In Kaamran Hafeez’s cartoon, a clown whose office furniture has been fashioned out of circus balloons is addressing a female colleague.
I didn’t like my first idea—“I’m dressing for the job I want”—because some variation on that joke is submitted for every contest that features a character wearing inappropriate clothing. I expect to see a lot of similar captions this time, but I won’t be highlighting any of them.
I did, however, come up with a couple of other captions that addressed the clown’s ridiculous costume:
- “They told me to dress like a professional. They didn’t specify which profession.”
- “What dress code?”
I then imagined the clown as an ineffectual supervisor trying to get more deference from his subordinates: “Would they respect me more if I were a scary clown?”
Recently there have been several scandals involving politicians and performers who were found to have, at some point in the past, worn blackface. This next caption is for them: “And now I can’t wear whiteface, either?”
Continuing the theme of white privilege, here’s my final caption for this contest: “I’m still a white male, and I demand to be treated accordingly.”
Now let’s see how you did.
These entries specifically address the balloon furniture:
- “Maybe I’d be more comfortable folding these into a standing desk.”
- “I tried a standing desk but it kept falling over.”
- “I can’t give you a raise, but I can make you a giraffe.”
While these address the clown’s comically oversized footwear:
- “My replacement will have some pretty big shoes to fill.”
- “I realize I have some big shoes to fill.”
And these allude to the number of clowns who can fit into a single small vehicle:
- “I’ll need just one parking spot for my team.”
- “Book 14 plane tickets and one compact car.”
- “You wouldn’t believe how many of my friends could fit in that filing cabinet.”
It’s always funny when the speaker is oblivious: “What? You said wear a suit.”
- “We need to have a conversation about your hair.”
- “Carol, we’ve been getting complaints about your makeup.”
- “Ms. Evans, I have received complaints about your attire.”
- “Your hair works but lose the outfit.”
I love the way this entry takes a common phrase and gives it an entirely different meaning—it goes from being an observation to an instruction—in the context of the drawing: “You can’t be serious.”
Here are the week’s best puns:
- “I think I’ll go home. I feel funny.”
- “They’re going to fire me…from a cannon.”
- “You wanted to see the clown in charge?”
This won’t make me popular, but I’m going to highlight three decent entries that could have been better:
First we have, “Yes, my clown college actually did have an MBA program.” I really like that caption, but it’s too long. Delete the unnecessary words (“yes” and “actually”), change “did have” to “had,” and you get the much tighter and stronger, “My clown college had an MBA program.”
Next, we’ve got, “Send in the suits, Mrs. Winters.” That’s a nice reference to the Sondheim classic from “A Little Night Music,” but why end it with “Mrs. Winters?” Her name is not the punchline. The punchline is “suits,” and that should be the caption’s last word.
Finally, we have, “You can take the man out of the circus, but you can’t take the circus out of the man.” That explains too much, and it would work better if the comma and last ten words were replaced with ellipses. Yes, I know I have in the past cautioned against unnecessary ellipses—they’re used far too often in caption contests—but this is the rare case when they would actually make the caption stronger and shorter and funnier.
Here’s an entry I’m highlighting only because I think it’s a good example of the universal caption—one that (like the famous, “Christ what an asshole”) works pretty well for almost any caption contest: “No. Why do you ask?”
Here are two strong entries that don’t fit neatly into any category:
- “Have those balloons on my desk by noon today.”
- “What, you’ve never had to work two jobs?”
And finally, here is this week’s winner, a caption that made me laugh out loud: “Human Resources says I have to stop pulling things out of my pants.”
Lawrence Wood has won The New Yorker’s Cartoon Caption Contest a record-setting seven times, and been a finalist two other times. He has collaborated with New Yorker cartoonists Peter Kuper, Lila Ash, Felipe Galindo Gomez, and Harry Bliss (until Bliss tossed him aside, as anyone would, to collaborate with Steve Martin). Nine of his collaborations have appeared in The New Yorker, and one is included in the New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons.