Healing with humor: the creative mind of cartoon editor Robert Mankoff

By on November 21, 2002

“The basic nature of creating something is through dreaming,” said Cartoonist Robert Mankoff.
Mankoff has worked for the New Yorker magazine since 1977, when his first cartoon was published. Currently, he has been the cartoon editor for four years, as the magazine’s third editor.
Growing up in Queens, N.Y., he went to a high school for music and the arts. He loved drawing as a teen, but did not have goals to pursue it.
Mankoff was working on his PhD in psychology, but dropped out of school because he realized he did not want to lead “the cookie-cutter lifestyle.” He originally wanted psychology because it had an “ology” on the end and it “sounded smart.” Realizing that not enough people use their creativity, Mankoff said he wanted to share his for others to enjoy.
Being a cartoonist requires one to be spontaneous and be able to connect with people. The reader is the audience, and the reader must be able to see the point immediately, or else the cartoon will not work, he said.
Mankoff believes drawing is transforming reality. Cartoonists are expected to create funny pictures on the spot.
“You have to put yourself at risk and expect rejection sometimes,” he said.
Looking at over 1000 cartoons a day, Mankoff has to reject hundreds of cartoons people send to the New Yorker.
According to Mankoff, many people cannot handle this rejection and do not try again.
“To be a cartoonist, you have to be able to look at things with a different perspective,” he said. “Making jokes out of simple things is the number one goal. When you do not expect to look at a normal thing that way, it can be really funny.”
Mankoff said the most important part of any art form is creativity. Everybody is creative, but some choose not to explore that side. Instead they suppress it and think they have no artistic talent.
Mankoff also believes that creativity comes from the unconscious. He said people think best when they are not trying to. Smiliarly, ideas for artwork cannot be planned out. They are best when they are random ideas that you work off of, he said.
“Spontaneous creativity must come from the unconscious,” he said.
He said that when asked about a subject, it does not sound right if someone plans out what they are going to say. It needs to sound natural.
“Artwork is the same way,” he said. “It’s a means of transforming reality.”
Mankoff uses Adobe Photoshop on his computer and has a special screen he can actually draw images on. He said it is much easier with a computer and the picture comes out so much neater.
Computers cut down errors and it’s easier to save everything, Mankoff said. He always saves his work, whether it is on the computer or just doodles he makes while on the phone.
“Saving work is important,” he said. “One day you might look back on that picture and have an idea for a new picture or cartoon.”
To learn more information about cartoonism or to see some of Mankoff’s work, go to www.cartoonbank.com.


About Bethany Dionne