New Yorker Cartoon Editor Bob Mankoff Reveals the Secret of a Successful New Yorker Cartoon

A friend of mine rails against the New York­er’s week­ly car­toon cap­tion con­test, insist­ing that while the read­er-sub­mit­ted entries are uni­ver­sal­ly bad, the win­ner is always the weak­est of the lot.

I dis­agree, agog at peo­ple’s clev­er­ness. Any line I come up with feels too obvi­ous or too obscure. Unlike my friend, I nev­er feel I could do bet­ter.

Car­toon edi­tor Bob Mankof­f’s recent TED Talk offers some key insights into what the mag­a­zine is look­ing for (incon­gruity, dis­po­si­tion­al humor, cog­ni­tive mash ups), as well as what it’s not inter­est­ed in (gross-out jokes, mild child-cen­tered can­ni­bal­ism) He also cites for­mer con­trib­u­tor and author of my father’s favorite New York­er car­toon, E.B. White on the futil­i­ty of ana­lyz­ing humor.

Fre­quent con­trib­u­tor Matthew Dif­fee’s short  satir­i­cal film Being Bob sug­gests Mankoff edi­to­r­i­al selec­tions owe much to gut response (and a jerk­ing knee). Such intu­ition is hard won. Mankoff glee­ful­ly alludes to the 2000 rejec­tion let­ters he him­self received between 1974 and 1977, fol­low­ing an uncer­e­mo­ni­ous dis­missal from psy­chol­o­gy school. Then, final­ly, he got his first accep­tance.

That accep­tance let­ter is some­thing to see.

Ayun Hal­l­i­day used Charles Bar­sotti’s New York­er car­toon of a danc­ing bird as her high­school year­book’s senior say­ing. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The New Yorker’s Fic­tion Pod­cast: Where Great Writ­ers Read Sto­ries by Great Writ­ers

Improv with New York­er Car­toon­ists

Einstein’s Rel­a­tiv­i­ty: An Ani­mat­ed New York­er Car­toon

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.