Every issue, we publish a cartoon (drawn by New Yorker cartoonist Ben Schwartz) and ask our readers to caption it.
Over the years, our caption contest has grown into its own community. Some participants spend many hours in the comments section, swapping tips and offering feedback on each other’s entries. Others are quieter in public, but use our contest as fodder for friendly family rivalries.
We wanted to learn more about our most prolific participants—so we asked them about their love of contests, their approach to humor and the secret to the perfect caption.
“My brother and I ‘compete’ for the most wins and honorable mentions. We each submit separately and without input from the other. I show my brother my submissions—after the fact—and, when he spontaneously laughs in reaction, it makes my day. I can’t always wow the judges, but the instant feedback from my sibling is reward enough.”
“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.”
“I have to confess I don’t actually put actual work or much thinking in this enterprise, but instead rely on sudden spurts of inspiration. When the muse is kind and decides to smile or, better, laugh out loud. For the July/August 2017 cartoon, the first five entries in the contest were mine, all devised at a fast pace.”