Entertainment

Steve Martin’s new book reveals the secret life of animals

“I’ve always looked at cartooning as comedy’s last frontier,” writes Steve Martin in the introduction to his new book. “I have done stand-up, sketches, movies, monologues, awards show introductions, sound bites, blurbs, talk show appearances and tweets, but the idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me. I felt like yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are ACTUALLY funny.”

At a cocktail party one night, he happened to meet Francoise Mouly, the art and cover editor of the New Yorker. He mentioned that he had a cartoon idea; she put him in touch with Harry Bliss, a cartoonist and cover artist for the New Yorker.

A collaboration was born.

“Harry Bliss turned out to be the ideal partner,” writes Martin. “We rarely speak to each other, and we live in different states.”

Sometimes Martin would send him an idea for the cartoon, and Bliss would execute it; other times, Bliss would send Martin a fully sketched cartoon that was ready for Martin’s caption.

Over the course of a year, the two collaborated on over 150 cartoons, and, as Martin writes, “our work evolved from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.”

A Wealth of Pigeons: A Cartoon Collection” (Celadon Books), out now, showcases the talents of both men. In one cartoon, two dogs are dining together at a fancy restaurant. They are drinking wine. “Then, when I got a little money, I said, I’m never eating off the ground again,” one dog is explaining to the other.

In another, two parents watch as their toddler rides a unicycle through their apartment. “Encourage or discourage?”

A cocktail party of turkeys comes to a halt when a peacock makes a big, showy entrance: “Oh great, THIS guy,” says one turkey to the other.

The book is filled with cartoons that are by turns gloriously silly and clever, with the trademark Martin goof viewers have come to expect from him over his decades in entertainment.

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