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My thoughts on the documentary Very Semi-Serious

Courtesy HBO Documentaries

I know I’ve mentioned the documentary “Very Semi-Serious” here before. It will air next Monday on HBO. I was kindly offered a sneak peak last night (which was also the night of the screening in New York City with the New Yorker cast of cartoonists – wouldn’t that have been fun to attend).

A few thoughts from the film:

1. As always in talking about New Yorker cartoons, the cartoon editor Bob Mankoff is a substantial portion of the film. You do get to see how the magazine and various staff/cartoon assistants contribute to the selection of the cartoons. Bob has had a steady and firm tenure as the magazine’s cartoon editor since 1997. The film portrays his job as 95% filtering through piles and piles of cartoons to select a handful to take to the paper’s editor David Remnick who will get the final say. From there, another assistant will select cartoons for each issue based on timeliness and variety. I figured Mankoff had more say in when cartoons ran, but he’s more of the gatekeeper.

2. It’s an interesting insight into the lives of a handful of the cartoonists. You get a sense of their unique personalities and home environment and how that might color their take on life and how that’s interpreted through cartoons.

3. It’s impressive the determination that it takes to get into The New Yorker. There is the tried and true cartoonists that have been in the magazine for decades. The magazine’s editor Remnick and Mankoff make it very clear they are constantly looking for newer, younger contributors to keep the magazine fresh for today’s generation. The film introduces us to many of them. When we’re introduced to a cartoonist in the film, they also display the number of cartoons that have been published. Not sure if he holds the record, but Lee Lorenz (1826) had the highest count of those featured in the film. He was also the cartoon editor prior to Mankoff.

As I said, the documentary airs next Monday, so check your listings for showtimes. The film was interesting and kept my interest throughout. It would also be a great piece to watch wall working.

Here’s the teaser.

Very Semi-Serious Trailer from Very Semi-Serious on Vimeo.

Community Comments

#1 Frank M Hansen
December/8/2015
@ 5:14 pm

Thanks. Really want to see this

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