When the film reviewer Roger Ebert passed in April, longer tributes noted his devotion to the weekly New Yorker caption contest. I enjoyed knowing we had this in common. The New Yorker even posted a tribute to his submission ritual that continued right up to the end.
Interestingly, Ebert won only once for a submission even he felt wasn’t his strongest. Like me, he was befuddled by many of the winning captions. In 2009, he politely put it this way: “It’s not that I think my cartoon captions are better than anyone else’s, although some weeks, understandably, I do.”
It’s a comment that unites most submitters. A thinly sliced part of my week is devoted to checking the contest and rolling my eyes at some of the captions selected instead of my jewel. For invariably, two of every three of the selected finalists just aren’t funny or represent the most obvious (and thus least witty) take on the cartoon.
It leaves one believing the contest is judged by an in-bred troglodytic spawn of two of the publication’s Ivy League editors. They took pity on this poor child who, for self-protective reasons, must keep his hands in mittens and is qualified for little else than scrolling through the caption submissions. But far from being grateful for this simple job, each week he probably just selects the first three captions submitted so he can quickly return to using his mittens to polish his prized collection of laminated Cracker Barrel place mats.
So in homage to the dearly missed Ebert, I post some of my best submitted captions from the past year. I include some of the captions selected over mine to let you to judge whether I have a case or just a huge case of hubris.