Every issue, we publish a cartoon (drawn by New Yorker cartoonist Ben Schwartz) and ask our readers to caption it. We wanted to learn more about our most prolific contest contributors. Read more participant profiles here.
Dale Stout is a retired Coloradan who has won Moment’s cartoon contest multiple times over the past eight years, including this year’s March/April contest. He’s one of Moment’s most ardent contributors, frequently using wordplay and puns like “Lettuce pray.” We spoke with Stout about his love of contests, how to write a winning caption and Moment’s caption contest community.
What first drew you to this contest?
I’ve been doing Moment’s contest since about 2010. Several years ago, the Denver Post had a contest. After I entered that, I started Googling and looking around for other contests. I won my first contest in Norfolk; I thought it was Norfolk, Virginia, but it turned out to be Norfolk, Nebraska, a great small town that we later drove through to check out. That was my first contest, and then I won the Denver Post’s. I’ve been Googling cartoon contests for quite some time now, so I’ve entered a lot. There are always multiple ones going on around the country online, somewhere, at some time, so it’s been fun to play.
What draws you to caption contests?
You get a chance to have some humor and have some fun. It’s a bit of a stress reliever at times. Over time, I’ve gotten more adept at puns and dad jokes. It’s fun to go home and have something to do as a hobby.
What’s your process? Have you won before?
I’ve probably won 80-plus contests and been a runner up for more. It’s just persistence. You have to know there’s going to be rejection. If anyone wants to participate, read Bob Mankoff’s book. In general, you should try to keep the punchline at the end of the joke, try to keep it short and succinct and try to think of something that’s maybe not the most obvious caption to come up with. A little zing and zip helps.
In the Moment contest, participants tend to build off each other’s entries. Do you think of it more as a community, more of a competition or a little bit of both?
I think it’s more of a community, with maybe a little competition. Most caption contests don’t have that type of back-and-forth, you just submit your ideas, so Moment Magazine is a little different in that respect—and I kind of like that.
Have you met any other Moment submitters in real life?
I haven’t met any of the submitters. I have met Bob Mankoff, who kind of kicked it off for Moment, though.
Are you Jewish?
I’m not, but I’m empathetic. [Laughs] I’m a Christian. I’ve tried out a lot of flavors and denominations, but if I had to say one, I’d say non-denominational, although I’ve gone to a variety of Presbyterian and Methodist churches. There are just so many denominations.
Is it difficult for you to come up with Moment cartoons, as a non-Jew?
You know, it is kind of interesting. I’ve lived on the East Coast and I think there are predominantly more Jewish people there. I was also involved in music and orchestra growing up, so maybe I’ve been exposed to more Jewishness than the average person.