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A couple of years before The New Yorker’s longtime art editor, and brief cartoon editor, Lee Lorenz left the magazine, George Plimpton asked for his help assembling a portfolio of cartoons—and descriptions of the thought processes behind them—for The Paris Review’s unofficial humor issue (no. 136, Fall 1995). Among the younger cartoonists Lorenz suggested for “The Birth of a Notion: Cartoonists Have Their Say” was a fellow named Bob Mankoff, who contributed the cartoon above. Two years after the issue was published, Mankoff was made the cartoon editor of The New Yorker, a position from which he’ll soon be stepping down. Below, is Mankoff’s take on the practice of cartooning:
Every week I draw about ten cartoons (the batch) to be submitted to The New Yorker for their Tuesday afternoon art meeting. If one of the batch is selected for publication by the powers that be, it’s a good week (A batting average of .100 in the cartoon field will put you in the “Cartoon Hall of Fame.”)
One never knows when a good idea will appear. And this time it happened after I had drawn my quota and was hurrying through my morning ablutions. I was in the shower when the phrase “I’m terrible with names” just popped into my head along with the notion that if someone says this while introducing himself, rather than someone else, it would be funny. The New Yorker bought that idea while rejecting the other ten.
Jeffery Gleaves is digital director of The Paris Review.