Smile

An Amuse Bouche of food jokes

Over our evening meal at home tonight, I laughed as I remembered a joke told – I think – by Woody Allen, many years ago:

There were two women at a holiday resort and one said “Ah – this food is terrible!”  And the other said: “Yes!  And the portions are so small!”

(In case you’re wondering what an amuse bouche is – it’s French for something to tickle your tastebuds – you get it on menus at expensive restaurants.  It’s something unusual and dramatic and in a very small portion.)

I reckon that joke is about 40 years old plus – but my family has one older than that – a relative was told it in school 60 years ago.  Nobody laughed.  And the teacher who told it said to go home and tell it to their parents, because they would be amused.  (Rightly judging that the grownups would be more likely to ‘get’ absurdist humour).  And so the relative told it to her parents and it went down big; her father guffawed and almost keeled over.  Here is the old joke:

Two people were at a restaurant, for a meal.  When a bowl of mayonnaise arrived, one woman began to rub it into her hair.  “What are you doing, rubbing mayonnaise into your hair?” asked her startled companion?  “Oh, I’m sorry” she replied.  “I thought it was blancmange.”

If the joke doesn’t make sense; don’t worry.  It’s the lack of sense which makes it funny.  It is just absurd.

Today somehow being a day for aged jokes about food, I quoted one about 150 years old, today to a friend who mentioned pâté – quoting the wit Sydney Smith (1771-1845) – who said that his friend, Henry Luttrell’s “idea of heaven was eating pâté de foie gras to the sound of trumpets”.  

IMG_3919Sydney Smith was accustomed at one point in his life to London dinnerparties of great elegance – he did enjoy his food – but then his career as a minister took him to live in the depths of the countryside where tastes and food were simpler.  He took this change well, but noted that he now lived “Twelve miles from a lemon.”  

This became the title of a small book about him which I rejoice to say I have upon my bookshelves.

I wonder what old jokes about food other people can remember.

 

 

 

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Humorist, Photographer, Earthling

Terry Border describes himself as “Humorist, Photographer, Earthling” on his website.

As well as the photo series of books with wiry limbs (see featured photo above this article) he is also a punning facial hair model:

moose+stache – this is part of a series if you have a friend with facial hair which you would like to gently mock.

And a series of imaginative reconceptions of Paint Chips – yes, paint chips – that ordinary,

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Cartoon view of Medieval Art

Roz Chast takes us through her favourite type of art at the Met – Medieval paintings.  She has a distinctive eye and commentary.

 

Roz brings her humour to the pictures and a strong sense of where the artist is not quite sure if they’re good enough to draw certain parts of the picture – and how they cope with that.

The general effect is of going around a gallery with a witty companion who makes you snigger and yet wonder – but not be overawed by the art – to still see it as paintings done by humans, with very ordinary human concerns, as well as a sense of the exalted (most art of the time illustrates religious, biblical themes).

 

How to get your cartoon into the New Yorker magazine

Bob Mankhoff gives a (21 minutes) TED talk on what cartoons are likely to be the accepted 18 out of 1,000 sent in, weekly.  As cartoon editor, he is the man who chooses which few make the cut.

Bob himself was once an aspiring cartoonist who wanted to have his cartoons in the New Yorker – an experience which gave him a great deal of opportunity to experience rejection.

“From 1974 to 1977 I submitted 2,000 cartoons to the New Yorker and got 2,000 cartoons rejected from the New Yorker….” eventually one is accepted, this becomes a pattern and then  “finally in 1980 I received the revered New Yorker contract”.

Interestingly, in the contract there is no mention of cartoons – they are called “idea drawings“.  This is because they require thought not only on the part of the cartoonist, but also the reader.

He shows his most popular, often reproduced cartoon:

Screen shot 2017-10-07 at 12.23.53

Bob Mankhoff cartoon

This illustrates humor

  • our expectations are defied
  • the narrative gets switched
  • there’s an incongruity and a contrast
  • “a cognitive synergy where we mash up these 2 things which don’t go together but temporarily in our minds exist”

In the above cartoon’s case, all of this is between the syntax of politeness (polite speech) and the message being rude.

Where different frames of reference are brought together this is technically called “by association” and need to work for the viewer to get the joke fast, in under a second.  e.g.

Screen shot 2017-10-07 at 12.45.13

New Yorker cartoon

This cartoon, which pushes together the traditional object of the Swiss army knife and a popular description of France as a nation which produces wine and also consumes it.

However, my favourite example of this mixing is a two-picture cartoon which looks at the popular dog film genre of the rescue dog….. reimagined.

 

Screen shot 2017-10-07 at 12.55.04

 

Bob points out that a huge amount of humor generally is just poking fun at an enemy – but the New Yorker wants an insight into people, into ‘us’.  So, for example, he showed this:

Screen shot 2017-10-07 at 12.31.45

New Yorker Cartoon by R Chast

Humour does need a target, Bob Mankhoff says, but the target in the New Yorker is “us”.  In the magazine, the humour is self-reflective and makes us think about our assumptions.  It focuses on our foibles and weaknesses and not someone else’s.

“The New Yorker is also trying in some way, to make cartoons say something besides funny and something about us.”

The talk is enlightening, funny and interesting – a bit of an idea drawing with words. And well illustrated and leavened with cartoons.

If you are a wouldbe cartooner, aiming for the New Yorker market – then this is essential viewing.

TEDtalk: Bob Mankhoff   “Anatomy of a New Yorker Cartoon” (viewable on Youtube)

Want to know more?

There’s a documentary “Very semi-serious: A partially thorough Portrait of New Yorker Cartoonists” – here’s a 45 second trailer:

I have seen the film, it was fun but regretfully I dozed lightly in some parts – this is not a reflection on the film so much as a comment on the fact that on that specific day I needed some extra sleep, and was in a warm, comfortable space.  The bits which I saw were enjoyable.

And Bob Mankhoff did a much longer talk on video (55 mins), about his life story in cartooning – based on his book “How about never: is never good for you?”

The video is called: Bob Mankhoff: a career in cartoons” and you can watch it here.

suitcase, passenger

Have luggage, will travel

Just stumbled upon this curious but engaging poem on the subject of travel by Irfan Merchant,(published in online mag for unusual poetry or photography, The Undertow Review.)

Carousel

O anxious International Arrivals

clustered around the baggage carousel,

watch hopefully the thick black rubber veils

which still reveal nothing! Another soul

 

waiting to cross the Styx, I’ll take my place.

The grumble begins. The belt shudders, drags out,

baiting the ringside crowd, a zippered case.

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