What I’m Reading: A Wealth of Pigeons

A Wealth of Pigeons is a new book of New Yorker-style cartoons by Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin) and actual New Yorker cartoonist Harry Bliss. Apparently, despite his long career in stand-up, sketch TV, movies, even novels (and more), Steve has always been impressed or perhaps intimidated by cartoonists, and their ability to capture a funny idea in a single panel.

Thus, in this book, he collaborates with Harry Bliss in an attempt to conquer this final frontier of comedy. I have a couple collections of New Yorker cartoons (on the topics of teachers and Charles Addams), and this is very much presented in that style, down to the square-shape of the book itself. And a few of the cartoons are quite funny. Here’s my favorite:

Pretty good, right? I think it’s the smug look on Archimedes’ face that really makes this one. Although the comically over-sized zipper is a nice touch, as well.

Unfortunately, most of the cartoons aren’t up to this level. I mean, I’m sure there were some I didn’t care for that you would like, and vice-versa, but overall, I think with most of these, if Steve Martin had actually sent them to the New Yorker, they would send a letter back along the lines of “This one didn’t quite do it for us, but keep trying, you’re very talented!” There are just a lot of near misses.

There are also a lot of dog cartoons. Really, a lot. And in most of them the dog looks the same. Perhaps either Steve’s or Harry’s dog is a recurring guest star? I get that you’re sitting there trying to come up with ideas, and your dog is right there staring at you. But if your next idea is for another dog cartoon, keep searching.

I’m sorry to be so hard on this book. It’s actually pretty likeable. You’re not going to read it and hate it. But I can’t quite recommend this. I don’t think the majority of these would ever have seen the light of day if Steve Martin weren’t already famous as a comedian. Maybe I’ll go and get out my Charles Addams New Yorker cartoon collection. Now that’s funny.

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