A Cartoonist Savors His Favorite Art for The New Yorker
When Bob Mankoff announced last week that he was stepping down as cartoon editor of The New Yorker after 20 years, some people reached for the obvious, if not necessarily New Yorker-worthy, jokes.
“Huge news for refrigerators everywhere,” one blogger wrote. Other fans hailed a “last laugh.”
But while Mr. Mankoff, 72, may be leaving the magazine, he’s hardly retiring. He will be teaching a course about humor and communication at Fordham University. He’ll continue to consult on the Cartoon Bank, a licensing platform he founded in 1992. He’ll also be working on Botnik Studios, a company he’s creating with the comedy writer Jamie Brew that explores using artificial intelligence to augment creativity. (Mr. Mankoff, a former graduate student in experimental psychology, has already collaborated with a Microsoft researcher on an algorithm that can sort through the flood of entries to the magazine’s weekly cartoon caption contest.)
但是，就算离开这家杂志，72岁的曼科夫也不会退休。他将在福特汉姆大学(Fordham University)教授一门关于幽默和沟通的课程；并继续为他于1992年成立的授权平台“卡通银行”(Cartoon Bank)提供咨询；他还将为波特尼克工作室(Botnik Studios)工作，那是他与喜剧作家杰米·布鲁(Jamie Brew)一起创建的公司，旨在探索使用人工智能来增进创造力（曼科夫曾是实验心理学研究生，与微软一位研究员合作开发过一个算法，对《纽约客》每周报名参加卡通图注大赛的海量参赛作品进行分类）。
And of course Mr. Mankoff — the de-facto star of the 2015 documentary “Very Semi-Serious: A Partially Thorough Portrait of New Yorker Cartoonists” — will be contributing to the magazine, though he’s already bracing himself for brutal competition from the many younger cartoonists he has mentored.
在2015年的纪录片《非常半严肃：<纽约客>漫画家部分全面的肖像》(Very Semi-Serious: A Partially Thorough Portrait of New Yorker Cartoonists)中，曼科夫是实际上的主角，当然，他仍然会为这本杂志供稿，尽管他正准备迎接大量来自他指导过的年轻漫画家们的残酷竞争。
“I’ve gotten some very nice emails from some of them saying, ‘Now that you’re submitting, you are my mortal enemy,’” Mr. Mankoff said in a telephone interview. “I think I might have to steal all the ideas that have been sent to me over the years.”
He’s kidding, though with him it can sometimes be hard to tell. “My mantra is to leave no joke unjoked,” he said. “I just feel that being funny is being awake.”
We talked with Mr. Mankoff, who officially departs at the end of April, about some of his favorites from among the hundreds of his own cartoons that have appeared in The New Yorker, “wonky humor theory” and that time he discovered that one of his punch lines had been repurposed on a thong. The excerpts here have been edited and condensed.
曼科夫将在4月底正式离职，我们和他谈了他在《纽约客》上发表的数百张卡通中他最心爱的作品、“扭曲幽默理论”(wonky houmor theory)，还有他曾发现自己的笑话被用在丁字裤上。下面是经过编辑的对话节选。
“This is my most famous cartoon, and the punch line has been ripped off on T-shirts, even a thong. That one is a little tricky — why would you have that on a thong? I now own the trademark to the phrase. Initially, the Trademark Office denied it, but I was able to show that my cartoon is actually where this phrase, which has been cited many times, comes from.”
“One of the things you do as a cartoonist is look inside the language. You see a phrase like ‘the language of dance’ and you ask: ‘Is that a real language? Can anyone talk in it?’ One of the interesting things about cartoons is that they are a freeze-frame. Each one has the potential for broader elaboration. You can almost see this one as the premise for an improv skit.”
“This is an idea that comes from just seeing something. The New Yorker used to be on 42nd Street, and we could look out on the Empire State Building, a huge phallic symbolic if there ever was one. It just taps into all our obsessions, or at least men’s obsessions.”
“这幅画的灵感源于日常所见。《纽约客》以前位于第42街，我们可以望见窗外的帝国大厦(Empire State Building)，就好比一个象征着阴茎的巨大符号。它只是打动了我们所有人的执念，至少是男人的执念。”
“I did this after that Heaven’s Gate cult [the group involved in a mass suicide in 1997 in California]. That’s what I liked about it — it would appear that week or after, and people would associate it with that. At the same time, it would work on another level and continue to be funny. This one has been reproduced a lot. From my point of view as an atheist, it’s a cartoon about religion. But it can also just be about mindlessly following a leader.”
“A lot of my creativity comes out of my speech. It’s almost like as I’m talking, another editor is working, trying to finish the line. I often start a phrase and then try to flip it or exaggerate it. I’m a little hard of hearing, and sometimes I’ll say to my wife: ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you,’ and she’ll say, ‘How far back?’ This punch line is an exaggeration, but there’s also a deeper truth relating to how much you actually listen to the person you’re with.”
“A lot of cartoons take place in very generic settings: two people at dinner, or sitting on the couch. Sometimes I see cartoons that are too well drawn, and I tell the cartoonists to take it back a notch — still draw well, but don’t illustrate, which deadens it. There’s something really nice about the simplicity of cartoons. You don’t want the image to mug too much.”
“This is a really dumb joke that everybody loves. I loved doing this cartoon, but at the same time I thought it was dumb. But then I realized it was dumb to keep thinking it was dumb. One of the things you have to recognize about humor is that at its heart it’s stupid, and we should enjoy that stupidity.”