mort gerberg

Shop Talk: Recommended Books on How to be a Gag Cartoonist?

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I get a lot of emails and DM’s from aspiring cartoonists asking for advice on courses or books to read on cartooning; particularly the art of gag cartooning. All I can do is refer you to two of the best books I was referred to on this topic when I was starting out, and those are:

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This one above* is by Mort Gerberg, who I think still holds the record for ‘most detailed first New Yorker cartoon in history’. (It was a full-pager of the ornate interior of church; a gag about high ceilings.) I think  the thing I like about Mort’s book is the more you refer back to it, the more you learn a little bit you might have missed the last time you read it. Mort continues to publish New Yorker cartoons to this day from his home in Manhattan. He still comes into the open pitch meetings and the local New Yorker events, and is one of those ever-adaptable cartoonists who keep up with the trends. (He has an Instagram and a Twitter you can follow.)
*It should be noted that it has since been republished under other publishers, but this is the original version. The opening chapter or two about schlepping around New York on a Wednesday to the various publishers with a stack of cartoons under your arm is a thing that just doesn’t exist any more. The only open call cartoon publication left of that stature is The New Yorker.

(Note: Mort has an exhibition opening at the New York Historical Society Museum & Library on 15th February this year. Link.)

The other book I was recommended, which I also refer back to often is “The Cartoonist's Muse: A Guide to Generating and Developing Creative Ideas” by Mischa Richter and Harald Bakken. I think either Tony Lopes or Glen LeLievre referred me to this book back in Australia about a decade ago, and to this day I recommend it to other cartoonists (and refer back to it myself very often).

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There is a lot more work than you realise that goes into creating a good cartoon, and these books are very instructive on the elusive craft therein.
Every week, I do a podcast with my friend Scott Dooley about this very topic of coming up with New Yorker cartoons, and by some miracle, we’re getting a few across the line at The New Yorker and MAD Magazine on a regular basis. You can subscribe to it wherever you listen to podcasts.

If you have any good book recommendations on gag cartooning, by all means let me know if the comments. I love getting new recommendations.

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