Chapter

Saw the Picture, Loved the Gag: Humor for Cartoons and Comics

Most Humor Historians Agree That The Advent of The New Yorker, in 1925, most influenced the development of the gag cartoon. This magazine made cartoons respectable, and, according to M. Thomas Inge, it also "established the standard against which the works of all modern cartoonists are measured."

Prior to The New Yorker style, humor cartoons primarily consisted of illustrations indicating a dialogue between two people, both of whom were identified by pronouns, names, or titles as if the caption were a play script.

Gentleman caller to maid: "You might ask your mistress if she is at home?"

Drawings were stylized and not intended to add much to the comedic impact. The narrative was expected to carry the full load.

Today, the formula is the same, but the style is different. The humor copy is shorter—pithy and specialized. Because of the influence of The New Yorker, the two-person dialogue has practically disappeared in favor of the one-line gag caption. The subject matter, however, now includes the entire range of human experience. Today's New Yorker satirical cartoons demand an audience that's sophisticated and literate enough to be comfort able with the eccentricities of metropolitan life.

In print, the humor writer can sell material to the following cartoon markets:

1. Humor cartoonists

2. Political cartoonists

3. Artists who do humor (not adventure) comic strips

There are three basic opportunities for cartoon humor: verbal, visual, and in combination. The combination is the easiest to understand because the picture and the caption work together simultaneously. But the verbal is used most frequently.

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