Rejected: A Jesus Graffiti Cartoon

The latest cartoons turned down by the New Yorker, brought to you by cartoonist Matthew Diffee.

ALISON STEWART, host:

Thank you, Robert Mankoff, cartoon editor of the New Yorker magazine, because every week, you cast aside comedy gold from your all-star staff of cartoonists. And where do they go when you so cruelly reject their offerings? They come on, trotting down the road to THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT.

So returning for another round of the BPP's New Yorker rejects is Matthew Diffe, New Yorker cartoonist and editor of the Rejection Collection. So we're going to start with you, Dale(ph). I thought you've brought some partners in crime.

Mr. MATTHEW DIFFE (Cartoonist, New York): Yeah. Yeah.

STEWART: Will you introduce the group?

Mr. DIFFE: Over her is David Cyprus(ph).

Mr. DAVID CYPRUS (Cartoonist, New York): hi.

Mr. DIFFE: And this is Paul Noth(ph).

Mr. PAUL NOTH (Cartoonist, New York): Hello.

STEWART: All right. So your first cartoon has a biblical theme. Let's listen.

Mr. DIFFE: (Reading) One figure - his back to the viewer, hands in pockets, he's looking at a graffiti message spray-painted on the wall. It says John 3:16. The other figure is holding a can of spray paint. The caption reads, I just asked myself, what would Jesus spray-paint?

STEWART: Jesus as a vandal?

Mr. DIFFE: Yeah. Well, you do see…

STEWART: Well, biblically, I guess he kind of was. He went into the temple, he turned over tables?

Mr. DIFFE: Yeah, sure. Shaken things up a bit. Yeah, you see the John 3:16 spray-painted all over and you wonder what the justification or what the, you know, what the rationale behind somebody vandalizing with this message, this good message but in a bad way. I'm making him sound deeper than it is.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SIPRESS: I wouldn't know because I'm Jewish.

Mr. NOTH: Yeah.

Mr. DIFFE: Yeah. Well, there's this think how the Bible as adverse(ph)…

Mr. SIPRESS: They invented it.

Mr. DIFFE: Yeah. I guess so. Yeah.

Mr. SIPRESS: Is this that other Bible besides the first one?

Mr. DIFFE: Yeah, not the plus - more than five books version.

STEWART: So what is John 3:16? I didn't look it up before I came in, like I should have.

Mr. DIFFE: I should do know it because I'm a good Baptist boy.

STEWART: Please tell us.

Mr. DIFFE: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. I learned that when I was 3.

STEWART: So basically, what would Jesus spray-paint - he tag his own story, is that what you…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DIFFEE: Yeah, probably, probably. You know, if you had a, you know, a limited amount of wall space…

Mr. SIPRESS: Right.

Mr. DIFFEE: …you would probably go with that one.

Mr. SIPRESS: Right. That's pretty much Jesus rules.

Mr. DIFFEE: Yeah.

Mr. SIPRESS: And that's a funny thing.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: I rule.

Mr. SIPRESS: Yeah, right.

STEWART: Now did you see somebody wearing one of the bracelets, the what-would-Jesus-do bracelets?

Mr. DIFFEE: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think all of us have probably done some sort of what-would-Jesus-something gag. I mean, that's what we do. We hear a phrase that people are talking about or something that's out there and we tweak it, you know, for comic effect.

And, you know, I've seen a lot of - Leo Cullum actually has a cartoon in the second version, second volume of the Rejection Collection of the - it's the Last Supper. And one of the guys is asking a waiter, he's saying what did Jesus order?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DIFFEE: So it's - yeah, a territory we've all gone down.

STEWART: Have either of you gone down the what-would-Jesus fill in the blank?

Mr. SIPRESS: I never have, but I think after this I'm going to run home and do a whole bunch of them.

Mr. DIFFEE: And I'll get mine in the New Yorker.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Religious humor, is that not their thing?

