“Give me a single panel cartoon any day.”
So said Bob Mankoff, this year’s keynote speaker Nov. 7 at the Mandel JCC Cleveland Jewish Book Festival, in response to being asked how his absurdist, pointillist illustrations in The New Yorker and other major publications stack up against other forms of humorous social commentary like “Saturday Night Live,” “The Daily Show” and the abundance of content found in cyberspace.
“What I do,” said Mankoff, “is short, to the point and while timely, has a greater ability to be timeless. A single panel cartoon needs to work hard to speak for itself and there is power in that.”
In 1974, Mankoff began creating original cartoons and submitting them to magazines around New York City. Three years later, he sold his first cartoon to The New Yorker and within three years after that, he became a regular contributor. In 1997, Mankoff was named the publication’s cartoon editor, a position he held until 2017 and after publishing more than 950 of his single panel cartoons.
At the age of 75, he serves as cartoon and humor editor at Esquire, has edited the massive two-volume “The New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons,” published his New York Times bestselling memoir “How About Never – Is Never Good For You?” and, in his new book “Have I Got A Cartoon For You,” offers his favorite Jewish cartoons.
Last year, Mankoff launched CartoonCollections.com, a website that will serve as the definitive archive and online store for cartoons. The site features the single-panel cartoons, comic strips and other forms of graphic humor of more than 70 celebrated cartoonists from famed sources, including The New Yorker, Esquire, Playboy Magazine and National Lampoon, with new material added each month.
“There’s a Golden Age of cartooning happening right now in terms of available material,” said Mankoff, “but it is the Lead Age of making a living creating it. I wanted to create something that not only promoted the publications publishing these cartoons but financially benefited the cartoonists themselves.”
Mankoff will discuss how growing up Jewish in Queens, N.Y., in the 1950s and 1960s – from listening to the humorous cadence of his mother cursing in Yiddish, to being exposed to Jewish stand-up comedians at Brown’s Hotel and Grossinger’s in the Catskills, and finding the humor in the skepticism that is grounded in Jewish culture – helped him to develop his comedic sensibilities and became successful cartoonist. And, through a compilation of his favorite cartoons, he will also examine the place of cartoons in the long and vibrant history of Jewish humor.