When Maggie Larson got her first OK from Bob Mankoff, she thought the longtime New Yorker cartoon editor must have butt-emailed her.
Such is the tradition of cartoonists vying to get published in the magazine: After submitting six to 10 cartoons each week, they hope for an email with that one word — “OK” — to signal that they’ve made it in.
The competition is fierce. Out of about 1,000 weekly submissions, between 15 to 20 are published each week.
Which explains why Larson, who graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 2010 and now lives in New York City, was incredulous when she got that email from the now-retired Mankoff in early 2017. She had been trying to break into the magazine for the better part of a year and had only ever gotten feedback from Mankoff before:
“It’s interesting if not funny,” he said. (She was thrilled.)
Larson, who recounted that story on a panel earlier this year, is part of a growing wave of female cartoonists featured in the New Yorker.
One of her pieces appeared in the Dec. 4, 2017 issue, the first one in the magazine’s nearly 100-year history to include more women cartoonists than men, an observation first made by Michael Maslin, who blogs about New Yorker cartoons, and confirmed by the New Yorker.
For most of the magazine’s history, women cartoonists have been underrepresented, said cartoonist Liza Donnelly, who’s curating the forthcoming exhibit “Funny Ladies at The New Yorker: Cartoonists Then and Now,” which features Larson’s work.
“Until recently, it was generally thought that women did not have a sense of humor, nor were they able to create humorous work,” Donnelly writes in the description of her exhibit, at The Society of Illustrators in New York City. “In addition, our culture has not been supportive of women to be creative or to be funny. It was universally assumed that they were neither.”
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But now, under Emma Allen, the first woman to be the New Yorker’s cartoon editor, the magazine has “roughly an equal number of women and men contributing cartoons,” said the magazine’s director of communications, Natalie Raabe.
In a recent profile by the Bryn Mawr alumnae magazine, fellow New Yorker cartoonist Amy Kurzweil describes the stories that Larson’s cartoons tell as “sweet”: “There isn’t a butt of her jokes or someone who ends up looking like a fool, as you see in some cartoons.”