We have tried long and hard. We have spent many a night up late, putting our heads together, talking, pleading, discussing, compromising, arguing, fighting, throwing things, shouting, crying, hugging, thinking, hoping — at last! — we might have had a breakthrough, but we still just can’t figure out how to win The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest.
Take this week’s contest (#150).
You start with the obvious captions to get those out of the way so your mind can move on to more fertile creative soil. “Not a very good shot, are you, Larry?” This is not funny because Larry is clearly not a very good shot. Why is Larry trying to shoot himself? Maybe the comedy needs to be mined from the tragedy in Larry’s soul. Something like, “Larry, this isn’t always about you.” Now we’re moving in the right direction, tapping into the rhythms of Thurberesque marital slapstick. We look at the woman. What pithy and devastating retort is just waiting to come out of those lips? “Now I see why you never got that Scout badge for marksmanship.” Dumb. “Should I tell the Meinbergs to come back Thursday for bridge?” Lame. “Try aiming where your head isn’t.” Better, but it still doesn’t zing.
Thirty minutes, then an hour passes. Scratch paper is crinkled all over the floor. Nothing has ever been or ever will be funny again. Irony is dead. Resignation sets in: We’re not going to win this week. Last-second desperation leads us to scribble something terrible like, “Would you like to makeover the kitchen next, Mister Ty-Pennington-Is-A-Dillweed?” Pride keeps us from submitting this so the editors can’t have the pleasure of shaking their heads in saddened disgust.
We give up.
But there’s always next week.
(Ben still thinks he should’ve won Caption Cartoon Contest #6 for “Yeah, triplets! They can be hell though.”)