Mr. DIFFEE: Hmm. I don't know. I sold some, well, I guess, it's about religion, but maybe this one is too specific. I don't know. What do you guys…

Mr. NOTH: I don't think you can name the son of God in a New Yorker cartoon.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DIFFEE: Maybe not. That's the line.

Mr. SIPRESS: Yeah.

STEWART: There you go. Well, David, we're going to talk about yours next. I'm not sure what to make of it, but maybe it will become clear after this.

Mr. DIFFEE: The scene is a ship powered by two rows of slaves. One of the slaves looks at his bare-chested master, wide-eyed, and asks what's a guy got to do to get whipped around here? The overlord's attire bears striking resemblance to a modern S&M garb.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SIPRESS: Well…

STEWART: Is that an accurate portrayal of your work?

Mr. SIPRESS: It's far more elaborate than I could have imagined, but really a wonderful rendition. Yeah.

STEWART: Now is the overlord supposed to have a little S&M get up on?

Mr. SIPRESS: Well, that's - there are kinds of cartoons that are - we call cliches. There are certain scenes that repeat over and over and over in the New Yorker cartoons over the history of the magazine. And one of them is the slave ship. And there have been all kinds of gags done about it. I was concerned that nobody ever focused on the fact that there's an actual S&M situation going on.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SIPRESS: And I thought that was my job to point that out, so…

STEWART: Is that always been your first reaction to this classic setup?

Mr. SIPRESS: I like to look for the things that are just right there, but nobody usually sees because they're more concerned with what the people are saying, and also when I see a whip by, you know…

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Have you ever gotten a cartoon in the New Yorker that did contain a whip?

Mr. SIPRESS: Yes, I have actually, the exact same scene, exactly the same, but the guy, the same guy is looking up at the master, saying, are we there yet?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DIFFEE: This one's better, I think…

Mr. SIPRESS: I think…

Mr. DIFFEE: …but probably worse for the New Yorker.

Mr. SIPRESS: Yeah.

Mr. DIFFEE: (Unintelligible) they chose that.

STEWART: And again, picks up on Matthew's theme of a common phrase, a common saying, put in an absurd situation.

Mr. DIFFEE: Yeah.

STEWART: All right. Paul, we're going to take a look at yours, or should I say to listen to yours. It's a well-known chain restaurant, where - I hear the food's pretty good.

Mr. NOTH: I hear, yeah.

STEWART: Let's listen.

Mr. DIFFEE: Two scantily-clad waitresses are carrying pitchers of beer and a tray of food to a restaurant. They appeared to be working at Hooters. One waitress says to the other: I would never do full nudity unless the menu really called for it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: First of all, you've been to a Hooters?

Mr. NOTH: I've heard about them. Actually, I have once have been to Hooters.

STEWART: And did that make such an impression on you that you knew one day you would draw cartoon about Hooters?

Mr. NOTH: No, I never thought that I would.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NOTH: I think this one's probably came from the idea of an actress doing, you know, saying that I wouldn't nudity unless it was, you know, wasn't (unintelligible) - was part of, you know, the script really called for, you know. And so, I've somehow applied it to Hooters. I have no idea why.

STEWART: We've talked about on the show, in several times, about how you cartoonists submit 10 - 9, 10 cartoons. When you submitted this one, what did you think the chances were - this Hooters cartoon?

Mr. NOTH: I was actually hoping that they would - that they'd buy this one. But then afterwards, it's kind of like, well, I guess, you know, the New Yorker and Hooters can't really exist in the same universe, you know?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NOTH: It just about something that they want to acknowledge, I think. So…

Mr. DIFFEE: Do you actually have the same Hooters on the short and stuff?

Mr. NOTH: Well, not quite, but it's pretty clear that's what it is.

Mr. SIPRESS: If Hooters were a big advertiser for the magazine, perhaps that would…

Mr. NOTH: So that's could fall around…

Mr. DIFFEE: I wonder if is Hooters (unintelligible) New Yorker?

STEWART: It's very close. You kind of left off the H.

Mr. NOTH: Right.

STEWART: Or the girls' chest is so large, the H is obscured.

