The perfect New Yorker cartoon
My friend Casey shared on Facebook the cool news that one of his friends had a cartoon published in the latest issue of The New Yorker, the holy grail of publications that feature cartoons (at least in my eyes!). It reminds me of this wonderful essay by the New Yorker Cartoon editor Bob Mankoff on what he considers to be “the perfect cartoon” which was drawn by Chon Day in 1946 (seen above) and selected from the thousands published in their magazine. At first glance I found it relatively unexceptional, but the brilliance of the cartoon, as Mankoff explains, is the subtlety of its dark humor which is achieved with a high degree of difficulty.
First of all, consider the degree of difficulty. Single-panel cartoons without any words are the hardest to come up with. Fewer than five percent of the submissions I see as cartoon editor are captionless, and most of those are more whimsical than outright funny.
Then there’s longevity. This cartoon from 1946 still gets laughs by letting us indulge our aggressive, even violent impulses without any guilt.
I posted here earlier this year about one of my favorite little bits of New Yorker cartoon trivia which involves film critic Roger Ebert.