Winning the New Yorker Caption Contest

Every once in a very long while the planets align just right or something, and luck falls remarkably in my favor. One example happened in August 2019. I won the New Yorker Caption Contest #675.

The cartoon, by the brilliant Charlie Hankin, features a cocktail party. In the foreground a person in a diving suit is conversing with a person in an astronaut suit. An inebriated women, with her hand on the astronaut’s backpack, is speaking.

My winning caption: “You two seem oddly suited.”

In second place: “Didn’t I say you wouldn’t be the only one wearing a suit.” – Bill Lent of Bath, Maine. Humor is amazingly subjective, and this is clearly awesome to many people since it nearly won, but … it just does not strike me as either funny or clever. Sorry, Bill. On the other hand, Bath is a very funny town name, so maybe that helped.

In third place. “Yeah, I didn’t have time to change clothes after work, either.”- Gavin Bruce, New Rochelle, NY. I like this one – it strikes me as both funny and clever – and I was worried about it. No idea why it came in third. I would have shortened though, to something like “I came straight from work too.”

I am obviously biased, but I think my caption was easily the best of the three finalists. So, why did it take an astonishing alignment of factors to get the win?

First off, unlike my runner-up entry in contest #569 (more on that later), I initially had no idea of a funny caption for this contest. I struggled off and on for most of a day on it. I came up with a number of ideas, none of which were any good.

The New Yorker caption contest is notoriously hard to win. Many people have been trying to win for years or even decades. Over 6,000 people enter each week. At the time of my victory the contest had been won 675 times. By comparison, Mt. Everest had been summited over 8,000 times. The winner is selected by online vote. A finalists is almost certain to mount a get-out-the-vote campaign, enlisting family, friends, followers, colleagues, congregations, lecture attendees, groups of strangers on the street –