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Robert Mankoff on Cartoons Making the Cut

A business man looks at his calendar while speaking on the phone and says, "No, Thursday's out.  How about never - is never good for you?"

This snarky line comes from Robert Mankoff's most popular cartoon for the New Yorker magazine from 1993. 


It gives you a hint at what his talk will be like later this week at the AHA Festival, an annual event that celebrates creativity.

He presents "I Only Read It for the Cartoons: An Insider's Cartoon History of the New Yorker." 


Serving as the cartoon editor for the New Yorker between 1997 and 2017, Mankoff developed a refined sense of what makes a cartoon funny. 

He understands that all the best cartoons are a combination of two things.

"The cartoons are both timely and timeless," Mankoff said.


Between 1974 and 1977 Mankoff submitted thousands of cartoons to no avail.

"For many years I submitted to the New Yorker 20 or 30 cartoons a week before I finally got my first cartoon in," he said.

Hundreds of cartoonists from all across the country continue to submit to the magazine each week, and there are lots of variables that go into deciding which cartoons make it in.

"Maybe an editor changes, maybe the batch of cartoons that come in, the thousand cartoons from which they would select the 17 weren't quite as good that week.  So your competition was a little lower," he said.


Currently Mankoff serves as humor editor for Esquire magazine while working on an historic compilation of the best New Yorker cartoons from that magazine's archive.

"I think what we want to do with these two volumes, which will be the biggest compilation ever of New Yorker cartoons, is just give people delight," he said.

Listen to the full interview:  

Robert Mankoff presents "I Only Read It for the Cartoons: An Insider's Cartoon History of the New Yorker" Friday at 10am at Cleveland State University for the AHA Festival.

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