Before we get to this week’s commentary, I want to let you know that I am for the first time in more than two years a finalist in that other caption contest at the New Yorker. I’ll let you know in two weeks whether I can claim my eighth victory, or whether I have lost out for the second time to another finalist. (I suffered my first such defeat at the hands of Tim Herbert on December 7, 2007, and the pain is still fresh.)
Now, on to Kim Warp’s Downton Abbey-inspired cartoon. She’s drawn an English Lord addressing his butler, maid, chauffer, some woman whose position I can’t identify, and clown.
I initially thought he was questioning his staff and trying to identify the perpetrator of an offense that only a clown would commit:
- “Who hit Lord Kensington with the pie?”
- “Who sprayed Lord Kensington with seltzer?”
I then imagined him trying to impart a message that could only be undermined by the clown’s presence: “The British manor house represents, above all, dignity.”
I next imagined him inspecting the staff from left to right: “Splendid…Excellent…Brilliant…Top-shelf…May I have a word?”
Because the staff is relatively small, I imagined he might be explaining recent cuts: “I had to let go of all but the most essential staff.”
Finally, I thought about Donald Trump’s recent visit to Buckingham Palace and went topical: “He’s here to help Her Majesty prepare for the President.”
Now let’s see how you did:
Many of you submitted “Trump visiting the U.K.” jokes, and these were the best:
- “You each will have an important role to play during the President’s visit.”
- “Only one of you will be allowed to interact with the President.”
- “The Queen wanted him to feel at home.”
Here are a few more entries that are similar to one of mine:
- “I’m afraid one of you is not taking this job seriously.”
- “It’s essential that you take your job seriously.”
- “Remember – dignity, always dignity.”
I have just one issue with that last caption: it’s nearly identical to a famous line from “Singing In The Rain,” so it’s not the most original joke. Nevertheless, it’s concise and addresses both the setting and the clown, so it works.
So does this entry, and for much the same reason: “I believe we shall all go in one car.”
As I did, many of you imagined the English Lord trying to determine which staff member committed a clown-related offense:
- “Would anyone explain why Lord Fenwick’s kerchiefs were found tied together?”
- “We have an issue with missing seltzer bottles.”
- “Someone has been stealing my wife’s makeup.”
- “Can anyone explain why last night’s chicken was so rubbery?”
- “Which one of you honked?”
And here’s a pretty good sex joke: “As you are aware, our guests have many and varied proclivities…” The first four words are unnecessary, as are the ellipses at the end, but it made me laugh.
There were nearly a hundred captions that turned the cartoon into a scene from an Agatha Christie novel where the detective gathers together and addresses all the suspects. The best of these captions was, “Around the time of the murder, a witness heard a slide whistle.”
And finally, here are two captions that don’t fit neatly into any category, but still deserve notice:
- “It has come to my attention that one of you lied on your resume.”
- “Allow me to explain the difference between a uniform and a costume.”
This was a hard cartoon to caption. I congratulate all who tried, and the entry I like best is “The Queen wanted him to feel at home.” Yes, it’s a topical joke that by its very nature will not have a long life, but it’s really good (and much better than my own Trump joke).