Tuesday, March 17, 2009
"Well, at least he made curfew."
"I thought our sex life was a train wreck."
"We should tell the G.P.S. people that they changed the off-ramp."
I think that this week's finalists teach us a great deal about the mechanisms underlying the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest.
Let me start with an analogy. Sometimes a man will be asked, "What were you doing last night?" He might vary his answer based on who is asking--be it his lover, paramour, inamorata, shortie, or mother. Often, his answers will be inconsistent, and the man soon loses track of what he told each interlocutor. Next, he tells more and more lies in order to squeeze the previous lies into plausibility, resulting in what might be called a "web of lies." At least this is my experience.
A similar thing happens in New Yorker cartoons. I mentioned in my algorithm that the captioner must find "the incongruous thing." But often, in adding the incongruous thing to the cartoon, the artist was forced to add several other incongruous things in order to squeeze the primary incongruous thing into plausibility, resulting in a "web of incongruity." My algorithm should thus be amended to instruct: "Find the primary incongruous thing"--the incongruous thing from which all others follow.
Better appreciating this might have led me to reconsider my entry for this week:
"And to think you didn't want the carbon fiber bed frame."