New Yorker cartoons explained by editor Bob Mankoff: watch. (VIDEO)

New Yorker Cartoons Explained

New Yorker Cartoons Explained

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Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
July 1 2013 4:39 PM

New Yorker Cartoons Explained

Bob Mankoff is the cartoon editor for The New Yorker. He is also a cartoonist himself, who was rejected 2,000 times by the magazine, he says, before it finally accepted one of his own. (This was before he got the current job, obviously.) He later wrote “How about never—is never good for you?” among other classics.

In the TED talk below, delivered earlier this year and uploaded to YouTube last week, he attempts to explain what a New Yorker cartoon is (the term the magazine uses in its contracts is not cartoon but “idea drawing”) and what makes them work, when they do.

There’s quite a bit of stand-up mixed in with the presentation, but any fan of New Yorker cartoons will likely find it illuminating. And you will probably finish it feeling pretty excited for Very Semi-Serious, a documentary about New Yorker cartoons currently in production.


David Haglund is the literary editor of