There have been a few complaints lately that the same names keep showing up as finalists in our You Write the Caption contest. Some of you probably won't believe me, but I make a strong effort not to play favorites -- I'm not sure I really have "favorites" for that matter.
That said, this contest has acknowledged from Day 1 that humor is subjective, and what strikes one person as clever or funny may leave another cold. It's why different folks can list either Doonesbury or Mallard Fillmore as their favorite comic strip. Because of that, I also try to give captions from both sides of the political debate equal consideration when judging -- which has led to as many outraged howls from the liberal readers of this site as the conservative ones (well, maybe not as many -- perhaps it's that outraged liberals howl louder). The goal is not to pick a caption that's "left" or "right", but one that fits the drawing the best.
When sorting through the pile of entries, I focus on the captions and not on the names of the folks submitting them. And I often send a compilation of captions (sans names) to my edit page cohorts seeking their input as well. The lines you see listed here on Friday are the result of a little bit of luck, and, I like to think, of a certain amount of skill.
What kind of skill, you ask? Well I'm glad you did! Here's a piece that ran at slate.com last year written by a former winner of The New Yorker cartoon caption contest, upon which our little gig here is unabashedly based. (We also linked to this piece last year when it first came out.) The writer says to focus on 3 things: knowing that humor and winning are separate matters (which some of the grumpier commentators here will happily affirm), understanding the mind of the gatekeeper (good luck with that one) and employing a little advanced joke theory.
We'll be back Friday, as usual, with the winner of this week's contest. And not to give anything away, but he's another former winner of The New Yorker contest. So maybe there's something to all this . . . .