Day 167: The Anatomy of a New Yorker cartoon

After being kicked out of psychology school, Bob Mankoff submitted over 2000 cartoons to the ‘New Yorker.’ Each one was rejected. Now he is the cartoon editor and in this talk, shares the stories behind some of the publication’s cartoons.
Mankoff explains why the ‘New Yorker’ is such a sensitive environment, with complaints about everything from the elderly to animals depicted in cartoons. When it comes to humour, he tells us, 75% success rate is the best one can hope for.
Eventually, Mankoff sold a cartoon to the magazine and was given a contract in 1980. At no point in the contract was the word, ‘cartoon’ mentioned. Instead, they were called ‘idea drawings’ and this is the sine qua non of the New Yorker.
There are many books of cartoons which were rejected from the New Yorker, and Mankoff explains why these are humorous to those who are already in a state of arousal. The New Yorker demands cognitive work on our part; cartoons demand bisociation, or the bringing together of ideas from different frames of reference. To understand the cartoon fully, these ideas need to come together in 0.5 seconds.


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