VERY SEMI-SERIOUS is a documentary six-years-in-the-making about the legends, hopefuls, and culture behind the iconic New Yorker cartoons. Its unprecedented access to the world of cartoon editor, Bob Mankoff, and the private studios of acclaimed cartoonists pieces together “an offbeat meditation on humor, art and the genius of the single panel.”
Leah Wolchok, director/producer, says her interest in the New Yorker cartoon world was piqued when she discovered her Cartoon Contest submission was similar to hundreds of nearly identical captions. She says, “I started researching the cartoonists (first surprise: there are dozens of regular contributors), learning about their routines (they submit 10-15 a week, every week, to the magazine), rejection (even some of the best cartoonists sell just one a month), rituals (they commiserate about the rejection during weekly lunches, a tradition that started in the early days of the magazine) and day jobs (gravestone portraiture, fit modeling, furniture reconditioning). And I though, Why isn’t someone making a documentary about this?”
So she set out to make one.
In 2011, VERY SEMI-SERIOUS was the recipient of the Tribeca Film Institute and HBO’s “Documentary Screen Test” Fellowship, which supports documentary projects that emphasize “the role of character in film.” Beth Janson, Executive Director of TFI, said that “while social issue documentary films continue to be funded more and more, character-driven documentaries often go unnoticed. Our hope is that the support provided through the TFI Documentary Fund is recognized in the industry and helps open up even more opportunities for this critical funding.” 
Now the film is moving into an additional 2 weeks of shooting and 12 weeks of editing, making an early rough cut of the film. The extra shooting time will be spent interviewing celebrity cartoon collectors and Caption Contest diehards; Dominic Ciafardini, who has submitted more captions than any other participant; and more of Bob Mankoff’s personal research about the science of humor. VERY SEMI-SERIOUS will even be talking with cartoonist Bruce Eric Kaplan, current co-executive producer of Girls and and the writer behind Seinfeld’s infamous episode about New Yorker cartoons.
The film is a “stylized blend of documentary and animation”, and explores how the evolution of the cartoonists’ humor reflects that changing social and political landscape of urban life. Just a few featured cartoonists are:
Be sure to follow their great Facebook page for updates as the film approaches post-production and release!