David Remnick: I think one of the hardest things that we’ve got at the New Yorker to sustain and keep better in is humor.
I once took Roger Angel out to lunch. Roger is a writer who has been at the magazine for a very, very long time. He’s in his eighties. And I said, “You know Roger, I’ve been doing this for a couple of years, and it’s easier for me to get somebody to go sleep on the ground in Sudan and dodge bullets in Afghanistan than it is to get something authentically funny.”
And he nodded and he said, “Well that’s very interesting because you are now the fifth editor of the New Yorker to tell me this, beginning with Harold Ross.”
And it’s true. It’s true. Not that being a foreign correspondent or dealing with danger is any small thing. But humor at the highest level, whether it’s Saul Steinberg, or S.J. Perlman, or David Sedaris, or whatever, is a very, very rare, rare thing.
Now as far as cartoons are concerned, you deal with the cartoons that come in and then select among those. And I work very closely among Bob Mankoff, the cartoon editor, in doing that.
The difficult thing there is getting young cartoonists. We have any number of cartoonists who are of middle age, late middle age and older; but it’s tough to make a living as a cartoonist. I think a lot of the people that might think of becoming a cartoonist do other things which are a hell of a lot more remunerative. We have some cartoonist who are in Hollywood, like Kaplan. Somebody like Roz Chast is able to do what she does and do more with it in the art world and in the humor world. But it’s a tough go. It’s a tough go.
Recorded on Jan 7, 2008