December 20, 2007

Raiders of the lost New Yorker cartoon captions

As you know, the cartoons the New Yorker uses for its caption contest didn't begin their lives captionless. But what were the cartoonists' original captions? In an exclusive for you fans of the Radosh.net anti-caption contest, New Yorker cartoonist Matt Diffee, editor of The Rejection Collection, a hilarious anthology of rejected New Yorker cartoons, tracked down the originals for some of the most popular.

But first he has something important to say: "We New Yorker cartoonists all come up with ten ideas every week. Occasionally Mankoff buys one of our ten for the caption contest. It's just one of our ten, and it's usually not the best. Sometimes, frankly, it's just filler. Bob chooses it because the image is ripe and open-ended enough to allow other people to join in the fun. Sure we could make the caption better if we could focus all our attention on it, but we can't. We've got another ten to come up with for next week. So don't judge, that's all I'm saying."

Now, here are five of your favorite cartoons, with their winning New Yorker captions, their winning anti-captions, and for the first time, their not-so-winning rejected captions. Thanks to Diffee, Drew Dernavich, Tom Cheney, and Frank Cotham for playing along.

Winning caption: "The hours here are obscene."

Winning anti-caption: "Half past a monkey's ass and a quarter to his balls? What kind of clock are you using?"

Original caption: "%#&@*! Look at the time!"

Winning caption: ""Shut up, Bob, everyone knows your parrot's a clip-on."

Winning anti-caption: ""His parrot died over the weekend. I feel kind of bad for him, because his wife died last year."

Original caption: "It's not me. Mine's set to vibrate."

Winning caption: "That concludes tonight's performance of 'Pimp My Ride of the Valkyries.' "

Winning anti-caption: "There is a man pinned under this truck who requires immediate medical assistance. Someone please call for an ambulance. Please, before it's too late."

Original caption: "Sorry I'm late."


Winning caption: "You know, I'm gonna miss this when we go paperless."

Winning anti-caption: "So, do you think that's the tiger they were talking about in the e-mail?"

Original caption: "You know, I'm gonna miss this when we go paperless."
(I'm told that happens more often than you might think. Whether the wording in this case was really exactly the same or if Cheney just remembers it that way because it was close enough, I can't say).

Winning caption: "We're gonna need a bigger spear."

Winning anti-caption: "This may explain the enormous, dead hooker we saw yesterday."

Original caption: "It looks dry inside."

Posted by Daniel Radosh


My votes for the best lines, in order of appearance:
1: anti-caption
2: anti-caption
3: none, they all suck
4: winning & original
5: anti-caption

I think the anti-captions work so often because the originals aren't that inspired to begin with.

Amen to Squidocto. Most of the cartoons in the caption contest are contrived to elicit captions. The beauty of the best New Yorker cartoons is that the situations are bland and the humor is in the caption.

No. 5 original caption is a fine anti-caption.

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