On April 16th, I did my first-ever Facebook Live event. Cool. It was a lot of fun to do a “first-ever” anything at my age (77 on May 1st). Watch the recording here.
Unfortunately, as one gets older, there are fewer first-ever things ahead of you while there’s a long list of last-ever things behind you. So sad. But even sadder would be if a fun first-ever event also becomes a last-ever event before its time!
And that’s why I’m excited to announce my second-ever Facebook Live this coming Friday, May 7th, at noon EDT. I plan to offer monthly presentations on topics that interest me and my “fans,” followed by Q&A sessions.
The first-ever Facebook Live event was based on my 2014 memoir How About Never–Is Never Good for You? My Life in Cartoons.
Following the presentation, we enjoyed a free-wheeling Q&A session led by Jessica Ziegler, daughter of my good friend and great cartoonist, the late Jack Ziegler.
Below is a screenshot of Jessica posing a frequently-asked question that I couldn’t answer because of my NDA with Hair Club for Men.
But there were hundreds of relevant questions that I could answer, though I only got to maybe twenty or so in the broadcast. I’m reprising a few here as I’ve gotten new ideas on the subject that I think are worth sharing.
Q. Has cancel culture changed your sense of what is funny and what is acceptable?
A. It hasn’t changed what I think is funny, but it has changed what is acceptable from the standpoint of getting your cartoon selected for publication in any major media outlet that features cartoons. For most of these magazines, digital and otherwise, their audience overwhelmingly leans left. The cartoons need to support that stance or, at least, not contradict it. Good cartoons can be done within these guardrails. Better cartoons would be done without them.
Q. Since you retired from being The New Yorker cartoon editor, do you feel the selection standards have been lowered?
A. What I’ll say is that the standards have definitely changed. When I was the cartoon editor, my only criteria was the quality of the cartoon. That is now qualified by the desire for diversity. Diversity is a great goal, but from the perspective of someone who had two thousand cartoons rejected by The New Yorker, you don’t do any cartoonist a favor by prematurely publishing them before they have learned their craft.
Q. How do you jump-start your idea and know when you have a terrific one?
A. Previously, I used jumper cables, which also cured my depression. Then I switched to coffee, and when that failed, more coffee. But the serious answer, and a bit of a dirty little trade secret, is to look at your old ideas, as well as those of others, and see if you can add a new twist to them. But don’t stop there; try twisting the twist you came up with. With enough twisting, you’ll end up with something original and not outright plagiarism.
Q. For a cartoonist, what usually comes first — the cartoon or the caption?
A. It’s different for different cartoonists. Some cartoonists are basically writers who illustrate their captions and, in that case, it’s caption first, drawing afterward. Matt Diffee falls into this category. For others, like the before mentioned Jack Ziegler, who was an inveterate doodler, it’s the other way around. Through his doodling, Jack was, in effect, creating his own caption contest in which he was the sole entrant.
Q. Are you the guy who has rejected all of the cartoon captions my friends and I have submitted over the years?
A. Yes, if you submitted between 2005 and 2017.
That last answer provides a nice segue into what’s coming up next at my second-ever Facebook Live event. Here you go, junkies of The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest!
First, a disclaimer. While I will definitely give tips for writing a good caption and thereby increasing your odds of winning or being selected as a finalist, I can’t guarantee that you will, in fact, win, place, or show. But I do guarantee that you will enjoy the presentation, which will include the following:
- The history of The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest going back to 1999 when we featured the very first contest and how I came up with the idea for it.
- Why it became a weekly contest in 2005.
- The absolute no-nos of caption writing.
- The yes-maybes of caption writing.
- How “crowdsourcing” helps and hurts judging the contest and how your own personal crowdsourcing can help you.
- Google’s attempt to enter the contest and why there’s no algorithm for humor.
- A real-time analysis of this week’s The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest that will get your creative juices going and give you helpful hints.
- An interview with Lawrence Wood — the seven-time winner of The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest.
And, as they say, much, much more. But I won’t say anything more except to encourage you to sign up for the event right here, right now, and join me in definitely not my last-ever Facebook Live.