The Enduring Humor of New Yorker Cartoons

by: Ellen C. Caldwell
for JSTOR Daily

In the wake of the November election, election-related New Yorker cartoons (Clinton– and Trump-specific) have kept people laughing and spreading the humor via social media.

In 2001, Steven H. Gale explored the past 75 years of New Yorker cartoons, not only chronicling their recognizable humor, voice, and wit, but also researching the cartoons’ topical and stylistic changes over the year, along with their lasting popularity.

Readers of The New Yorker often cite its cartoons as their favorite part of the reading experience. Ironic and sophisticated in humor, they are a hallmark of the publication.  As Gale explains, “[t]he typical New Yorker cartoon is as difficult to define precisely as is the magazine’s typical prose casual [the publication’s term for short prose pieces], though the distinctive styles of both are certainly familiar and recognizable.” Later he goes further to say that an easier “way of distinguishing New Yorker cartoons is to say what they are not.”

In many ways, the New Yorker was ahead of its time in considering cartoons, drawings, and graphics under the larger category of “art” or what many now term more broadly as “visual culture.” Gale notes that the magazine’s “editorial staff apparently has never distinguished qualitatively between cartoons, sketches, and magazine covers—all are considered art.”…

Read the rest at JSTOR Daily.

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