Brow Beat

Here’s a New Caption That Works for All New Yorker Cartoons—Especially in the Caption Contest

Internet hero Frank Chimero has done what others believed to be impossible for many years: He has found a new caption that will work for every New Yorker cartoon.

As The Atlantic’s Robinson Meyer notes, there are already two widely acknowledged universal New Yorker cartoon captions: “Christ, what an asshole” (discovered by Charles Lavoie in 2006), and “What a misunderstanding!” (unveiled by Cory Arcangel in 2009). “Hi, I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” joins the canon as the perfect non-sequitur response when cartoon characters encounter unexpected situations in the OB-GYN’s office, at the swimming pool, or on a desert island.

Bravo, Frank—this discovery will surely irritate the judges of the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest for months if not years to come. As well it should: “Hi, I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” is—like “What a misunderstanding!”—a caption ideally suited to the tediously formulaic illustrations in the venerated magazine’s weekly low-stakes competition. As regular New Yorker readers know, there’s a difference between the original cartoons featured in the pages of the magazine and the caption-less illustrations that serve as fodder for the contest. Traditional New Yorker cartoons often feature people in normal situations—sitting in an office or a doctor’s examination room, for instance, or standing around at a cocktail party. The humor in these cartoons comes entirely from the caption.

Cartoon Caption Contest illustrations, however, never, ever feature normal situations—there’s always an alien or a giant or a bull jumping off a diving board in the background. These absurdist elements are like a booster seat for contestants, giving them a little nudge in a certain pun-filled direction, instead of letting their imaginations run wild.

“Hi, I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” is a knowing nod at the Cartoon Caption Contest illustration formula: Chimero’s caption is an unexpectedly stodgy response to any farcical situation. But although it’s particularly appropriate for Cartoon Caption Contest drawings, Chimero’s caption happily also works for the conventional settings of traditional New Yorker cartoons. After all, there’s no situation in which “Hi, I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” isn’t annoying.