Kim Warp has drawn two thugs on the roof of a building. One of them is holding a man upside down by his ankles and, it would seem, threatening to let him fall to his death. The man who’s hanging upside down is talking. He looks annoyed (his arms are crossed) but remarkably calm given the circumstances.
This cartoon is not like those typically featured in the caption contest because it doesn’t demand the reconciliation of two disparate frames of reference, such as:
- Cavemen and cocktail hours, or
- Cavemen and realtors, or
- Cavemen and bikes with square wheels.
(I didn’t realize before now how many cavemen cartoons have been used for this contest.) Instead, Warp’s drawing simply requires a caption that makes sense in the context of a situation that is curious but not completely bizarre.
I first imagined that the thugs were not threatening the man but saving him at the last minute from a suicide attempt:
- “You two from the suicide hotline?”
- “Hotline send you?”
- “OK, you got me this time, but I’ll just find another building to jump from.”
I then envisioned a similar scenario in which the thugs were trying to be more helpful than intimidating:
- “Thanks, but you could have just used the Heimlich maneuver.”
- “Have you never heard of the Heimlich maneuver?”
- “I’m not choking, you morons. I have a scratchy throat.”
Assuming the thugs are trying to intimidate the man, he looks surprisingly determined to resist all their efforts to get him to talk so I came up with this caption: “If you had told me something in strictest confidence, I’m sure you wouldn’t want me to reveal it.”
Finally, I went meta: “If you were real cartoon thugs, you’d put my feet in a block of cement.”
Now let’s see how you did:
One of you went for the idea that the thugs were trying to save the man from choking, but you buried the punchline (“Heimlich maneuver”): “I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but the Heimlich maneuver would have sufficed.”
Another one of you explained why the man is refusing to talk: “There’s a reason why it’s called ‘Secret Santa.’” I’d like that caption better without the word “why.” That may seem like a minor criticism, but every word has to count in a caption. If it doesn’t need to be there, omit it.
A couple of you assumed the thugs just wanted to get a better look at the man’s shoes:
- “Yes, they have Vibram soles. You could’ve just asked.”
- “Thanks. They’re Florsheims.”
Many of you submitted captions highlighting the victim’s extraordinary calm, and among the best was this: “It appears we are at an impasse.” Similar captions emphasized not the victim’s steely nerves but his obliviousness:
- “Are you threatening me?”
- “Is this a threat?”
- “Oh yeah? What’re you gonna do about it?”
This entry goes in the other direction and implies that the intimidation tactics may be working: “This gives me a whole new perspective.”
One of you made a topical reference that hits especially close to my home, Chicago, the site of the Jussie Smollett scandal: “I paid you to make it look like a hate crime, not a mob hit.”
This caption highlights the problem with holding your target upside down: “What you wanted just fell out of my jacket.” A similar caption shows that the victim is not just undaunted, but disgruntled: “You owe me a hundred and forty bucks for the hat.” And in this scenario he’s downright cocky: “Tell your wife I love her.” That last caption is particularly good because it also explains why the thugs are about to let him fall to his death.
These next three captions offer other interesting explanations:
- “Well the banks are only charging 4 percent.”
- “I do have another property I could show you.”
- “I’m sorry I no longer spark joy.”
I love that last caption, in part because I am myself in spring cleaning mode, so I’m selecting it as this week’s winner.