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New Yorker cartoonist Bob Mankoff retrospective opens at Brooklyn Federal Court

July 24, 2017 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Pictured from left: Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy, Bob Mankoff and Chief Judge Dora Irizarry. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese
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The United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York hosted a gallery opening last Thursday for famous New Yorker magazine cartoonist Bob Mankoff. “The World of Bob Mankoff: A Cartoon Retrospective” will be at the Charles P. Sifton Gallery until Oct. 20.

“For this exhibit, we have gathered many of the most famous cartoons of Bob Mankoff, which were published over a long career,” said Chief Judge Dora Irizarry. “Some of his cartoons touch on the law and issues of justice, and all  are just as timely today as when they were first published.”

Irizarry discussed her favorite cartoon, which has grown on her even more since she’s become the chief judge of the court.

“I have really come to relate to [it] since becoming chief of this court last year — a harried businessman at his desk, with a phone to his ear, reviewing his calendar and saying, ‘No, Thursday’s out. How about never — is never good for you?'”

Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy introduced Mankoff, saying that Mondays always held a special place in his heart because it was the day The New Yorker came out.

“I would race my wife to read The New Yorker so that I could read the cartoons before anyone in my family saw,” Levy said.

“Cartoons are a fascinating art form that I don’t think people have appreciated enough,” Levy continued. “It’s a hybrid art form in many ways, a single image frozen in time. The meaning comes from a combination of the visual and the verbal. A change of caption can change the meaning. It’s an art form with seemingly endless possibilities.”

Mankoff was the cartoon editor at The New Yorker from 1997 until April 2017. He currently serves as the humor and cartoon editor at Esquire.

More than 950 of his cartoons have been published in The New Yorker. He has edited dozens of cartoon books and published four of his own. He is the author of “The Naked Cartoonist,” a book that was published in 2003 on the creative process behind making cartoons, and his memoir “How About Never — Is Never Good For You?,” which was published earlier this year.

“Bob Mankoff is an artist, a humorist, a social commentator with an eye for the incongruous and an ear for what’s been left unsaid,” Levy said. “If I were to try to explain to someone what the ’60s, ’70s or ’80s were like, I think I would go to a Mankoff cartoon before I would go to a history of the ’60s or ’70s because I think you get the feel of it a lot better.”

Mankoff almost didn’t become a cartoonist. He was just months away from completing a Ph.D in experimental psychology when he decided to quit against his parents’ wishes.

“When I told my dad that I was going to quit experimental psychology to become a cartoonist, he said, ‘You know they already have people who do that.'”

Mankoff explained that he took a few jobs as a cartoonist before he became a regular contributor at The New Yorker. The first cartoon he ever published was in The Saturday Review of Literature in 1974. It featured Superman standing in front of a personnel guy who is saying, “Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive … no shorthand?”

“Cartoonists have a special vision,” Mankoff explained. “We look at the world in a certain way. I always say that we’re awake, being awake to all of the absurdities, all the strangeness, all the normalcy that we take for granted.”


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