What's the deal with New Yorker cartoons?

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

It's hard to find funny young people who can make a living cartooning, Remnick says.

Live on Monday: Does the US need one billion people?

What would happen if you tripled the US population? Join Matthew Yglesias and Charles Duhigg at 1pm ET on Monday, September 28.

Ultracold gas exhibits bizarre quantum behavior

New experiments find weird quantum activity in supercold gas.

Credit: Pixabay
Surprising Science
  • Experiments on an ultracold gas show strange quantum behavior.
  • The observations point to applications in quantum computing.
  • The find may also advance chaos theory and explain the butterfly effect.
  • Keep reading Show less

    Learn innovation with 3-star Michelin chef Dominique Crenn

    Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live.

    Big Think LIVE

    Having been exposed to mavericks in the French culinary world at a young age, three-star Michelin chef Dominique Crenn made it her mission to cook in a way that is not only delicious and elegant, but also expressive, memorable, and true to her experience.

    Keep reading Show less

    3 cognitive biases perpetuating racism at work — and how to overcome them

    Researchers say that moral self-licensing occurs "because good deeds make people feel secure in their moral self-regard."

    Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash
    Personal Growth

    Books about race and anti-racism have dominated bestseller lists in the past few months, bringing to prominence authors including Ibram Kendi, Ijeoma Oluo, Reni Eddo-Lodge, and Robin DiAngelo.

    Keep reading Show less

    A new minimoon is headed towards Earth, and it’s not natural

    Astronomers spot an object heading into Earth orbit.

    Credit: PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek/Paitoon Pornsuksomboon/Shutterstock/Big Think
    Surprising Science
  • Small objects such as asteroids get trapped for a time in Earth orbit, becoming "minimoons."
  • Minimoons are typically asteroids, but this one is something else.
  • The new minimoon may be part of an old rocket from the 1960s.
  • Keep reading Show less

    Only 35 percent of Americans know the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease

    Yet 80 percent of respondents want to reduce their risk of dementia.

    Photo: Lightspring / Shutterstock
    Mind & Brain
    • A new MDVIP/Ipsos survey found that only 35 percent of Americans know the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.
    • Eighty percent of respondents said they want to reduce their risks.
    • An estimated 7.1 million Americans over the age of 65 will suffer from Alzheimer's by 2025.
    Keep reading Show less