It’s hard to tell. Sometimes my own drawing seems really funny to me. It’s rare, but occasionally I’ll laugh at my own joke. They come as surprises in some cases, completely out of the blue, as if someone else had thought them up. Often, though, the same idea that I thought was great one day seems really lame the next. It’s a mood thing. The same thing must happen with editors, too, especially when they see so many drawings every week. Their choices have to be determined to some degree by their frame of mind during that millisecond they have to look at each cartoon. As the all-knowing Sam has said on a couple of occasions, “It’s a crap-shoot.”
During our lunches and other get-togethers, some of the cartoonists I knew used to play “If I were the editor”, pronouncing judgement on the currently published drawings in the magazine. I once told Jack Ziegler that I had the whole thing figured out. I had decided that I knew what was funny. I might have been making a joke at the time, but part of me really believed it. I suggested that I might make a good cartoon editor. He said, “God help us all.”
In a gathering of cartoonists, you’re quite likely to find one or more sulking in a corner or hiding behind the proverbial potted palm. It could be connected to their recent experiences at the magazine, like the dreaded “drought” (Going for a long time without an OK) or it could just be their generally grouchy nature. Some cartoonists are much funnier in person than they are in ink, and vice-versa.
Cartoonists aren’t a laugh-riot all the time, or in some cases, a lot of the time. Like everyone else, we occasionally lose our sense of humor. I draw a batch each week no matter what my frame of mind. Strangely, I sometimes do some of my best work (According to my biased inner-editor) when I’m depressed about something. Not always, though. Sometimes I’ll do drawings that adhere to the form of a cartoon but have decidedly unfunny content, reflecting my bleak view of the universe that week. I recall once early in my career taking in a batch I’d done in an especially existential state of mind. Lee Lorenz looked over the batch as usual, hesitating briefly over some of those dark cartoons. Before I left his office he reminded me: “These things are supposed to be funny, Mick.”