“Observational humor” refers to the technique of noticing something that all of us see or experience, but finding in it humor that the rest of us might not have seen. By that standard, Dan Celli qualifies as an “observational cartoonist.” Celli takes the mundane task of ordering a meal, for example, and turns it into a suicide announcement. He turns a comment about the strength of a hairspray into an invitation for a punch in the head and stretches a conversation between bad barbers into a can-you-top-this of awful outcomes.
Many of the cartoons will prompt a chuckle, such as the panel featuring two elderly men, one saying to the other, “You know what I miss about my youth?…Making fun of old people!” The problem Celli faces is the problem that all humorists face: What’s funny to one person isn’t to another. So while some will undoubtedly find these cartoons insightful, fresh and humorous, others will be left wondering why they can’t see the humor in a particular cartoon. (For example, one cartoon that this reviewer looked at again and again with puzzlement features a view of three sitting people at a table titled “After-Dinner Silence.”) This isn’t a criticism of Celli’s cartoons per se as much as it is full disclosure that readers might find themselves often pondering a cartoon, rather than fighting tears of laughter.
But even when Celli misses hitting the funny bone, his drawings show off some real artistic ability. These may not be the quality of cartoons you expect from, say, The New Yorker, but there are some high points here, and a few of the cartoons could end up on the bulletin boards of readers who appreciate their clever insights into everyday things.
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