imagesLeah Wolchok goes behind the scenes of the The New Yorker, documenting history of the magazine’s memorable cartoons – and the cartoonists that brought them to life. Although traditional in its format, this engaging HBO project keeps you laughing minute by minute. (BKP: 4.5/5)

Review by Associate Editor Brigid K. Presecky

Cartoons in The New Yorker. Like many people, I had only given thought to this particular subject while waiting in the dentist’s office or browsing a library magazine rack. Leah Wolchok, however, found it meaningful enough to construct a full-length documentary. Her interestingly crafted story goes behind the scenes of The New Yorker and includes interviews from the many faces who pour their blood, sweat and tears into the humorous cartoons on a weekly basis.


Every two or three minutes, the audience is introduced to a new personality, giving the film a forward momentum that keeps it fresh and engaging. Some employees are young, some employees are old, but almost every person involved is eccentric and wildly entertaining. For each new cartoonist introduced, their published work flashes on screen, giving an insight into their personalities and individual senses of humor.

Editor Bob Mankoff becomes the film’s central “personality.” For almost two decades, the talented cartoonist has been in control of narrowing down thousands of drawings to merely 15 for each weekly publication. But as compelling as his personal and professional story is, the narrative is held together by its masterful cartoons.

The film documents the process of coming up with an idea for a cartoon, along with the broader idea of what the drawings say about society. Mankoff’s suggestion for generating ideas? Looking at the world as if you were an alien. If you step outside of yourself and take a closer look at human behavior, you notice things about society you might otherwise not have. In turn, those ideas lend themselves perfectly to a creative person who draws cartoons for a nationally renowned magazine.

© Brigid K. Presecky FF2 Media (12/19/15)


Middle Photo: Editor Bob Mankoff explains the process of picking the right cartoon

Bottom Photo: Cartoon from The New Yorker Daily Cartoonist Paul Noth

Photo Credits: HBO

Q: Does Very Semi-Serious pass the Bechdel Test?


Tags: Bob Mankoff, Brigid K. Presecky, documentary, FF2 Media, Leah Wolchok, Paul Noth, Very Semi-Serious

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