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Rejected: Eskimo Transvestite Cartoon


Thank you, Robert Mankoff, cartoon editor of the New Yorker magazine because every week, you cast off comedy gold from your desk.

And I don't know whether it's a time issue or a space issue or a crack in your funny bone that you decide not to air - to brush as they print some of these cartoons. We love them here at the BPP. You know what? We reap the benefits. Let's get to the Friday funnies: Rejected New Yorker cartoons.

Friend of the show, Matthew Diffee, New Yorker cartoonist and editor of the "Rejection Collection," is back.

Hi, Matthew.

Mr. MATTHEW DIFFEE (Cartoonist, New Yorker Magazine; Editor, "Rejection Collection"): Hello. How are you?

Mr. DIFFEE: You brought along a guest?

Mr. DIFFE: Yeah.

STEWART: Who's that guy?

Mr. DIFFE (high, fast talk): This is Eric Lewis.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: All right, Eric. Now, this is your first time going through one of these experiences. You know, we had these dramatic re-enactments of your cartoons, these audio re-enactments because it's radio and nobody can see him. Jacob? Please?

TOURE: Are you going to start to…

JACOB GANZ: The devil leads a woman into an apartment. Inside the apartment is a ripped recliner, a potted cactus and a table with legs made of log. On the table, a lava lamp and one other lamp that resembles a spacecraft. On the walls, a framed picture of pigs playing poker; next to it, a calendar with a picture of a naked woman. The devil is saying, enjoy your stay, Ms. Stewart.

(Soundbite of laughter)


TOURE: How could that have not gotten into the New York?

STEWART: I know. This incredibly tacky cartoon and the devil leading Martha Stewart into this hideous room. So did you have in your mind what personal hell would look like for Martha Stewart?

Mr. DIFFEE: I did. Exactly that was the inspiration for the cartoon. Ever since I sort of changed my views about where this was going, I think she's destined for the big upstairs. But the idea where it came before her picked up, you know, crisis and prison and all…

Mr. ERIC LEWIS (Cartoonist, New Yorker Magazine): You have to tell them the secret part of the story here.

Mr. DIFFEE: That's true. There is a top secret part of it, which is, I used to work for Martha Stewart, as a…


Mr. DIFFEE: …product designer.


TOURE: So is there a bit of like, you know, getting you back, Martha. Was it a pleasant experience?

Mr. DIFFEE: It was, actually. Martha was really super nice, and…

TOURE: You met her?

Mr. DIFFEE: I did.

TOURE: And she was nice?

Mr. DIFFEE: Yeah.

TOURE: Well, good to know.

Mr. DIFFE: …and…

STEWART: So my question, if you're working for Martha Stewart design, did you - because the picture looks quite a bit like her. Did you used to just doodle Martha Stewart?

Mr. DIFFEE: Yeah, for - yeah. The altars…

Mr. LEWIS: For hours and hours.

Mr. DIFFEE: …the altar that I keep in my apartment.

STEWART: You drew her.

Mr. DIFFEE: I drew her. There's lot of paintings in my own blood.

(Soundbite of laughter)

TOURE: I mean, this is a really, really good funny one. We all laughed really hard. Why didn't this make it in the New Yorker?

Mr. DIFFEE: I'm not entirely sure. I was pretty new at the time that I submitted that. I think Bob liked it and maybe pitched it to David Remnik, the editor of the magazine. And for whatever reason that maybe it didn't make it. But I think Bob liked it so.

Mr. LEWIS: There were just a lot of cartoons. Bob says he looks at a thousand a week…

STEWART: That's right.

Mr. LEWIS: … for 15 spots so.

STEWART: So when you're drawing Martha Stewart, what characters did you want to make sure that she had so that we knew that it was Martha Stewart?

Mr. DIFFEE: Well, sure. I guess the hairstyle, the Patagonia jacket coverall type thing kind of…

STEWART: It's the Bean boots were the tip-off for me, the little duck shoes? Is that Martha? Ah, that's Martha Stewart. Was there anything in the frame that you left out? We talked about that this room - it's got a lava lamp and a recliner with a big rip in the side and pigs playing poker in the picture.

Mr. DIFFE: I can't really think of something I didn't draw, but the tragedy is that I was trying to draw dogs playing poker.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DIFFE: So I'm still working on my canine anatomy a little bit.

Mr. LEWIS: I thought they were playing bridge. I couldn't tell from the drawing.

STEWART: Can I ask you what you use to design at Martha Stewart?

Mr. DIFFE: Yeah. I designed garden products for her K-Mart line. She was particularly fond of hose hangers that I designed for them and that...

STEWART: I didn't wake up this morning to think I'd hear hose hanger.

Mr. DIFFE: Yeah.

STEWART: I just have to say it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: I actually have a little Martha Stewart gardening bag with a little B on it which are from this collection.

