May Book Review

May 10, 2017 · Eric Schares

With the?recent?news?that Bob Mankoff stepped down as cartoon editor of the?New Yorker?magazine at the end of April, it seems an appropriate time to revisit his 2014 memoir,?How About Never?Is Never Good For You??This is a thorough and very entertaining look into the world of?New Yorker?cartoons. The title comes from the caption of Mankoff?s?best-known cartoon, which shows a businessman on a phone trying (though not too hard) to set up an appointment.

The book spends its first chapters detailing Mankoff?s childhood, upbringing, early years as a cartoonist, and eventual rise to cartoon editor; as he says, you can?t write memoir without?moi. However, it also contains over 300 cartoons dating back to the 1900s and chapters on related topics such as the development of artists, selection of cartoons, and psychology of humor. There is also a chapter on how to win the?New Yorker?s?beloved back-page caption contest, or at least how to improve your chances microscopically.

Mankoff takes the reader on a short trip back in time to study the history of cartoons in magazines and profiles long time contributors such as Roz Chast, Jack Zeigler, and Bruce Eric Kaplan. He describes the work of a cartoon editor and the balance that must be taken in encouraging new and upcoming artists while still running cartoons from more established ones.

To submit to the magazine, cartoonists attend an open call at the?New Yorker?offices each week and deliver a ?batch? of 10 or so cartoons to Mankoff himself. If a cartoonist is lucky the magazine might buy one, but more often Mankoff rejects each submission outright; cartoonists often go for months without selling one. Interestingly, in the past the?New Yorker?often bought the idea or caption only and handed the actual drawing off to a more experienced cartoonist, though the magazine now emphasizes ?all-in-one? cartoonists.

Mankoff is now the cartoon editor at?Esquire?magazine, tasked with reviving the cartooning tradition at that publication. In all, his memoir is a very enjoyable, unique book detailing not only the life of Bob Mankoff in particular, but the mysterious world of?New Yorker?cartoons as a whole.

Related works:

Koppel, T.? (1997, December 12).??Nightline: Drawing laughter: The cartoonists of the New Yorker magazine?[Television broadcast].? Washington, DC: ABC News Productions.? Retrieved from?

Mankoff, R. (2004).?The complete cartoons of the New Yorker / edited by Robert Mankoff; foreword by David Remnick.?New York: Black Dog & Leventhal: Distributed by Workman Pub.

Mankoff, R. (2014).?How about never-- is never good for you? : My life in cartoons. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company.

The?New Yorker?cartoon caption board game. (2006). All Things Equal, Inc.

Wolchok, L. (Director). (2014).?Very semi-serious: A partially thorough portrait of New Yorker cartoonists?[Motion picture]. United States: Redora Films.