Freethought of the Day

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There are 2 entries for this date: Bob Mankoff and Joseph Heller
Bob Mankoff

Bob Mankoff

On this date in 1944 cartoonist, writer and humor enthusiast Robert Mankoff was born in New York City. Mankoff grew up in the borough of Queens in a Jewish family.

Mankoff graduated from Syracuse University in 1966. He then attended Queens College to pursue a doctorate degree in experimental psychology, but found that his passion was humor. For two years Mankoff submitted around 500 cartoons to The New Yorker without success. After his first submission was published 40 years ago, more than 900 of his cartoons have appeared in The New Yorker. He began The Cartoon Bank in 1991, a database of rejected New Yorker cartoons, which licenses cartoons to use in various media such as textbooks, magazines and newsletters. The New Yorker purchased The Cartoon Bank from Mankoff in 1997. That same year he was named cartoon editor of the magazine, where he stayed for 20 years until stepping down in 2017. Mankoff is credited with creating one of the most duplicated cartoons in The New Yorker’s history, which depicts a businessman at his desk talking on the phone while reviewing his calendar, saying, “No, Thursday’s out. How about never. Is never good for you?” He has created cartoons that poke fun at religion.

Mankoff has written books including his memoir, How About Never: Is Never Good For You? My Life in Cartoons, The Naked Cartoonist: A New Way To Enhance Your Creativity (2002), and edited The Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker (2004), among many other books. Mankoff has taught courses on the science and sociology of humor. He has partnered with the University of Michigan to conduct a series of experiments to study the role of humor in areas of economics, psychology and sociology. After two prior marriages, Mankoff married Cory Scott Whittier in 1991. They live in Briarcliff Manor, New York, and have a daughter named Sarah.

"Just to clear up any ambiguity, I’m not a believer, or even agnostic, I’m an atheist (denomination: Jewish). That means the God I don’t believe in is different from the God you don’t believe in if, for example, you’re a Muslim atheist, a Catholic atheist, or a Protestant atheist.”

—Bob Mankoff, “The cosmology of cartoonists,” May 1, 2013.

Complied by Molly Hanson

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Joseph Heller

Joseph Heller

On this date in 1923, Joseph Heller was born in Brooklyn, New York. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force and flew 60 missions as a bombardier in North Africa and Italy. After WW II, Heller graduated from New York University with a B.A. in 1948, earned his M.A. at Columbia in 1949, and was a Fulbright scholar at Oxford in 1949-50. After teaching, he worked as a writer. His masterpiece, Catch-22, was published in 1961, to be followed eventually by seven major books, including Something Happened (1974), Good as Gold (1979), which explored his Jewish-American roots, and Now and Then (1998). God Knows is an absurdist, satiric deathbed autobiography of King David.

Heller was paralyzed for a time by Guillain-Barre syndrome. He recovered and co-wrote No Laughing Matter (1986) about his experiences. According to Barbara Gelb ("Catching Joseph Heller," March 4, 1979, New York Times), Heller was not bar-mitzvahed at 13. Gelb wrote: "Lena Heller was no more religiously inclined than her husband had been. But she was insecure about her nonconformity, and attempted to conceal it." Heller told Gelb: "My mother used to try to get me to dress neatly on Saturday, even though none of us ever went to a synagogue —except, I guess, once a year on Yom Kippur. I remember once I embarrassed her terribly, on purpose, by yelling up to her from the street, 'Hey, Ma, throw me down a ham sandwich.' " D. 1999.

Photo of Joseph Heller, Miami Bookfair International 1986 under CC 3.0. This photo has been cropped from it’s original version.

"Good God, how much reverence can you have for a Supreme Being who finds it necessary to include such phenomena as phlegm and tooth-decay in His divine system of creation?"

—Heller's protagonist Yossarian in "Catch-22"

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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