TOURE: Did you come any particular moments with her that you remember that you can share over the air?

Mr. DIFFE: I do. Actually, it was - something she said when I have been told -not by her but by my boss at the time - to design some garden edging, which is like a stuff that separates the pathway from the garden…

STEWART: Sure, a lattice kind of...

Mr. DIFFE: …a little - like bricks are often used. And I was told to design like fake plastic bricks to make it look like it was three bricks, maybe, in a row and you set them down. And when she saw it at a meeting, she was, like, no crap.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DIFFE: And I thought that it's such a good mantra for life like no crap. I really love her for helping wean America off crap, if…

Mr. LEWIS: Yeah.

Mr. DIFFE: …you know, if that can be done, I'd say.

Mr. LEWIS: You should have put some little three-brick segments in the drawing, then make it even worse for her going into…

STEWART: See, it's actually a little wink from - to Martha, who has an office in this building by the way. Thought I'd let you know...

Mr. DIFFE: Yeah.

STEWART: …okay. So watch yourself in the elevator on the way out.

Mr. DIFFE: And the New Yorker used to be in this building, isn't that right?


TOURE: Right.

STEWART: Well Matthew, your cartoon is up next. I can't wait to hear the audio version…

Mr. DIFFE: Yeah.

STEWART: …so there's no text to it this one, really.

Mr. DIFFE: Yeah. Well, in the cartoon there is, but no caption. Yeah.


Mr. DIFFE: Yeah.

GANZ: Two people are dressed in identical long coats with fur around the hoods, sleeves and bottoms. They are both wearing large snow boots, which cover their legs. Their faces are hard to see and very little skin is visible. The caption under one says Eskimo. The caption under the other says Eskimo transvestite.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DIFFEE: I mean, there must be one up there, right? Just one person out there…

Mr. LEWIS: Yeah, out there.

Mr. DIFFEE: … who's a little confused.

Mr. LEWIS: …underneath. Yeah.

STEWART: See, I like this one because it makes me have to use my imagination. What is under that coat?

Mr. LEWIS: Oh, yeah. Sure.

STEWART: That's…

Mr. DIFFEE: It just occurred to me. That would be a very boring culture to be - or an unsatisfying culture, I think, to be a transvestite.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: My question, though, is when you were drawing it, you know, a transvestite is somebody who cross-dresses. How do I know - how did you know the one on the right was a transvestite after you drew it? Is there some clue in there? I can go back and look. It's like…

Mr. LEWIS: It's in his eyes, if you look into it.

STEWART: It's in his eyes?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LEWIS: …or her eyes.

Mr. DIFFEE: Her eyes, (unintelligible).

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Mascara - did you make the lashes just a little longer?

Mr. DIFFEE: Yeah, just a tiny bit. It's shaded somewhat by the cowl of the coat.

Mr. LEWIS: I mean, there are always - it's always the caption that kills you. But that's one that really - it's really the caption because the drawing, you know…

Mr. DIFFEE: Yes.

Mr. LEWIS: …is somewhat vanilla, straightforward. But then, the caption is just murderous.

Mr. DIFFEE: Yes, yeah. That's the - that's the hope, I guess, the one little element turns it from being not funny to funny.

STEWART: Did you get this idea from watching people bundled up on the streets of New York? Were you in Alaska? Were you at a…

Mr. LEWIS: I wish I could…

STEWART: …Inuit picnic or something?

Mr. LEWIS: I wish I can remember how I got it. I don't know if doodled my way into it - I was, you know, drawing an Eskimo - probably not. I probably was just thinking.

TOURE: Again, how could not get into The New Yorker?

Mr. LEWIS: Yeah.

STEWART: The transvestite?

Mr. LEWIS: It might be a little - it might be…

STEWART: Have you ever seen the word transvestite in The New Yorker cartoons?

Mr. LEWIS: Has there been? I actually did a cartoon that featured a transvestite in The New Yorker before, so I know that boundary has been broken. I had a guy in a bar, sort of a very rough-looking guy, but he is wearing a dress, you know, downing a beer. And he is talking to his buddy saying, I think I'm turning into my father.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LEWIS: Several levels of complication there. So I know they will do that. And I don't know. I guess it - I think it was just too many that week, or maybe I had something else that was better that week, or - I don't know.

STEWART: I don't know. But I'm glad we have them.

Mr. LEWIS: We'll never know - yeah.

STEWART: So everybody, we're going to put up the few cartoons on our Web site, in our blog, npr.org/bryantpark. Yes - probably the only place in NPR where you can see transvestite Eskimos and Martha Stewart accompanied by the devil.

Eric and Matthew, thanks for coming in.

Mr. DIFFEE: Thank you very much.

Mr. LEWIS: Thanks a lot. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.