How to Write a New Yorker Cartoon Caption: Adam Conover Edition
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Cartoon Caption Contest | Season One | Episode 11
How to Write a New Yorker Cartoon Caption: Adam Conover Edition
The comedian, writer, and host Adam Conover, of “Adam Ruins Everything,” tries his hand at our cartoon-caption contest.
Released on 01/21/2019
[gentle chiming]
Hi, there!
I'm Adam Conover,
and I am here to caption some New Yorker cartoons.
We've got a guy here
sitting talking to a woman
who doesn't really appear to enjoy his company.
She looks a little nonplussed.
Up in the corner, there is some sort of metal protuberance.
I think it gives me, gives me an idea for a caption.
Okay, here we go.
Now that we've gotten acquainted,
would you care to look through my living room telescope?
See, now, a lot of people would say that's a pen.
To me, I made it a telescope, and this guy's on a date,
and that's how he thinks he's gonna seal the deal
is with a little casual astronomy.
But little does he know, she's not in the mood, so,
do I win?
Oh, okay, all right.
Classic New Yorker cartoon set up, here.
We got a psychiatrist, guy on the couch.
What's different this time?
We also got a dog, a cat, a bird, and a goldfish
also on little couches.
The psychiatrist doesn't look too happy, though, either.
All right, yeah, let me try something here.
I'm worried my psychiatrist does too much acid.
He doesn't just see one guy on a couch,
he sees all kinds of animals on the couch.
That's not a psychiatrist you'd wanna,
you'd wanna go to.
Unless you read Michael Pollan's recent writing
in the New Yorker about psychiatric uses
for hallucinogenic drugs in treating depression,
which I have, 'cause I'm a reader of the magazine,
so, it really undermines the cartoon I came up with,
but let's just go, let's move on.
Let's do the next one.
This is a somewhat enigmatic image.
It appears to be a job interview type situation.
I'm gonna say job interview
because this man is carrying a briefcase.
If he's going to a meeting in his own office,
he would not bring a briefcase.
But emerging from the desk
is a hand clutching a sword.
That's not a usual situation,
unless you happen to be in a New Yorker cartoon.
So, in my imagination, the interviewer is saying,
I don't care if the hiring sword
did anoint you the chosen one,
we're still not offering you health benefits!
Now, some people say that brevity is the soul of wit.
Not in this case.
Sometimes, it's funnier if you really elaborately explain
the fictional scenario
in order to give all the context you need,
and this is a business that uses
sort of an Excalibur type method
to choose who to hire,
yet they still pinch pennies.
They're hiring this guy as a perma-lancer,
can you believe it?
Oh, my gosh!
The lady looks very happy, she's reading a book.
This guy, he's under a literal rain cloud.
It's raining on his side of the bed!
Indoors, no less!
Now, I've come up with what I think
is almost a classic New Yorker caption.
It's not necessarily even what I find funny,
but it's what I believe the cartoon editor
at the New Yorker might find funny.
If you're not in the mood, just say so!
Okay, this guy is at the top of a pile of cars.
You know, being a reluctant resident of Los Angeles,
he looks like he's the victim
of yet another billionaire's dumb plan
to try to fix LA's traffic problem, which never works.
Instead of public transportation,
they wanna use some high-tech fix,
so I think I know what my caption is gonna be.
Elon Musk is such a dumbass.
You may have heard of Elon Musk's plan
to dig tunnels under Los Angeles to alleviate traffic.
Those will just cause more traffic
as people would pile up to get in and out
of his dumb car tunnels!
Just take the subway!
Okay, it's another classic New Yorker cartoon scenario.
We've got a desert island,
the classic single desert island,
always a very intriguing scenario to me.
How did this man get here?
Well, there's no ship.
What has he been eating?
We have no idea.
It's almost the essence of comedy
perfectly abstracted into a single, you know,
pane of icons, right?
But the one difference in this case,
we have a plumber emerging from the ocean onto dry land.
Our castaway is saying something to him.
What is our castaway saying to the plumber?
He's saying,
Thank God you're here, we haven't had water in days!
In days!
Now, isn't that ironic?
He's surrounded by water,
but he is lodging this common complaint about plumbing,
we haven't had water in days,
which is very inconvenient,
so it's a combination of the everyday and the unusual
that makes the comedy come.
[Adam laughing]
This is very fun.
You've got a nerdy man popping out out of a cake
to surprise a somewhat baffled woman.
She's probably gonna finish that glass of wine pretty quick,
I would imagine.
That's not gonna last long
after being confronted with this display.
This man is saying, Surprise, I'm infertile!
You know, some things just come to you.
We got a man going up to,
looks like the boss's office.
Everything in there's comically big.
He's got a red carpet, he's got a huge desk,
it really seems like it's saying something
about wealth inequality in America today.
Got a couch over there,
that's a very uncomfortable place to sit.
You're just staring at that plant.
It's like pretty bad feng shui,
but let's not concern ourselves with that for now.
The question we need to answer is,
what is this man saying?
Well, I'm proud to say
that I've come up with a caption for this one
that is both topical and out of date.
Commissioner Pruitt, I'm here to talk about
your use of the decorating budget.
Maybe even this kind of trenchant commentary
is what led to his downfall.
We see a man here, a marriage counselor,
and a woman, and then talking to,
I assume this is meant to be the woman's husband,
and he's arranged, much like an Escher drawing,
he's on the wall, much like an MC,
Marriage Counselor Escher,
this guy's marriage counselor, never mind, that's terrible.
You two will be fine.
It's your daughter on the ceiling I'm worried about.
See, this is what we do in comedy, you know,
is we imagine, hey, this is the setup,
but imagine there's, just out of frame,
on the ceiling, there's a daughter hanging out up there.
She's hanging from the top, she's dangling,
her ponytail is dangling in the air,
and that's his real concern.
Marriage Counselor Escher would have been better.
I should've gone with my first instinct,
but hey, here we are.
When do I get paid?
It was interesting writing these, as a comedy writer.
It's easier as a comedy writer
to come in and make fun of the cartoon a little bit,
or make fun of the idea.
Actually writing a punchline
in a way that's actually funny and organic
is very, very difficult,
and let me tell you, when it happens,
it feels great.
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