In this week's New Yorker magazine, funny guy Joe Dator has a cartoon about New York, King Kong, and cupcake shops. He sent it to me, I loved it, and asked him some questions about it. (Also, as a frequent rejectee of the esteemed magazine, I am inwardly thrilled to have helped inspire a New Yorker cartoon.)
click here to buy it at the New Yorker cartoon bank
What inspired you to do this cartoon?
Well, aside from being desperate for ideas that day, I can thank JVNY for getting me thinking about the rapid outbreak of cupcake shops in this city. I'd been reading your posts about the cupcake blitzkreig for some time and it seemed like a good starting point for a cartoon. I'm also a huge fan of the original 1933 King Kong, and somehow the two things collided in my head and it made sense. That last bit is the hard part.
I'm always looking for ideas that are New York specific. I live here, and as a native son I feel it's my province to do cartoons that are really about the city. If you look at my track record only a handful have gotten in to the New Yorker, but I'm the most proud of those.
What do you have against cupcakes--aren't they just little dollops of joy and love?
Cupcakes are just a symbol for the shiny Bloomberg-ized, Carrie Bradshaw-defined boutique city New York is turning into. I grew up during the 1970s, when the old New York--"King Kong's New York" if you like--was still very much in evidence, and would be well into the 90s. Like you, I've watched, often in horror, and particularly over the last decade, as the city has been transformed into something nearly unrecognizable and sadly lacking in character.
I certainly have nothing against the cupcakes themselves. Shortly after I handed this cartoon in, I tried a Magnolia cupcake for the first time. It was good. I suppose I could have written "Twas Marc Jacobs killed the beast," but cupcakes was funnier, and it won't get me sued.
New Yorker cartoons have a reputation for being "hard to get." In yours, how exactly did cupcake places kill King Kong? Did he die from eating too many cupcakes or did the presence of so many cupcake shops in the city take away his will to live? Was this a suicide?
I don't get the "I don't get it" thing. It seems to hearken back to an older image of what a New Yorker cartoon is--like some kind of esoteric doodle--but the cartoonists there now are doing, in my opinion, some brilliant and edgy stuff. When I see my contemporaries' work in the magazine these days I see some very sharp, very funny satire. There's nothing not to get. I guess I blame that "Seinfeld" episode, which people are always quoting to me, and I always take great pleasure in telling them that a New Yorker cartoonist wrote it. (Yes, it's true--Bruce Eric Kaplan.)
But to answer your question about how New York being overrun with cupcake shops, and the (designer) baggage that goes with them, can kill a 25-foot-tall ape, it is in much the same way that "beauty" did him in before--by breaking his heart.
Is that too corny? OK, then he slipped on a goddamn cupcake.
Further cupcake-related reading:
How the Cupcake Crumbled
Make Way for Sprinkles