In Lars Kenseth’s cartoon, an office worker and a wizard are either in an elevator or waiting for an elevator. The wizard is carrying a cardboard box filled with files and a tape dispenser, suggesting that he was just fired and told to clear out his desk. The wizard is speaking.
I first thought of the software program called Wizard:
- “You know what hurts? The software that’s replacing me is actually called Wizard.”
- “Guess what they call the software that’s replacing me.”
I then considered reasons the wizard might have been fired:
- “I turned my supervisor into a mouse, which apparently is insubordination.”
- “Instead of using my magical powers to increase profits, I made myself invisible and hid in the ladies’ room.”
I then thought about the consequences of discharging someone with magical powers: “They are really going to regret firing someone who casts spells.”
But what if he’s not a real wizard? “If I actually had magical powers, would I be taking the elevator?”
Finally, and surprisingly for someone who’s not a huge fan of wordplay, I came up with a pun: “Well, I’m not an accounting wiz.”
Now let’s see how you did:
There were so many puns, a good number of which were decent, that I had to split them up into groups.
There were puns about spells:
- “I made too many spelling errors.”
- “Spell check isn’t what I thought it was.”
- “I underestimated spell-check.”
- “Damn spell checker.”
- “The corporate world has lost its magic.”
- “The magic is gone.”
- “…and I’m taking all my magic markers.”
And wands (or staffs):
- “…but I really was talking about my wand.”
- “One must learn to keep one’s wand in one’s robe.”
- “My staff turned on me.”
- “I never said I was a financial wizard.”
- “I’m not a financial wizard.”
Though I’m usually urging you all to avoid exclamation points and italics and underling and all-caps, and to submit jokes that are more understated, I think those last two captions would be better if the word “financial” were italicized.
The best pun was, “I’m a victim of outsorcery.”
Before leaving the section on wordplay, I want to address the two puns that began with ellipses. Unless they’re used to indicate that a word or phrase has been omitted from a quoted passage, which is not how they’re used in captions, ellipses express hesitation, a change of mood, suspense, or a thought that’s trailing off. They can therefore work in the middle or at the end of a caption—though they’re rarely necessary—but not at the beginning. Avoid them. They’re distracting.
There were several entries about the wizard’s robe and hat, which are not appropriate office attire:
- “Apparently there’s a dress code.”
- “I can’t work where there’s a dress code.”
- “Damn dress code.”
Some of you noted that, given his powers of prediction, the wizard should not have been surprised by his termination:
- “Well, I probably should have seen that coming.”
- “I should’ve seen this coming.”
- “I didn’t see it coming.”
Some of you suggested the wizard was the target of an unlawful discharge:
- “Of course it’s age discrimination. I’m 347 years old.”
- “You reach 600 and they have no use for you.”
I’d like that last caption better if “reach” were replaced with “turn.”
Others assumed the wizard engaged in misconduct:
- “I don’t suppose you know how to turn a stapler back into a corporate lawyer?”
- “I suppose I shouldn’t have turned the head of Accounting into a hamster.”
- “You turn one colleague into a cat.”
- “Apparently, asking your receptionist to hold your staff is a fireable offense.”
I don’t think fireable is a word. Try terminable.
One entrant assumed the wizard was the victim of downsizing: “They made my position disappear.”
Others assumed he was discharged for poor performance:
- “Hell, if I was any good I wouldn’t need an elevator.”
- “They expected miracles.”
- “Fired. Like anyone could have predicted how 2020 was going to unfold.”
That last caption would be better without the first word. “Fired” explains the joke too much. It’s unnecessary.
Like I did, some of you noted there could be unanticipated consequences of firing a wizard:
- “Let me know when the boss gets my magic wand out of his ass.”
- “And you enjoy being a newt, Tyler.”
- “You’ll get your neck back when I get my severance pay.”
The next five entries assume that the terminated wizard is, as one might expect, bitter:
- “After 35 years, all I get is a cheap watch I have to turn into gold myself.”
- “Good luck getting Stevens to fend off any dragons.”
- “I gave them the best centuries of my life.”
- “I gave those bastards the best centuries of my life.”
- “Nobody fires the Wiz.”
Entries 3 and 4 are nearly identical, but “those bastards” is fitting and funnier than “them.” The last entry is a nice reference to “Nobody Beats The Wiz,” an old chain of electronics stores and the inspiration for a memorable scene from a Seinfeld episode (The Junk Mail) in which Elaine falls for the chain’s mascot, played by the great Toby Huss.
In the last caption I’m choosing to highlight, the wizard isn’t bitter at all, as he knows he has other job prospects: “I’m not worried. The White House is hiring magical thinkers.” That’s the week’s best topical joke. But the week’s best caption is, much to my surprise, a pun: “I’m a victim of outsorcery.”
Lawrence Wood has won The New Yorker’s Cartoon Caption Contest a record-setting seven times and been a finalist two other times. He has collaborated with New Yorker cartoonists Peter Kuper, Lila Ash, Felipe Galindo Gomez, and Harry Bliss (until Bliss tossed him aside, as anyone would, to collaborate with Steve Martin). Nine of his collaborations have appeared in The New Yorker, and one is included in the New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons.