After 107 attempts, the Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic exorcises his cartoon caption demons.
“The New Yorker” is one of the most prestigious publications in existence. Famous for its illustrated covers, engaging profiles, social commentary, and humorous columns, the magazine is routinely a must read for the cultured intellectual. “The New Yorker” is frequently considered a dictator of smarty-pants taste.
If you’re a writer, having your words published in the magazine’s famous Adobe Calson font is an immeasurable honor and a unique validation of talent. The writings of 20th century literary giants such as Roald Dahl, J.D. Salinger, John Updike, and E.B. White as well as contemporary greats like David Foster Wallace and Jonathon Franzen have graced its pages.
But it’s the cartoons that haphazardly line the publication’s pages that always seem to get the most attention. The wit and highbrow sense of humor needed of the magazine’s occasionally non sequitur punch lines can often come off as pretentious or nonsensical. To put it simply, not a lot of people “get” the jokes. It can be frustrating, like staring at a Magic Eye book and never seeing the fucking sail boat.
People obsess over The New Yorker cartoons. “Seinfeld” even spent and entire episode during which Elaine attempted to successfully submit her own cartoon to the magazines vaunted pages.
Roger Ebert is one of those people who obsess over “The New Yorker’s” cartoon section. Since the advent of the magazine’s caption contest in 2005 Ebert has unsuccessfully submitted 106 witty punch lines. As the world’s most famous movie critic puts it: “I have done more writing for free for the ‘New Yorker’ in the last five years than for anybody in the previous 40 years.”
It seems like 107 is Ebert’s lucky number, because the cinephile has finally won the caption contest. Robert Mankoff, The New Yorker’s cartoon editor, put together a nice tribute in honor of the win by posting some of his favorite former Ebert submissions that never made the cut.
Normally, I’d be a tad bitter when a extremely famous writer, such as Ebert, wins a contest of this prestige. I’d be quick to claim favoritism and bias. However, after nearly six years of unpublished Ebert bylined captions, I don’t know who I have more respect for, the critic’s persistence or the publication’s stubbornness to pick a winner based on merit not fame.
Either way, bravo Mr. Ebert, you can do no wrong in my book.