A Cartoonist Savors His Favorite Art for The New Yorker


When Bob Mankoff announced last week that he was stepping down as cartoon editor of The New Yorker after 20 years, some people reached for the obvious, if not necessarily New Yorker-worthy, jokes.

“Huge news for refrigerators everywhere,” one blogger wrote. Other fans hailed a “last laugh.”

But while Mr. Mankoff, 72, may be leaving the magazine, he’s hardly retiring. He will be teaching a course about humor and communication at Fordham University. He’ll continue to consult on the Cartoon Bank, a licensing platform he founded in 1992. He’ll also be working on Botnik Studios, a company he’s creating with the comedy writer Jamie Brew that explores using artificial intelligence to augment creativity. (Mr. Mankoff, a former graduate student in experimental psychology, has already collaborated with a Microsoft researcher on an algorithm that can sort through the flood of entries to the magazine’s weekly cartoon caption contest.)

And of course Mr. Mankoff — the de-facto star of the 2015 documentary “Very Semi-Serious: A Partially Thorough Portrait of New Yorker Cartoonists” — will be contributing to the magazine, though he’s already bracing himself for brutal competition from the many younger cartoonists he has mentored.

“I’ve gotten some very nice emails from some of them saying, ‘Now that you’re submitting, you are my mortal enemy,’” Mr. Mankoff said in a telephone interview. “I think I might have to steal all the ideas that have been sent to me over the years.”

He’s kidding, though with him it can sometimes be hard to tell. “My mantra is to leave no joke unjoked,” he said. “I just feel that being funny is being awake.”


We talked with Mr. Mankoff, who officially departs at the end of April, about some of his favorites from among the hundreds of his own cartoons that have appeared in The New Yorker, “wonky humor theory” and that time he discovered that one of his punch lines had been repurposed on a thong. The excerpts here have been edited and condensed.

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