What if you spent every day looking for One Beautiful Thing?

The Failed Zoologist


Will McPhail

Cartoons in The New Yorker have fascinated me since I was a child. I always wondered what kind of fancy, literary/artistic background must they have to come up with such brilliant, perfectly-paired words and images. Today’s artist is shedding a little (confusing) light on that question. Will McPhail’s cartoons appear weekly in That August Publication, and I just learned that he has a degree in zoology.

“I don’t really have any artistic qualifications. I… studied zoology at university. Because when you ask a seventeen-year-old what they want to do with their life, they always make the correct decision. Thirty grand and four years of my life is a small price to pay for the three armadillo facts that I now know. I’ve drawn all my life, though. Or at least as long as I’ve known about pencils.”

– Will McPhail

Whatever his training, McPhail has a magical way of getting inside his subjects, especially the animal ones, to find the deep, unexpected funny. He says he spends loads of time in public places, observing people and getting ideas. However he does it, it’s certainly working for him.

My second assumption about New Yorker cartoonists is that they all live in fantastic, slightly tatty rent controlled apartments in pre-war buildings somewhere in Manhattan. Nope. Wrong again. McPhail lives in… wait for it… Scotland. It’s like I don’t know anything. Next, I’ll find out that the members of the Algonquin Round Table used to go to their fabled gatherings wearing pajama bottoms and stained t-shirts. (If that is true, please do not tell me.)

You can see more of Will McPhail’s phenomenal work on his website and on Instagram and Twitter.

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When I was a kid we used to frequent this water park called “Waves” that had waves, but this story isn’t about the waves. Also, this story has nothing to do with the cartoon above. I just remembered it today and haven’t spoken to a person yet. Aside from the waves that gave “Waves” it’s iconic name, there was this water slide that started out like your standard tubular deal but then as a climax you were shot into this huge cavernous bowl-like structure with a hole in the bottom. It operated on the exact principle of those coin spiral things. Except I, my friends, was the coin! A little slippery penny of a boy! I loved it because amid the chaos and the chlorine of the water park the bowl was a brief moment of beautiful quiet solitude where it was just me again. Sometimes I think that I have never been happier than when I was inside that bowl. But HERE is where the story turns sour. One weekend me and the guys were putting out the vibe in the shallow end when I, hiding my desperation, suggested we hit up the bowl slide. The idiots took the bait and before long ya boy’s feet first sliding towards his wet oasis. The tube opened up and suddenly I was back where I belonged. But something wasn’t right. It felt different. I wasn’t alone. Skirting round to the far side of my beloved bowl I peered over my shoulder and confirmed my fear. There were other pennies in here. Three little kids somehow perched on the very brim of the bowl. Knees up around their chins. Silent. Staring at me. I stared back frozen in horror. Our gaze never broke as I circled the hole and eventually toppled through backwards. My friends soon followed behind me and without verbally deciding it, we headed back to the changing rooms. They too must have had their moment with the children in the bowl. But none of us ever spoke of it.

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Happy Women’s Day!

A post shared by Will McPhail (@willmcphail4) on

Author: Donna from MyOBT

I have committed to spending part of every day looking for at least one beautiful thing, and sharing what I find with you lovelies!

10 thoughts on “The Failed Zoologist

  1. Happy Monday Donna! It’s nice to start the week with a chuckle.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. He is good.I needed some of these today. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Donna has done it again. Started my day with a smile. Yes, he is very good. Hal

    Liked by 1 person

  4. These are hilarious! I like the ones that take a different perspective on things – like the pigeon – but the one that made me laugh the most was the one with the two lizards. I literally snorted. I am going to follow along on Instagram for a regular dose of fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, he’s a riot! Good Catholic girl that I am–that last one totally cracked me up!

    Liked by 1 person

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