Tuesday, September 28, 2010

cunning? more like PUN-ning

"Look—before you turn into a real nag..."

That would be the caption I almost submitted this week. A pun! A homonymic pun, to be precise. Though I did eventually settle on an even funnier submission (to be revealed later this week!!), I nearly went with this one solely out of my deep and abiding love for puns. Namely, bad puns. The more horrific the better. In fact, I would argue, the funniest puns are often not even puns at all: they are failed puns; horrifically failed puns.

But before we get all analyzy in the post-postmodern humor department (in which the unfunny is funny and vice-versa, and the act of joke-making itself can be a joke), let's first read this very amusing New York Times article on puns. Here M. Tartakovsky includes nearly all the chuckle-inducing anecdotes and ideas about puns that I myself would, were I to have some sort of nepotistic connection to the NYT Opinion section.

The one point of Tartakovsky's that I really hadn't considered before was "Surely puns silence conversation before they animate it." True true! Off the top of my head, I can't think of a more one-sided form of humor than the pun, whose only real purpose is to prove its quipster's cleverness. Maybe from now on, rather than groaning or giving the requisite (condescendingly-toned) "har har har," I will instead respond to every pun by referencing Lamb. Pistol to the ear again, eh? When all my intellect wants is a little tickle... (If you thought punsters were bad at making friends, you clearly haven't spent enough time with expert non-sequiturians such as myself.)

And on that note, I do believe I'll be off to bed for the evening. Especially because the Indian food I made for dinner seems to not be agreeing with me very well. (Indian food? More like Indigestion food, amiright??) Har har har.

PS (for readers of indelicate sensibilities only): Why oh why am I not the first to coin this term?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Getting up to speed....

....with the caption from the September 13th issue.
The New Yorker's choices:

"Never thought I’d say this, but I wish I'd played more Whac-A-Mole as a kid."

"I'm on a satellite phone—how's the reception?"

"Yes, I'm alone."

As is fast becoming a pattern, there's a clear stand-out among the choices, one that treads that fine line between being funny enough to win it all but unfunny enough to make the editors' top three (ie, the third one above). Ahem, Whac-a-mole? For serious? Maybe the editors just choose two craptastic captions as a service to their indecisive voters who are already overburdened with choice in this chaotic, globalized society. I mean it's hard enough to pick out a goddam bottle of cough syrup at the pharmacy. Good thing we don't have to then choose among three decent New Yorker captions, right? How noble of them.

But for those of who seek a higher truth no matter the consequences, who champion freedom of choice over socialism, liberty over East Coast Elitism and Sam Post over the New Yorker editors, here are some other options.

The second caption above is on the right track, but the wording is off. (I reckon it's supposed to be a play on the word satellite? Or is it? Would it be funny even if that were obvious?) Brett was on a similar path here, and we came up with something similar, but better:

"The view is great, but the service is incredible!"

This more effectively highlights the uniqueness of the situation: here's this random dude who gets the opportunity to behold the glories of the cosmos in blissful solitude, but it's even more cool that he can tell someone about it.

Alissa decided he was calling someone on a grocery run to earth, resulting in this:

"Sorry honey, I meant fat free. If it's not too much trouble, would you mind turning around?"
Variations included reference to a specific astronomical object, say, the milky way or asteroid belt, as a point of reference: "If you're not past the asteroid belt, would you...." but at the time we were still slaves to the editors, choosing pithiness over quality in a thinly veiled attempt at fame and victory. But now we shall have both (minus the victory).

Okay, I just thought of this:

"I'm afraid I may have to cancel that appointment." Like, cause he's a billion miles away. Yahtzee!

And my rejected submission:

"No no, my plan has ten Zorbon minutes. Talk all you want."

This evolved from "It'll take you how long? Oh, you must mean earth days..." or something to that effect. The point is, the speaker's earth compatriot misunderstands his information about timing, cause they're on different planets and their days are different lengths! But I had to tie in something about the fact that he was on the phone, didn't I?

The phrasing took a while to nail down, but in the end, it ranks as one of my greatest accomplishments, alongside graduating college and the caption I submitted the week before. Too complicated, you say? Go play some whac-a-mole. If you need me, I'll be at the pharmacy for the next three hours.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Mission Statement

As befits a lady of fine character and refined manners, I would like to begin my first Conceitedly Captioned post by thanking Sam for his delightful introduction to this new joint blogging venture. I would then like to point our currently nonexistent readership in the direction of a fascinating (and short, might I add) Slate article by Patrick House entitled How To Win the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest.

House takes the position that if your goal is to win the caption contest, then you must begin by accepting that "you are not trying to submit the funniest caption; you are trying to win The New Yorker's caption contest. Humor and victory are different matters entirely." While both Sam and I recognize the pragmatism of this view (and its potential effectiveness, as apparently House won within months of beginning his quest), I think it's important to state very clearly—as Sam did in an email to me earlier in the day—that "we have to think of captions not just to submit but for the blog....THIS IS BIGGER THAN JUST THE CONTEST NOW" [emphasis mine].


Predicated upon this refusal to kowtow to the taste of lame old white guys plus some guy named Farley, this blog is therefore a way out of the broken, hierarchical system that House analyzes so well. Surely it'll only be a couple of weeks before the readership of Conceitedly Captioned—recognizing our superior hilarity—exceeds that of The New Yorker itself! (Scientifically speaking, this would be at least 1,011,821 people.)

So have we set out on this project with ridiculously hubristic aims? Obviously. But as Franz Kafka exhorted his friend Oskar back in 1904, "A [caption] must be the axe for the frozen sea within us."

Make that sea into Lake Michigan in late January, Franz, and you've got yourself two disciples.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Idea

A few weeks ago, I started taking the New Yorker caption contest pretty seriously, and by pretty seriously, I mean much more so than any reasonable person should. Seeing as how the New Yorker is my favorite publication and all, I started becoming annoyed that my name (or psuedonym) had never made an appearance within. So after years of flirting with various ideas for the captions, I finally buckled down and submitted one. What gave me the final push? Well, one day a friend and I were brainstorming possible captions for the current issue, when we came up with what we thought might be a winner. With something finally submittable, I rushed to the nearest internet-machine only to find out that the "current issue" was actually two weeks old, and that the winning caption was nearly identical to the one we had independently come up with.

Anyway, buoyed by the support of friends and family, and more recently, Alissa, I/we have submitted caption(s) every week since, thus far with no success. BUT we have started to notice a strange trend: Our captions are often funnier than the ones the editors choose. While this does make me lose faith in humanity, it also makes me gain faith in myself. It also makes me want to share my and Alissa's hilarity with the world at large, by which I mean my immediate family and whatever readers Alissa manages to commandeer. Let's get to it.

First up, the contest from September 6th (yeah we're gonna go back a little and catch up to the present.)

The editors' choices:
"In the end, Ed, most of us are carried along by our delusions."
"You always have to be an early adopter."
"You don't have to tell me it's a vanishing breed."

Okay, the third one's pretty good, but the first two? Come on, now.

My rejected caption:
"Nice chameleon."

Perhaps as an interlude, we can get into the incongruity theory of humor. But it's 1:30 am on a schoolnight, and you know what means: I have to go brainstorm a caption for the next contest.