Dr. Benjamin Schwartz has drawn a shirtless and hooded executioner introducing a kindly old woman (also wearing a hood) to his next victim: a prisoner who’s on his knees with his hands tied behind his back and his head above a chopping block. The executioner—whose expression, from what we can see, is not very threatening—is speaking.
I assumed the elderly women was the executioner’s mother, and the first joke I came up with was the far too obvious, “It’s ‘take your mother to work’ day.”
Maybe the executioner was feeling guilty about his job and hoping his mother could help assuage this guilt by putting in a good word for him: “Take it from her—I’m really a nice guy.”
Maybe he was using his mother to help explain why he was in this line of work: “After my father died, I had to quit school and run the business.”
Maybe he was embarrassed by his mother’s pride in his work: “It’s always ‘my son, the executioner’ this, and ‘my son, the executioner’ that.”
Maybe he was simply explaining why his mother was there: “She’ll clean up.”
Finally, I came up with a caption that focused on every mother’s desire to see her son get married, and connected that to the executioner’s method of finding women who are not yet but soon will be single: “She wants me to find a nice girl and settle down. Is your wife nice?”
Now let’s see how you did.
Many of you focused on the elderly woman’s cane—something I overlooked—and connected it to a far less severe form of punishment:
- “We’ll warm up with a gentle caning.”
- “I’m not sure who you know, but the judge reduced your sentence to a caning.”
- “Good news. Your sentence was reduced to caning.”
Several of you suggested the old woman is about to kill the prisoner, but not with an axe:
- “She’s going to kill you with kindness.”
- “She’ll talk your head off.”
I especially liked the following captions, which presume that the old woman will use an axe to decapitate the prisoner, but not without difficulty:
- “Don’t worry, with her astigmatism, she’ll probably only lop off your ear.”
- “Her eyes aren’t so good so don’t move around too much.”
- “She’s not accurate, but she is persistent.”
- “It’s actually much worse if she does it.”
I especially like that last caption because it does more than provide a good punchline; it makes the reader picture the elderly woman trying and repeatedly failing to bring the axe down with enough force to get the job done, and causing quite a mess in the process. Sick, yes, but funny, like many of the best cartoons, including this classic from Sam Gross:
This week we have two good puns:
- “Mom always encouraged me to get a head.”
- “You’re on her bucket list.”
Metal buckets were used to catch the heads of prisoners decapitated by guillotines. I’m not sure such buckets were used by executioners like the one in Schwartz’s drawing, but the second pun still works.
Two entrants mocked me (deservedly) for constantly exhorting you all to avoid exclamation points:
- “We told you not to use exclamation marks!!!!!”
- “Your English teacher turned you in for all those exclamation points.”
The second caption, which includes no exclamation points, is best.
Like I did, many of you presumed that the elderly woman is the executioner’s mother:
- “Before you meet your maker, I’d like you to meet my mother.”
- “She taught me everything I know.”
- “But first my mom will torture you with guilt.”
- “But first, the guilt.”
Compare those last two captions. They tell the exact same joke, but the one that’s half as long is twice as good. Or is it? In the context of this drawing, the reference to torture might deepen and improve the joke.
One of you cleverly explained why the old woman is so pleased to meet the prisoner: “She wanted to thank you for your liver.”
Here’s a caption that’s both dark and sweet: “And then next week I go with her to learn quilting.”
And finally, a Jewish joke: “Guess who circumcised me.”
Sorry I didn’t highlight any of the many “take your mother to work” captions. It’s not a bad joke but it’s not a great one and, as I mentioned above, it’s too obvious. Bob, however, may disagree and award this week’s prize to someone who submitted such a caption.
Of the twenty entries I did choose to highlight, here’s my favorite: “It’s actually much worse if she does it.”