Insomnia Jeopardy and other yuks

While the tagline for this blog is “One blogger’s appreciation of beauty in all its guises”, most of my posts have addressed pieces of music and art and I’ve contributed only one entry to the “Beauty in Laughter” category; today, I’ll add a second.

It occurred to me recently that it will be ten years (!!) ago this week that I flew to Los Angeles to be a contestant on Jeopardy!, fulfilling a dream that dated back to the days of a Brylcreemed Art Fleming.  So it was a bit of a karmic moment when this cartoon by the inimitable Roz Chast popped up in my Instagram feed yesterday.Insomnia Jeopardy

The cartoon originally appeared in The New Yorker‘s December 8, 2008 issue, just over two months after the Dow’s late September nosedive ushered in the Great Recession.  It was a time of national angst and uncertainty, feelings that are, perhaps, even more apt today, what with the coronavirus pandemic, a floundering economy, racial strife, and an increasingly unhinged, orange-skinned individual in the Oval Office.  I myself have had several nights of insomnia over the last several months, though my Insomnia Jeopardy categories are different (“I’ll take ‘Will Trump Win Wisconsin Again?!?’ for $600, Alex!”).

I’ve been a regular reader of The New Yorker for about 30 years now, and the cartoons are always a source of amusement.  That several strokes of a pen coupled with some well-chosen words can be such a genuine source of delight is a wonderful thing.  With the hope that they’ll elicit a smile or maybe even a guffaw or two, here are some favorites from over the years.


berlitz (2)
Another Chast gem.  She has an uncanny knack for nailing the absurdities of slice-of-life rituals and experiences.  (Originally published in the November 15, 1999 issue.)
Bruce E. Kaplan.   (Originally published in the June 9, 2003 issue).


Charles Barsotti.  (Originally published in the April 28, 2008 issue).
This cartoon by Liza Donnelly was used in the magazine’s weekly caption contest.  The winning caption–near and dear to my heart, as I share the sentiment–was supplied by Tim Paradis of New London, New Hampshire and appeared in the June 4, 2012 issue.
Robert Weber.  (Originally published in the March 9, 1998 issue).
Returning to a Jeopardy theme, this time by Buck Brown.  (Originally published in the August 19, 1996 issue).
Tom Toro.  (Originally published in the May 20, 2012 issue).
I used this Marisa Acocella winner as a screensaver on my computer for several weeks after I first encountered it.  (Originally published in the August 7, 2000 issue).
Osso bucco
An all-time favorite by Jack Ziegler.  I share the customer’s irritation with restaurants that fail to proofread their menus.  (Originally published in the June 3, 2002 issue).

I’ve opened with Chast and I’ll close with Chast. Her 2014 graphic memoir, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? won a National Book Critics Circle Award and was shortlisted for the National Book Award. It’s her account of caring for her aging parents and she manages to immerse the reader in both hilarity and heartbreak on nearly every  page.




  • I so enjoyed this! Remember the feature in Reader’s Digest: “Laughter is the Best Medicine!”? Laughter IS beautiful, especially in a troubled world. Thanks for this amusing lift!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do, indeed, remember the Laughter Is The Best Medicine feature in the Digest! The magazine was based for a time in the town in which I grew up (Pleasantville, NY), so there were always issues lying around the house.

      Liked by 1 person

  • “Can’t we talk about something more pleasant?” makes me think of something my mom said yesterday on our now-weekly big family Zoom calls. She’d been avoiding calling her sister (and only remaining sibling, nothing COVID-related or that recent) because apparently that entire branch of my mom’s family are fans of the Toddler-in-Chief. It’s so frightening to me that some people can’t see through that guy. I think Mom is going to call her sister soon and just avoid the subject, but man these are tough times.

    I was thinking about your Jeopardy appearance recently, probably because we were watching some of the wonderful reruns they’ve been doing of earlier decades and events. I have also been thinking about our time in Germany, which is closing in on 40 years ago. That’s an entire parent-aged person (from our perspective then) ago.

    It’s also easy right now for me to think back on college, and freshman year, because my youngest kid is now beginning freshman year virtually. Yesterday and today have been “orientation,” which is a whole different thing when everyone is doing it from home. We have changed things in our office so it can be his college away from college and we won’t need to access it except when he’s not using it. If you think way back to when you were here, we had a dining room to the right of the front door. Over time, we had stopped using it as a dining room, because an office was needed more. Back in 2011 we added space to the back of the house which included a new dining room and extra family room space. We are so glad right now, when trying to start a kid off right “in” college, that we had made a true office and gained more space. Because where did MY office have to go? The new dining room, of course! Anyway, in the time of COVID, my poor kid didn’t get to meet someone in pre-freshman orientation to still be friends with 40-some years later.

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    • I, too, have family members who, after all that’s happened in the last 3 1/2 years, are still supporting the Toddler-in-Chief (I like that moniker, by the way)…as you note, it is so very frightening.

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  • Thanks for the humor Jeanne, I usually flip through the cartoons first when the New Yorker arrives. But I was hoping you had a way to deal with my insomnia! And that was quite an accomplishment to make it on Jeopardy!

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    • I haven’t cracked the insomnia nut yet, Mary! It appears so randomly. I promise to share any revelations that might be forthcoming. : )

      Liked by 1 person

  • My two favourites, those that brought forth a chuckle, are the Marisa Acocella bathing costume and the pedantic diner below.
    Speedo, as I’m sure you are aware, was founded in Sydney in 1914. The roots of pedanticism go back much further.*
    The Roz Chast memoir sounds worth checking out.
    To the best of my knowledge, there has never been an Australian version of Jeopardy, so most Aussies are unfamiliar with the finer points of the game. But the principal I understand. Let me check.
    $100 – This year
    Ans: What is the most crap year in living memory?
    Is that the general idea?
    * Yes, I just made that up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did NOT know that Speedo was founded in Sydney; what a great fact, and how could I possibly not have known that? Fitting, though, that I’ve learned it from an Aussie! ; ) The Chast memoir is fabulous in every way; there might be a few cultural references that aren’t familiar, but the ups and downs of aging parents are surely universal. You’re spot on with the way Jeopardy! works: the question posed is actually the answer and the answer the contestant has to give is a question. Re: the pedantic diner. I neglected to mention in the caption that, earlier this year, I received a promotional flyer, from a local restaurant, that was filled with typos and grammatical faux pas. I corrected them all, included a cover letter, and sent everything back. I realize this makes me….something….crazy?; pitiful?; compulsive to a fault?…all of the above? But boy, did it make me feel good!

      Liked by 1 person

  • The Speedo limit 21 is also my favorite. I believe it applies almost equally to body-hugging lycra in the gym, but most especially for men. ;^)

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