Mr. NOTH: Right.

Mr. DIFFEE: On the other side of the Earth.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NOTH: So to speak.

Mr. SIPRESS: Ooters.

Mr. NOTH: Yeah.

STEWART: It's their ooters. Matthew, did they shy away from cartoons that have name brands? Is that an issue? Have you noticed?

Mr. DIFFEE: I don't know for sure. I think, sometimes it does have to do with the advertising stuff.

STEWART: Hmm.

Mr. DIFFEE: It's that - you guys understand that?

Mr. NOTH: Yeah, absolutely.

Mr. SIPRESS: Yes, it's what it has to do.

Mr. DIFFEE: Sometimes it's a good thing, I think, even.

Mr. NOTH: Yeah.

STEWART: Have you been able to ever slip an advertiser in or some sort of product in?

Mr. DIFFEE: I did one that was, you know, up the street, we have the Algonquin Round Table, which is famous for its literary circle…

STEWART: Dr. Parker.

Mr. DIFFEE: Yeah. So I did one of - I don't know if I'll remember which hotel I chose to use, but the hotel I chose to use, it was a bunch of redneck, sort of comedians like with hats that said kissed my bass, and the Garth Brooks tour shirts. And so was the uncelebrated comics. I don't remember - I shouldn't have been started the story. I don't remember this caption five years ago. Do you remember it?

Mr. NOTH: I remember it. I think it was the Radisson Roundtable.

Mr. DIFFEE: The Radisson roundtable. But the idea was that there was a lower level of humor being done, but than it turned out that they were an advertiser.

STEWART: Oops.

Mr. DIFFEE: And are no longer an advertiser.

Mr. SIPRESS: Oh, wow.

Mr. NOTH: I did a Starbucks once. That's easy to get in there. There are people in the Starbucks and the guy is saying are we in this Starbucks or the one down the street? Yeah…

Mr. SIPRESS: That's a good one.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: I remember that one. When you, Paul, when you do these cartoons, is it the - does the saliva line(ph) come first or the picture. I know it is an obvious question, but I'm curious.

Mr. NOTH: It's an, if it's an image first, I still write it down before I draw it. So usually I'm writing down words before I'm drawing.

STEWART: How about you, Matthew?

Mr. DIFFEE: Yeah, it's always the words first.

Mr. NOTH: Sort of half and half, for me.

Mr. DIFFEE: So you sometimes draw a drawing and then think of something funny for one of…

Mr. NOTH: I give myself my own caption contest.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NOTH: I look at a drawing or - and try to come up with the character.

STEWART: Finally, do you guys ever enter that caption contest in the back of the magazine under (unintelligible)?

Mr. NOTH: I'm not allowed to.

Mr. DIFFEE: Yeah.

Mr. NOTH: I was - I've wanted to…

STEWART: Well, why - after they have to stop you, just because you're not allowed to?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DIFFEE: I actually forced myself not to go down that path because then I'm writing a caption, spending time writing a caption that I can't really use. But David, you do it, right?

Mr. NOTH: No.

Mr. DIFFEE: As part of your writing process. You don't?

Mr. NOTH: Oh, no. I never have entered that contest.

Mr. DIFFEE: No, I mean. That's just like - it's a sort of writing warm-up…

Mr. NOTH: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And you do that?

Mr. SIPRESS: I did that too. In fact, I did one that I sold. And it's actually just similar picture to the one - to (unintelligible). And they had to (unintelligible)…

Mr. DIFFEE: We should publish a book of our captions to the caption contest…

STEWART: There you go.

Mr. DIFFEE: …it would probably anti-climactic though. We're not…

STEWART: I think you're pretty funny. Matthew, Paul and David, thanks for sharing your rejected cartoons. We liked them.

Mr. NOTH: Thank you.

Mr. SIPRESS: Thanks.

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Diffee Cartoon
Courtesy of Matthew Diffee
Noth Cartoon
Courtesy of Paul Noth
Sipress Cartoon
Courtesy of David Sipress

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