To the perennial gripe that the [New Yorker] cartoons aren’t as funny as they used to be [a complaint sometimes ventilated in comments on this blog], Mankoff’s short answer is: “They never were.” It’s true. I conducted another experiment, pulling three random issues of the magazine off local library shelves, from 1933, 1965 and 1997; each batch of vintage cartoons produced the same amount of chuckles, snorts of recognition, mehs, groans and huh?’s as would those in any recent issue (minus jokes at the expense of Africans, Native Americans, Gypsies, Jews and wives who won’t shut up). Mankoff believes that people tend to forget cartoons they didn’t like, remembering only the keepers, which gives the past a perpetual leg up.
Selective memory strikes again.
I’ve gone back over years of New Yorker cartoons and had the same experience as Handy. In fact, some older and celebrated cartoonists — Peter Arno and Helen Hokinson, for example — never entertained me much at all.