Part glib memoir and part cartoon anthology from the cartoon editor for the New Yorker.
The most fascinating part takes readers inside the process of just how these cartoons are inspired, created and selected for publication. Mankoff (The Naked Cartoonist: Ways to Enhance Your Creativity, 2002) knows how tough it can be for an artist to achieve that career pinnacle and what an honor it is to be a regular contributor—particularly now that so many other publications that might have provided a similar market for cartoonists have either folded or no longer use the drawings. It’s also a precarious position: “I think every cartoonist—indeed, everyone who’s funny for money—fears that either they’ll stop being funny or whoever decides what’s funny will think they have. Little did I know that one day I’d be in the whoever role.” Breezy text alternates with lots of cartoons—the author’s own and others'—as he details how he went from years of being rejected by the New Yorker to his early acceptances to his current role as a gatekeeper. As Mankoff notes, the magazine makes that gate difficult to penetrate, with those under contract expected to deliver 10 or so cartoons every week so that maybe one might be selected. After starting from that prescreened 1,000 per week, he writes, “eventually I cull the pile down to fifty or so” and then take those to the weekly Wednesday meeting, where editor David Remnick will ultimately pass judgment on which 17 or so will be published. Mankoff offers a number of tips on the “intelligent humor” that makes it into the New Yorker—and even how to better your odds in the weekly caption process—but the one that trumps all others: “Make David Remnick laugh.”
Those who aspire to a career drawing for the New Yorker will find this essential reading—or just give up.