Evanstonian Michael Moran was selected as the first place winner in “The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest” for a cartoon drawn by Navied Mahdavian. The winning line was printed with the cartoon in the Nov. 23 issue (reproduced below with permission of Conde Nast, publisher of The New Yorker).
The New Yorker magazine, established in 1925, is famous for many things, including investigative journalism, thorough fact-checking, illustrated covers, cultural criticism, and of course, its cartoons. The cartoons are casually spaced throughout each issue, the captioned line drawings floating amid articles and stories unrelated to the humorous image.
Since April 2005, the magazine has also sponsored the cartoon-caption contest, a weekly feature on the last page of each issue. A cartoon submitted to the magazine is selected for the contest if editors feel the original caption could be improved by the magazine’s readers.
The rules are simple and straightforward. Readers are encouraged to submit captions online by a specific date. Captions must be 250 characters or fewer for the specific cartoon (“the Submission”). Three finalists are chosen by editors at the magazine (“the Judges”). Readers vote online to determine the winner. The winning caption is printed with the cartoon. The entire cycle takes about four weeks.
Any reader aged 13 years and older, from anywhere in the world, may participate in the caption contest. The odds are steep – the average number of entries received each week is 5,372, according to a 2014 article in the magazine by then-cartoon editor Bob Mankoff. That article was appropriately named “Seven Reasons It’s Hard to Win the Caption Contest.”
Mr. Moran said he has submitted captions a few other times, but this was his first comic success. He also said he does not consider himself to be very funny, but one suspects he is extremely modest.
The cartoonist, Mr. Mahdavian, said in his Instagram feed that the “original caption was WAY less funny.” Other cartoonists commenting on that online thread have raved about Mr. Moran’s caption, adding veracity to his funniness chops.
What does Mr. Moran receive for submitting the winning entry?
Fame. His name, hometown, and state are published underneath the caption now paired with the cartoon. The magazine used to send an original drawing of the final cartoon to each winner, but that custom was discontinued around the time the contest expanded internationally.
Mr. Moran’s winning caption with Mr. Mahdavian’s cartoon may be purchased on The Cartoon Bank website, image TCB-147995.
Each caption contest is identified by a number; Mr. Moran won #730. Based on the average number of weekly entries suggested by Mr. Mankoff, multiplied by 730, nets out to nearly four million captions submitted over 16 years, all to identify 730 first place winners. And one – at least one – lives here.