originaleusticeI like to think that I’m not just a funny guy, but witty as well (cough while point to tagline for blog). One way I express said wit is by shouting snide remarks during films at the movie theatre—can you think of a more humorous commentary on modern female body issues than hearing someone yell “Show us your boobs!” at a projected Judy Dench? I also like to make a statement about out societal expectations of storytelling by going up to people reading murder mysteries on the subway and saying things like “the butler did it” or “the serial killer is really the detective while he’s sleepwalking,” even if I’ve never read the book. And of course I try to win the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest every week.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the contest: on the back page of every issue, the New Yorker publishes one of it cartoons without a caption. Any US resident 18 or over can then go online and submit their own caption. The editors select three finalists and readers vote on the best. Authoring a winning caption has become an obsession of mine, much like Bruce Wayne’s need to rid crime from the streets of Gotham as Batman or Owen Wilson’s compulsion to make mediocre films.

Now, some may claim that there are specific rules on how to win. But I believe that the caption that fits the cartoon the best will make it, no matter what. It should reflect you as a writer, as well as have universal appeal. In September, I was sure I had a winner. I’d spent a week starring at the below cartoon, stumped on what to write.
lobster-cartoon
Then, lying in bed the night of the deadline for all contest submissions, it came to me. I jumped up, ran to my computer, and sent in my submission. “The thing is: we’re not just looking for any giant lobster, but a giant lobster with experience.” It commented on the hardship of job hunting, the absurdity of the job interview, and clichés of everyday office culture. It was funny, it was deep, it was perfect…it wasn’t even a finalist.

For weeks afterwards, all I spoke about was the injustice of it. I railed against the New Yorker, accusing its editors of not knowing true comedic genius if it fell on them. Even the owner of my company, who doesn’t know the names of anyone in my department, began referring to me as “the kid who got rejected from the New Yorker.”

I don’t think I would have minded so much if the winning caption wasn’t “So why did you leave Red Lobster?” Really? That’s lamer than Drillbit Taylor. A friend pointed out that maybe I had missed the deadline. I’m sure I’d made in on time, but I’m willing to give the New Yorker the benefit of a doubt.

So back I went to grinding out submissions. Some were okay, but most were of a quality that we’ve all come to expect from a certain “comedic” actor with a much talented younger brother, blonde hair, and a nose that was definitely broken at some point. Then this week, inspiration stuck once more. I was staring at this cartoon:
cats
When it hit me. “I’ve got to go, my cats are forming Voltron again.” It’s genius. It’s quick witted. It makes a 1980s pop culture reference (which is so hot, right now). It had better be at least a finalist.

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