When It's O.K. to Laugh at the Old

The New Yorker's cartoon archives perfectly reflect America's changing punch line

IT FEELS WRONG, LOOKING AT 75-year-old jokes. It's like looking at old porn: you can't expect people who had body hair and no Pilates to seem hot now. But if you give yourself a chance to settle into it, as any good New Yorker reader trained on 5,000-word stories about ketchup would, you start to laugh at even the 1925 section of The Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker. The rhythms might be slower, the references outdated and the attitude more restrained, but funny, it turns out, stays funny. Old porn, it turns out, also gets funny.

"There's a bedrock core...

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