Saturday, October 10, 2015

My Entry in the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #492

Here is my entry in the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #492 for October 5, 2015. The drawing is by Liam Francis Walsh.
"What other honeymoon plans?"

Here are the ones I didn't submit:

"This is the most fun I've had in here."
"You won't hook anything dressed like that."
"Doesn't this beat sleeping in?"
"Well, what's your idea for date night?"

October 12, 2015 Update:  The Finalists

October 26, 2015 Update:  Winning Caption

Note:  Last week, Michael Maslin's buffalo took the plunge. My caption didn't float. Shuffle off to see the outcome of Contest # 491.

Liam Francis Walsh has appeared here in previous caption contests—and elsewhere.



  1. Some strategy talk: I've noticed that all of the cartoons involve a mashup of two incongruent situations. And the captions that seem to usually get picked bridge the two by fitting one of the situations as if the other situation doesn't exist, but having a double meaning or alternative view that makes it also fit the second situation. For instance, "Tap is fine" is something someone would normally say at a bar when asking for water, so the fact that the person is crawling can be ignored. But it's relevant and funny when also incorporating the incongruent situation of the crawling guy. Also, the characters don't seem to be aware of the incongruity. My strategy is usually to try to come up with such a caption.

    So this week I looked for something a guy might normally say to his buddy on a fishing trip, but is also relevant to the other situation of the bedroom. Hence my entry, "I saw a new technique on cable.". My other idea which also fits the strategy which I thought of after I already entered: "My wife thinks I'm at the office." Notice that the statements have no self-awareness of the incongruity.

    I've noticed you usually have a different strategy and try to come up with a new funny statement as if the characters are aware of the incongruity. That works sometimes, but it seems to be harder to win with that.

    Probably more than you wanted to hear, but I thought I'd share my thinking with a fellow captioner!

    1. Thanks. That's very interesting. It never occurred to me that I had a strategy. I am aware that I'm very literal. Tell me, have you made it to finalist or winner yet? (I have not.)

    2. Yeah, there's that minor detail that I haven't been a finalist yet. I started entering about 6 months ago. After several losing entries, I decided a strategy was in order. When I noticed that the captions were more clever than funny, I thought there had to be something more to it. That's when I figured out the pattern. Obviously that's not a guarantee of success, but I have had a few ideas that have been similar to finalists so I feel I'm on the right track. I'm determined to win though! Sorry about assuming you are crazy like me and have devised a strategy.

    3. Oh, I am crazy like you. But you've described precisely what I don't like about many of the caption contest finalists: that they're more clever than funny. Also, they're often way too short. The magazine's cartoonists have a lot more freedom in devising their captions.

      That said, I'm finding it hard to come up with anything either clever or funny about Farley Katz's skydiving cartoon. Inspiration often comes to me when I leave the cartoon and attend to something else, so I'm still hoping for something to click by midnight.

  2. Yes, I've noticed the contest is a whole different animal than the typical cartoons. Those cartoons are rarely a mashup of two incongruent things that need to be resolved. It is annoying because I'd rather be funny than clever, but I'm going to play by their rules because I want to win. And I do think I have a good handle on their "rules". Now I just need to apply them well, which is easier said than done.

    The skydiving cartoon is a unique one because it's tough to think of something someone might normally say when skydiving or when watching whatever the others are doing. In this case I usually try to think of words associated with the picture and come up with puns or common phrases that can be used or twisted around to fit. I actually came up with something Monday morning I liked so much that I entered it right then, which I've never done.

  3. So who is talking, the man or the woman? I thought it was the man, but now I can't tell by these finalists.

    1. Agreed. The drawing seems to show the man speaking, but these finalist captions work better if the woman is speaking. The contest judges have done this kind of switch before. Two years ago in Contest #388, the judges chose captions that switched the speaker from a surgeon to a golfer. It's infuriating to contest entrants who take the time to look at the cartoon and identify the speaker intended by the cartoonist, but I assume the judges go along with this switch because they think the captions are funnier with the wrong speaker. I have yet to see the judges not be internally consistent by having finalist captions which disagree on whom the speaker is. See Contest #388:

    2. Wow, I've seen that golf cartoon (I wasn't entering then), but didn't realize the surgeon is speaking. It's clear when you take a close look at it, which of course everyone who is playing should do. I agree that it's infuriating. It's also unfair, because those people have less competition than they should have.