than the conversation of the people next to him necessarily refutes that premise. Indeed, I can only salvage this interpretation by giving it a meta twist: the real target is The New Yorker's reputation as a magazine for old fogies who don't like action movies and think it's funny that people would want to go to one and then actually hear what's happening on the screen. The true punchline, then, is Thank you for reading Grumpy Old Man Weekly. Alternately, the New Yorker is much younger and hipper than I am giving it credit for, and the joke is that people attending a youth-oriented film are actually talking to their friends, rather than texting them.

Since none of this is remotely plausible, I am narrowing in on the fact that the people in the audience are apparently a pair of elves sitting between two cardboard cutouts of humans, one of which is listing in its seat. Also: The elves may or may not be identical twins; neither elf is watching the movie; the elf on the left may in fact be not quieting the other one, but blowing him (her?) a kiss. If you have a better idea, I'd like to hear it.

Or maybe the caption that would make the cartoon funny was inadvertently left off. In which case, go ahead and supply it.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


Brilliant analysis.

Somewhere out there, an alleged criminal is about to have the worst Monday morning of his life.

Sadly, it's a civil case. And one of very low stakes, judging from the lawyers' suits.

The shoulders on the guy on far left are pretty funny.

a perfect example of what happens to intelligent people when they are subjected to hours of boring jury duty...

Fantasia for the 21st century. No talking during Stravinsky!

Civil cases very often get settled between the time the jury is impaneled and the day the trial is scheduled, so your odds are still good.

Caption: "Dear, that hoodlum next to me just put his finger up my skirt and now he's sniffing it. What are you going to do about it, now that your testosterone has been stimulated by this action movie?"

Oh, caption:

"Sweetie, the man sitting on my left keeps making kissing noises at me and sticking his tongue between his middle and index finger, but I'm afraid to say anything to him. Can we move to different seats?"

I see we were on the same page with that one.

Caption: "Stop shushing me, I was just asking why we each paid ten bucks to stare at this gigantic Polaroid."

I don't know about you, but I am so tired of action movies that look like this. Enough with Steve Ditko mescaline lava lamp pineapple gun cinema, Hollywood! And stop charging so much for popcorn!

Caption: "You know what's funny after 17 lines of analysis? Nothing."

"What a great movie, huh!? I said I thought it's a good movie!! I like how the underlying symbolism of the robotic snails is a reflection of how self-centered people have become in today's society! I said people are self-centered!! Self... Hold on a second, that's my cell phone, I've got to take this call!"

(I too was looking at this cartoon the other day wondering what the funny was.)

"Shit, I'm freaking out."

"Yeah, your TV is gigantic, but I wish it were widescreen."

I think the elves may be fraternal twins. It is hard to tell sometimes: the Olson twin are fraternal.


Great way to to keep us entertained while we wait here at jury duty!

God I'm bored! Oh, I know!

I think I'll write a long, long, long analysis explaining why I don't get this movie and then post it on my blog when jury duty is over for the day! People will find it fascinating! They will they will...

"I hate it when we take your retarded brother to the movies. Now he blubbering his fingers over his lips!"

"We can't take Emil Minty anywhere!"

It's like when the person in the car ahead of you at the red light is fidgeting/chatting and turned away from the main screen/windshield/event. Bugs the hell out of me. There should be a name for the mini-rage it causes.

Emil Minty... pretty obscurem, but I got it except who is supposed to be Minty in the cartoon?

Daniel, I had exactly the same reaction, except... five minutes? C'mon. Maybe fifteen seconds. I went with the "grumpy old man" interpretation and turned the page thinking "Gahan Wilson should stick to monsters." But it was good to see you overthinking it at such length.

Caption: "Daaaaad! Freddie keeps making those 'Indian' noises while I'm trying to watch the end of the world through our sumptuous plate glass window! Tell him to stop!"

abe the way I saw it, female in the middle is annoyed at impertinent feral shusher and action film-lover Emil Minty.

Obviously too much of a stretch to insert the obscure reference, but glad someone got it -- Ill stick to TA Winchler in the future.

Oh right, like you can't hear the soundtrack over my giving him a hand-job!

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