Each week for the past 10 years, Paul Karasik completes and sends about 10 cartoons to The New Yorker magazine. For those at home doing the math, that’s around 5,000 cartoons, give or take.
This week The New Yorker published one. This is not the first cartoon of his the magazine has taken, but the hits are elusive; such is the extremely competitive nature of gag cartoons, Mr. Karasik’s phrase for this work. Which begs the question, why take the time? After all, Mr. Karasik is a very busy man. An original founder of the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School, he now serves as the development director for the school. He also teaches a course in cartooning at the Rhode Island School of Design, and has written numerous books.
“If I don’t keep to that discipline I probably wouldn’t draw at all,” Mr. Karasik said this week. “And I find my drawing is getting better, certainly not getting worse.”
Modest words from such an accomplished cartoonist and writer. One of his books, a graphic novel called City of Glass, was a collaboration with the esteemed novelist Paul Auster.
According to Mr. Karasik, The New Yorker has about 50 cartoonists under contract.
“Then they have dozens of bottom feeders like myself,” he said.
He has the option of sending in his cartoons each week by e-mail or fax. But frequently, Mr. Karasik also takes the trip to New York city to get some couch time with the art director, Bob Mankoff.
The cartoonists who come to this semi-open call, a tradition that dates back decades and occurs every Tuesday, all gather together in one room and “talk shop and complain.” There was a time when one could make a living as a gag cartoonist, Mr. Karasik explained. Numerous magazines, such as Colliers and the Saturday Evening Post, would keep the paychecks rolling. But now The New Yorker is the only game in town.
“Then one by one you go into the art director’s office,” Mr. Karasik continued. “He flips through your drawings, shaking his head.”
If perhaps he selects a few to present to the next level, the process is still unfinished and shrouded in mystery.
The last time Mr. Karasik was in New York, Mr. Mankoff selected five possible cartoons. Yet none made it to publication. This week’s cartoon had been sent in by e-mail.
Good old lucky cartoon number 5001, give or take.
— Bill Eville