In Peter Kuper’s cartoon, a man on the sidewalk is looking up at a gigantic rabbit, and the rabbit is talking.
Peter and I have collaborated on several cartoons, three of which have been published in The New Yorker, and we already tried collaborating on this drawing. Peter’s original caption (“I’m not invisible, and I’m not your friend”) was a reference to “Harvey,” the 1950 comedy about an eccentric but sweet-natured man named Elwood (James Stewart) whose eponymous best friend is a large, invisible white rabbit. Peter submitted it to The New Yorker without success, so he asked me to try something more political (specifically, about Trump’s effect on our perception of reality). I suggested, “If you believed Trump would grow into the presidency, why can’t you accept a twenty-foot-tall talking rabbit?” The New Yorker rejected that, as well, and I can’t blame them. It’s not my best work. But Peter’s drawing is fantastic, so Bob Mankoff featured it in this week’s caption contest.
Before looking at your entries, I took a stab at a few more captions.
I first returned to Peter’s allusion to “Harvey.” The rabbit in that film was 6 feet 3½ inches tall, and Kuper’s is significantly larger, so I came up with, “Everything’s always bigger in the sequel, Elwood.”
I then moved on to a very different cultural touchstone: Grace Slick’s “White Rabbit,” a song about experimenting with drugs that is full of references to “Alice in Wonderland.” In 1967 it was a huge hit for Jefferson Airplane, so I came up with a few captions based on the lyrics:
- “You must have taken the pill that makes you small.”
- “Go ask Alice.”
- “You fed your head, didn’t you?”
Rabbits are generally considered cute and cuddly, but Peter’s is intimidating and terrifying. That incongruity led to my final two captions:
- “Say it. Say I’m still cute.”
- “Call me cute one more time and I will crush you into a fine powder.”
Now let’s see how you did.
There were, as expected, a lot of references to Grace Slick’s “White Rabbit:”
- “How should I know? Go ask Alice.”
- “Go ask Alice.”
- “Alice gave me a pill.”
- “One pill made me larger, and one pill made you smaller.”
- “Seems I took the pill that makes you larger.”
And to “Harvey:”
- “Who’s Harvey?”
- “It’s Mr. Harvey to you.”
- “Well, in 1950 I was a 6-foot rabbit.”
One of my favorite New Yorker cartoons is by Harry Bliss:
The following three entries brought that classic to mind:
- “You want my lucky what?”
- “I know at least one rabbit’s foot that won’t bring you any luck.”
- “The foot on your key chain. It belonged to my son.”
Here’s a sick twist on the same joke: “I need one of your feet for good luck.”
Like that last entry, many of this week’s best captions highlight the threat posed by an enormous rabbit:
- “I may be out of season, but you’re not.”
- “We’re not all vegetarians.”
- “Yes, most of the time we are cute and cuddly. Unfortunately, this isn’t one of those times.”
In that last entry, the word “unfortunately” is unnecessary and gets in the way of a strong punchline.
Here’s an entry I almost passed over: “Your wife is pregnant.” It’s a rabbit test joke, but I didn’t think it made sense until I considered it in the context of the other captions that suggest the rabbit is angry and violent. Maybe, I thought, the rabbit’s intent on and (because of his size) capable of avenging his female partner, who died for a pregnancy test for the man’s wife. Who knows if that’s what the entrant intended, but that’s why I’m highlighting the caption.
Here are this week’s best puns:
- “You don’t like big hare?”
- “I’ll show you a bad hare day.”
- “Bad hare day.”
- “You the fella been splitting hares?”
- “I come from a large family.”
Here is a caption that, unlike every other entry that included the word “hare,” is not a pun: “Actually, I’m a hare. Rabbits are a little smaller.” I’d like that entry even more without the words “a little.” I assume they were included to make the enormous hare look foolish for minimizing the difference in size, but deleting those two words makes the caption punchier and funnier.
This is the best of several captions that explained how the rabbit got so big: “I live off vegetation near the nuclear plant.”
The next two captions presume that the rabbit was once the man’s childhood pet:
- “No, your parents sent me upstate to a lab.”
- “Remember that little bunny you tossed in the sewer?”
That second caption is, I believe, a reference to “Alligator,” the 1980 thriller (written by John Sayles, of all people) about a tiny baby alligator that’s purchased by a little girl while on vacation in Florida. Upon returning to Chicago, the girl’s father flushes the alligator down the toilet so it lands in the city’s sewer system, where it survives on the discarded carcasses of animals that had been used as test subjects for an agricultural livestock company’s experimental growth formula. After consuming concentrated amounts of this formula for twelve years, the alligator grows to a length of thirty-six feet and goes on a murderous rampage. See this movie. I watched it forty years ago and have never forgotten it.
Finally, we have three entries in which the rabbit is a little defensive:
- “Well, you’re not the best representative of your species, either.”
- “What, you’ve never seen an overbite before?”
- “Maybe you’re just really small.”
I liked a lot of this week’s entries—maybe Peter Kuper should start collaborating with you all—but my favorite is, “I need one of your feet for good luck.”
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.