Thursday, October 14, 2010

Last week's cartoon, with which Alissa was apparently so flabbergasted she didn't have the heart to tackle its inadequacies, is shown above. Putting aside for now the New Yorker's own caption choices, this cartoon makes for an interesting case study, and it's worth exploring the creative process by which we attempted to wring something useful from it.

If you're anything like we are, your first impression on viewing the cartoon might have been something like "Huh?!" What's going on there? Clearly, something's up with the third duck in the line, but what's the deal? Is it disguised, costumed, or just a genetic freak with glasses? These are some of the basic questions we had to wrestle with in trying to overcome our lack of inspiration. Naturally, my initial thought was that it's a nerd duck; Alissa's was that it's dressed up like Groucho Marx. Any drawing that can accommodate both these views clearly suffers from a lack of clarity.

At any rate, our discussions yielded the following threads:

Ducks are among the few animals that are polyandrous. A nerd duck would be aware of this, perhaps ironically only from library study: "Billy said he read in the library that ducks are polyandrous...just sayin'..." This caption doesn't quite work though, does it? Can't quite put my finger on it. We tried to figure out some way that we could both imply that the mother is talking to a would-be father, but that the nerd-duck isn't in fact his offspring. But it's a lot to fit into one sentence.

[costume]: "If he wears it long enough we can make him re-use it next year." Ya know those kids (or was it just me) who wore their Superman costumes waaaay past Halloween in first grade? Maybe the same thing's going on here. Problem: Not a very inspiring Halloween costume is it?

[Groucho Marx]: "We never should've rented 'Duck Soup'." I'm going to go ahead and not try to justify the whole Groucho Marx thing; either you see it or you don't.

Upon closer inspection, it struck me as odd that this particular duck has ears to support its glasses. Ducks don't have ears. Even ducks with glasses. Coincidence? Surely not:

"Good thing Billy has ears or his glasses wouldn't stay on." Meh. (Also, to answer your question: Yes, any time someone in the caption has a name, it is invariably Billy.)

Eventually, with the same thread, we landed on: "Do you think his hearing is so good because he's nearly blind, or is it the ears?" This effectively combines the irony of both the glasses and the ears into one caption, while making light of the fact that the ears are clearly only in the cartoon as an accessory to the glasses.

Finally, with the disguise idea, Alissa thought maybe there was something involving the witness protection program involved (in retrospect, this makes perfect sense...we were grasping at straws okay?). Witness protection led to "pate protection"....get it? Yup. It's even more of a stretch. But the real question is, why is only one of the ducks disguised? "Remind me why we only signed one of them up for the Pate Protection Program?" GENIUS.

So you see, our level of obsession with this whole caption thing has risen from mildly unhealthy to severely-damaging-to-our-social-and-professional-pursuits. But it was an off-week, so we had to work extra hard.

*************UPDATE: I actually forgot our funniest, final idea, by way of Alissa. This strange duck has so many facial and cranial anomalies it's almost like he has some sort of cosmetic obsession, that his parents have somehow indulged. Thus:

"I drew the line at mustache implant."

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