Pat Byrnes has drawn a comedy club full of robots. An audience member is heckling the comic on stage and delivering the line that will serve as the caption. I therefore thought the caption should be an insult.
Because robots are metal, and metal rusts, my first insult alludes to the title of Neil Young’s 1979 live album, Rust Never Sleeps: “You could put rust to sleep.”
I then came up with two captions that play on the different meanings of the word “drone:”
- “Drones have better delivery.”
- “Stop droning.”
Finally, I made a reference to the fact that many jobs have been lost to automation: “A human could do your job.”
Now let’s see how you did.
I had to reject about 90% of the entries (some of which were pretty funny) because they had the comic delivering the line that serves as the caption when I’m pretty sure it’s being delivered by the heckler. Look at the comedian’s mouth. His teeth are clenched tight—he’s not saying anything—whereas the robot in the audience is shouting.
A couple hundred of you—still a small percentage of the almost 2,000 entries received—identified the heckler as the speaker, and you submitted some really strong captions.
Here’s an entry that’s similar to but better than one of my own: “The drone had better delivery.” And here’s a caption that uses “drone” not as a noun but as a verb: “You’re droning again.” Again, better than my similar entry.
One of you submitted, “Not logical!!!” That’s a nice twist on “not funny,” but does it really need three exclamation points? Granted, Byrnes’s drawing cries out for a caption that ends with an exclamation point because hecklers shout, but one is enough.
The next two captions go after essentially the same “not logical” joke:
- “Now tell one that computes!”
- “Does not compute.”
Every caption contest needs a few sex jokes, so here are the best of the lot:
- “More Philip K. Dick jokes.”
- “I screwed your motherboard.”
- “Oh yeah? Well, sex with your wife is very mechanical.”
That last one is, if I‘m not mistaken, a reference to the classic Seinfeld scene where George crosses the line while delivering a comeback to a co-worker who’s mocked him for eating too many shrimp.
Here are two motherboard captions that aren’t sex jokes:
- “My motherboard is funnier than you!”
- “Hey, pal, watch it – that’s my motherboard you’re talking about.”
And here’s one last take on the mother joke: “I’d insult your mother, if you had one.”
The next three captions aren’t sex jokes, but they are vulgar (or, in the case of the last two, references to a vulgar line that some hecklers use):
- “Byte me!”
- “Show us your chips.”
- “Show us your off button.”
The next caption—“Did you really just use the n to the 9th Power word?”—may be inappropriate, but it’s another clever Seinfeld reference. It alludes to a notorious comment that Michael Richards, who played Kramer, made during one of his stand-up routines. A video of the routine went viral and almost destroyed Richards’ career until Larry David used the incident as a running joke on a brilliant episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm that reunited the core Seinfeld cast.
While reviewing the next three entries I had to look up the acronyms and the word “Fortran”—I’m old—but once I understood the captions I thought they were pretty good.
- “What’s the difference between you and a UNIVAC? A UNIVAC could fill a room.”
- “That joke was so old, it was written in Fortran.”
- “That joke was BASIC!”
This caption includes acronyms I actually do understand: “IBM? More like BM.”
Here are some fine Terminator references:
- “Too soon! We just wiped out the human race yesterday.”
- “You’ll never be as funny as your father! Or destroy as many human cities.”
I like this next caption—“Who told you you could perform, you prototype?”—but the “you you” is awkward and distracting. A better version might be, “Who said you could perform, you prototype?”
This caption—“Hey, pal, jokes are like user interfaces. If you gotta explain them, they suck”—hits a little too close to home as my commentaries are designed at least in part to dissect jokes, but I still really like it.
I didn’t initially get the next caption, but it does a nice job of addressing both hecklers and robots: “Boooooooo…p”
The following two captions stand out because they assume the audience member is not heckling the comic but rather trying to help out, first by responding to a line like, “My wife was so rusty . . .” by shouting out, “How rusty was she?” And next by offering advice to the comic, who appears to have frozen up: “Try turning yourself off and then back on again.”
I like this allusion to bad comics dying on stage: “Who said robots can’t die?”
And here are seven good insults that fit the drawing well:
- “Which one of those buttons will make you funnier?”
- “I’ve processed spreadsheets funnier than you.”
- “Don’t quit your factory job.”
- “Join the bomb squad!”
- “That Bit was horrible!”
- “You make me long for the days of limited battery life.”
- “I’ve seen crash test dummies funnier than you.”
When I was struggling to come up with my four captions I did not expect to receive thirty-four entries deserving special recognition. The best of them is, “More Philip K. Dick jokes.” It’s short, it addresses robots (for those who don’t know, Dick is the author of, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which was adapted into the movie, Blade Runner), it fits the comedy-club setting, and it made me laugh. I believe it’s the first sex joke I’ve ever selected as the week’s winning caption, but I’m sure it won’t be the last.