Very Semi-Serious – Director, Leah Wolchok

The subtitle for this HBO documentary film is: A Partially Thorough Portrait of New Yorker Cartoonists. I have to admit I am a New Yorker cartoon addict. I get the magazine every week and like the old Playboy joke – I do read it for the articles but first I flip through and read all the cartoons. To get a chance to learn how they get chosen, who draws them, and who the editor is, was a chance not to be missed. Best of all I saw it at the Bloor Cinema – home of the Hot Docs festival and the New Yorker’s cartoonist and cartoon editor, Bob Mankoff was there for a Q and A after the showing. The film took 7 years to put together and includes interviews with many of the better know cartoonists who are fascinating and often unusually strange people themselves. We learn a great deal about how the cartoons are chosen and how Bob Mankoff works with the contributors to improve and enhance their work including such factoids as: Mankoff goes through 1000 cartoon submissions a week to choose 15 to be published. He does this often by meeting with the cartoonists personally each week in his office to discuss and critique their submissions. He cares deeply about the art of cartooning and uses his job as editor to build and support the small group of active cartoonists. Cartooning is a slowly dying art with fewer publications publishing them each year. To ensure the continuance and renewal of the art Mankoff deliberately works with younger contributors who will hopefully replace the current old timers like himself. He has been remarkably successful. The Q and A after the film was brilliant with Mankoff being a sharp and witty in person as he is on the pages of the New Yorker. If you are a fan you can also read his book titled after one of his more iconic cartoon captions: How about never. Is never good for you?

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