Checking In With My Pile Of Rejected 'New Yorker' Cartoons

In 2012, in a rare moment of actual confidence, I mailed an envelope of cartoons to famous New Yorker cartoon editor Robert Mankoff (who, for the short number of weeks surrounding this event, I referred to, in my head, as Bob). I never heard back. Which, I mean, was not a surprise. I’d been doing a lot of drawing, almost entirely for the Internet, and almost entirely for free. The Internet can be a tricky thing; sometimes it feels like there are countless outlets and platforms for creative people, and other times, it all just feels a little pointless. Content is disposable, and whether or not you contribute to it, and whether or not it’s good, a steady stream will keep coming, and it will fill up every space we are in, until our desperate little mouths are pressed up against a small air vent in the ceiling.

So, like I said, I sent some cartoons to the New Yorker. I felt ready. I asked an actual New Yorker cartoonist for tips. She told me I need to send 10 individual cartoons—photocopies only, by post. I wasn’t sure how it worked; if he liked one, did I get to redraw a nicer version? Did they have to be magazine-ready? Did the caption have to be in that font, or could I just do it by hand for now? The single panel thing was new for me—most of my cartoons are stories about myself, and not particular funny. And the bits I thought were funny were never the same as the bits other people thought were funny. But a lot of New Yorker cartoons aren’t that funny anyway, and like I said, I felt confident. I put all the original drawings away in a folder.

I pulled them out the other day. A few, I thought, were still good! Some were definitely past their sell-by date. And some were probably never funny at all. I felt embarrassed of how hopeful I’d been. Although, you have to feel hopeful sometimes—otherwise you’d never do things like go on dates and apply for jobs. Sometimes rejection happens! Rejection facilitates success! Right? Anyway, it doesn’t matter. Here are my dumb cartoons.

I still think this is good! I like that it’s weird, and a little bit dark. I should have just posted it on Tumblr. “17 notes” is better than nothing. Or is it?

What I was trying to do here, I think, was make a A New Yorker Cartoon.

What can I say? I still think this is hilarious.

This would have killed in 2011.

This is terrible. I was trying to make a Nietzsche a joke, while also making a Twilight joke, while also making a joke about asshole professors, or something. I admit, it’s confusing. And a scenario in which a professor is talking to a student about being mean to his children doesn’t seem that probable.

I felt like I had to include a therapy cartoon. I don’t think it’s that bad, but it’s still in the vein of A New Yorker Cartoon. Still though, I fondly remember laughing as I drew it.

I guess this is the only autobiographical one. I once yelled the same thing from a couch, and it made me laugh, so I drew it a few days later. I guess none of these cartoons are particularly concise or punchy. The New Yorker should still send rejection letters, though.

Not funny. But like, onto something, I just know it!

Okay, I think this is a little more concise and punchy, and also sort of sweet. It’s about a ghost who lacks confidence! He has to believe in himself! Ghosts! Believing! I guess it’s not that funny.

I’m not really proud of this one. It’s pretty stupid. But also I could totally imagine it in the New Yorker? You know?

I’m still trying to figure out what kind of artist I am, but I am probably not A New Yorker Cartoon type of artist. I should just stick to making longer comics that take ages to draw, but seconds to read, and that don’t really make me any money. They are deeply gratifying, in a way. I’m like a volunteer of the Internet. And as anyone who has worked at a non-profit knows, volunteers are really important.

Esther C. Werdiger writes, draws, podcasts, and lives in New York. You can read her “League of Ordinary Ladies” here.