In this digital age, cartoons as a focal point for political and social humor, have begun to fade as important contributors to the pubic discourse.  That is too bad.  Talented artists with keen eyes and sharp wits can help us see the wonders of irony, the humor in our relationships, and the folly of our ways.

The New Yorker has long been a leader in supporting this type of commentary.  It continues as an integral part of their weekly magazine.  Thank goodness, for in these rapidly changing, less-than-tolerant, hyper-partisan times, we need to be able to step back, see the humor in what we say and do, and regain a more balanced perspective.

In the May 7 edition, the magazine featured several cartoons, which struck a chord with me:

  • A woman is sitting on her sofa watching an oversized flat screen TV.   The announcer for a pharmaceutical commercial says, “Ask your doctor if taking a pill that solves all of your problems is right for you.”
  • An out-of-work executive is sitting on the edge of a flowerbed outside an office building, having a box lunch with a woman.  Disconsolate, apparently fresh from yet another interview, he laments, “Whatever the economy is doing, it is doing it without me.”
  • A woman is trying on a dress.  It is an austere design reflecting pre-historic times, something you might expect to see in the cartoon strip, “B.C.”  It is sleeveless, perhaps made from rough-hewn animal skin.  One shoulder is exposed and the hem frayed.  In her hand is a tree trunk fashioned into a club.  The sales clerk explains the look: “This spring we expect the fashion pendulum to swing back to the basics.”
  • Two dogs lying on the floor facing one another, are engaged in a political discussion.  One says,  “I would not be opposed to a cat tax.”

And finally,

  • A man and a woman, a couple, are standing at a cocktail party when she suddenly remarks, “Oh great – here comes my ex.  Try not to act so bald.”

This last caption struck a chord with me because it touched on one of the interesting aspects of recruiting.  In telephone interviews, recruiters try not to form a mind’s eye view of the candidate’s appearance because it is seldom accurate.  I try to keep a blank slate in the image department so I can focus on the nuances of their answers, but it is almost impossible to do so.  In follow up face-to-face interviews, I confess that I have been surprised, and stunned, more than once.

A colleague from a competing firm who does not meet the candidate’s before she submits them to the client, related the following story:

She was interviewing a CFO candidate for a 170-bed public hospital.  The candidate’s answers, from time to time, were a bit quirky, but clearly he was very bright and very knowledgeable of hospital finance, accounting, reimbursement, and revenue cycle.  His work history and record of accomplishment was impressive.  He was a star candidate so she submitted him.  Following the candidate’s site visit, the client called to say that while the candidate was indeed very bright and appeared capable, they were uncomfortable with his appearance.  It seemed that he had a very pointed skull and was bald except for a thick band of hair – an inch in width – that circled his head just above his ears.  The CEO firmly chastised the startled recruiter for submitting such an off-putting candidate, irrespective of his experience and skills.

More than just a little irritated by the client’s preoccupation with appearance in the face of his overwhelming qualifications and sold track record, she responded: “Well, he didn’t sound bald on the phone.”

© 2012 John Gregory Self