Monday, January 23, 2006


Subscribers to or regular readers of The New Yorker are aware that the magazine began running on its back page a new feature 36 weeks ago called the Cartoon Caption Contest, in which readers are invited to go to and suggest a caption for that week's cartoon, or vote on the three finalist submissions for a previous cartoon. I know it was 36 weeks ago because this week's cartoon (cover date January 23) is listed on the web page as contest #36.

The problem is that I'm unable to either enter the contest or vote for a caption because when I click on either option, I get a small, blank window that, whatever I then do, remains a small, blank window. Well, unless I attempt to close it, which seems to work just fine. Now and then they run a cartoon for which one or more suitable captions occurs to me. And yet I am prevented from casting these morsels of wit upon the waters of Conde Nast, publishers of The NYer.

But that's why God gave us blogs, isn't it? The basic end-run technology, every man or woman his or her own media, the publishing industry's lock on print communication neatly picked, removed and thrown aside. So, here's where I scratch that itch.

This week's cartoon shows two shirt-and-tie businessmen in conversation, one of them speaking as he holds his stomach, which is enormous, the unmistakable image being that he is not just pregnant but late term, ready to drop.

Here are my suggested captions. I invite anyone out there to suggest their own. Good luck getting through to the web page.

"I figured it was just one last, harmless fling before my sex-change operation."
"I trace it back to the day after Thanksgiving, when my wife got the big half of the wishbone."
"You bet your sweet ass I'm going with a Caesarian."
"If nothing else, it's given me new respect for the pro-choice argument."
"Actually, the morning vomiting thing isn't much worse than my sophomore year at Florida State."
"Never, and I mean never, stiff a witch doctor."
"Fortunately I was able to locate Marlon Brando's old tailor."
"It goes without saying that my HMO just laughed me out the door."
"The corned beef I'm fine with, but the cabbage turns me into a Macy's parade balloon."
"Apparently the Kaiser surgeons, for some reason, stapled my asshole instead of my stomach."


Blogger ....J.Michael Robertson said...

Brother Wieder, you have effectively stifled my desire to enter the contest because you are a premise machine and my captions run toward, "I give up. What?" which fits but does not amuse. Did you read the note -- somewhere on the site, I think -- that discussed the necessary fact that most people, like beginning headline writers, embrace the obvious; thus, hundreds or more of the entries are essentially the same joke because....

I don't have to explain why because, as in the case of the captions, we can all complete the sentence. Sometimes something off the wall comes in (I think they said) but mostly the winners are just like the losers except they have that, well, I think it's elegance or polish or simply a deep understanding of the rhetorical demands of a really good punchline.

Someday you will write about this. We could do a scholarly book.

I think I've just come up with a punchline.

January 23, 2006 at 9:11 PM  
Blogger mackdoggy said...

Dan Radosh has been running an alternative caption contest at

Much funnier than the official one.

January 28, 2006 at 9:30 PM  

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