A-yes, they certainly are. But whether you think that’s all for the good, somewhat for the good, or no good at all, we all can agree that funny is still funny—unless it’s not. For some art forms, time becomes them. Michelangelo’s stuff looks better every year! Not so much with his sense of humor, though. In fact, if there are any surviving jokes from his cartoons, I haven’t heard them.
And that’s because cartoons weren’t funny back then. They were merely the sketch before a painting. Here’s a New Yorker cartoon by Ed Fisher spoofing that very notion.
Cartoons as we know and love them date from the latter half of the 19th century when they appeared in the popular English magazine Punch. None of the cartoons that Punch published would be popular now, because truth to be told, humor usually doesn’t age that well. The annals of the formerly funny are crammed with cornball, and if that doesn’t doom them in the eyes of modern readers, the sexism, racism—real, perceived, implied, or denied—surely will.
So, with that caveat in mind, I went back a half-century to see if I could find cartoons published in The New Yorker in the 1970s that wouldn’t cause modern eyes to glaze over or wince in offense. Without further ado, here they are. One for each year to remind us that while times are a-changin’—despite what we think, hope, or even hate—sometimes they don’t change that much.
Yours in Good Humor,