The best job in the world


New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has remarked that his is the world’s best job. It’s certainly in the running, but my money might be on Robert Mankoff, the cartoon editor at the New Yorker.

Mankoff was slated to give a lecture Tuesday tonight at Boston’s Temple Israel about cartoons and Jewish humor; he also did a short Q&A in Tuesday’s Boston Globe. But at the paper’s religion blog, Articles of Faith, religion reporter Michael Paulson had Mankoff speak specifically to the Jewish element in New Yorker cartoons. I particularly found this little bit interesting, and couldn’t help but wonder if the First Couple would agree.

Q: Is there a special sensitivity to cartoons about Jews?

A: I think there’s a special sensitivity, in general, to cartoons about specific religions. New Yorker cartoons, in general, are not mean cartoons. Much of the humor in society is the humor of ridicule. But our cartoons are not the cartoons of self-satisfaction, but of self-dissatisfaction, and that makes them almost unique now in American culture, which is so polarized, and in which humor is basically a form of mockery in which the other is the fool, or the person whose balloon has to be deflated. We do that too, but most of the cartoonists do cartoons that are in some sense autobiographical. When you look at Jewish humor, for the most part, the jokes are quite layered — they build up and eventually show some sort of logical inconsistency — and a lot are philosophical. (In the broader culture) a majority of jokes have an aggressive component, a scatological component, or a sexual component, but Jewish jokes work through understanding the absurdities of the logic.

UPDATE: This week’s Cartoon Caption Contest features an image of Moses holding up the tablets. So now would be a good time to get in touch with your inner Woody.

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