Winning the New Yorker Caption Contest

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

Others have written about the staggeringly long odds of winning the contest – about 6,000 people enter each week. Advice for crafting New Yorker captions is also readily available. So, I won’t get into either of those topics in any detail.

Instead, I want to credit my absurdly good fortune to the Facebook group “New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest Rejects”, especially the group founder and leader Beth Lawler, and regular participant Dennis Queally. Beth’s description of the group begins “This is a group for Captioneers to post their submission ideas, for kudos and critiques.”

The cartoon for contest #675, by 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.

I had a couple of ideas for captions, which I posted to the group. The group is much too kind to give harsh negative feedback, but when my posts get exactly zero ‘likes’ I get the hint. My ideas were not good.

Reading through the other posts, Dennis had submitted one that I liked. It was something like “You two seem well suited to each other.” Immediately “You two seem oddly suited” – a little shorter and perhaps even little funnier – came to my mind.

It is a collaborative group and generally considered OK to draw inspiration from each other’s ideas. But I thought my caption was too close to Dennis’, and the basic idea was his, not mine. I asked, and Dennis very kindly gave me permission to submit.

Then, a second stroke of absurdly good luck. Beth had been entering the contest for fifteen years. In spite of submitting consistently excellent captions, she had never been a finalist – until contest #674! Beth’s caption was one of the three selected finalists, and the group rallied to vote for her. I’m sure her friends outside the group did the same.

The very next week my caption was selected as a finalist for contest #675. The group was already fired up over Beth’s success, and I’m convinced I benefited from that enthusiasm generating more votes for me. Beth even posted on her personal wall to encourage her followers to vote for my caption.

Beth very deservedly won contest #674. I got credit for winning #675. It was a team win, thanks to Dennis’ great idea and to Beth for getting out the vote.

It was a great way to win and I couldn’t be happier about it. I wish there was a way to officially credit Dennis and Beth, but that won’t stop me from bragging incessantly.

I won the New Yorker Caption Contest!

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