Fat Chance

No matter if you’re struggling to get into the magazine for the first time or trying to stay there after you’ve become a regular contributor, your chances of getting an OK each week are slim. There are only so many slots to fill each week in the magazine and the competition is intense. As a result, some of us resort to superstition and strange rituals in addition to the weekly rite of producing the all-important Batch.

As OK Day approaches, it may be neccessary to wear a certain article of clothing (Jack Ziegler one time told me he always wore his “Lucky Jeans” on that special day). I had a special New Yorker hat which I wore for awhile on Thursdays, but it seemed to have an effect opposite of the one intended, so after awhile I reversed the procedure and now am careful to wear the hat only on days other than Thursday. Some of us offer up weekly prayers to our deities (The Editors). So far, I’m not aware of any actual animal or human sacrifices, but we’ve probably all thought about slipping a fifty into the envelope with our weekly batch of drawings. Among our personal superstitions, there was one involving a FedEx truck, which a while ago was the means used by the magazine to inform us of our OKs. On Wednesday, the day of the NYer art meeting and the day before OK Day, if you saw a FedEx truck cross your path from right to left, it meant you weren’t getting an OK the next day. The opposite was true if you saw one crossing from left to right. There were variations on this theme.

There’s also the idea of “stacking” the roughs, arranging them in a certain order for effect, this based on the foolish assumption that our Ed has the time and energy to carefully weigh the merits of each drawing in our submissions one by one.


Upon settling back in his comfortable leather chair, feet propped up on his desk, the Editor casually opens each envelope and leisurely examines the contents in the order carefully arranged by the artist. On the top of the stack, he might first encounter a mildly amusing cartoon idea, a kind of appetizer before the entree of which he is about to partake. The second drawing would likely be slightly funnier than the first. The third drawing in the stack might then be the killer cartoon, the big ka-ching, the cartoon the artist is certain will be bought if any will be. The rest of the batch might then be seen in descending order of comic value, according to the cartoonist’s biased opinion. The last cartoon might be a little throwaway doodle, for dessert.


I made a study once of my stacking system and it’s results over a period of several weeks. It came out something like this:

The truth is, of course, that none of us can crack the code. How and why cartoons are bought or not is as much a mystery as why they’re funny to some and not to others. All we can do is draw what we think is funny and hope for the best.

Uh-oh. Here comes Thursday…



  1. Paul Karasik says:

    I went through that lucky hat stage myself. No luck. Subsequent lucky clothing efforts have included lucky suspenders, boxer shorts, and toe rings. All turned out to be unlucky.

    As I write this I sit stark naked in front of my keyboard waiting for the phone to ring…and it is only Tuesday morning.

  2. m2 says:

    Spend most every Thursday pretending it isn’t Thursday. Sometimes I actually do forget it’s Thursday.

  3. julia says:

    Weird coincidences bring me hope. Your entry today –the title ‘Fat Chance’. Then a couple of sentences down you say, ‘chances are slim’.
    One of my gags in this week’s batch has the caption “There’s a slim chance, but there’s also a fat chance.” I’ll let you know later on this week if this was a ‘lucky’ coincidence.

  4. Tom Cheney says:

    To prevent the dreaded editorial practice of “riffing” through a cartoon batch, I used to submit my cartoons in a non-riffable order: First cartoon face up, second cartoon upside down, third cartoon face down, fourth upside down, etc. It forces the editor to spend more time getting through the batch. I don’t know if it ever worked, but I once had the words “CUT IT OUT!” boldly scrawled on a rejection slip from the Saturday Evening Post.

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