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

Checking In With My Pile Of Rejected ‘New Yorker’ Cartoons

by Esther C. Werdiger

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.