University News

Prof wins New Yorker caption contest again

By
Contributing Writer

Three stone Easter Island heads drawn in the likeness of Mitt Romney look sternly toward the ocean in an Oct. 8 New Yorker cartoon. Nearby, a tourist asks for an explanation from a man in a tie holding a clipboard. The caption reads, “They keep watch on the offshore accounts.”
The caption was penned by Michael Vorenberg, associate professor of history, who won the magazine’s weekly Cartoon Caption Contest for the second time last month.
Vorenberg’s last winning caption was for a December 2009 cartoon also related to Easter Island.
“I won (the first time), and I never thought I would enter again,” Vorenberg said. “But the last time, there was an Easter Island subject, and I thought it would be funny if I won again.”
There are around 5,000 entries for each weekly contest, wrote Robert Mankoff, cartoon editor for the New Yorker, in an article on the magazine’s website. But in spite of these tough odds, Vorenberg said he does not consider his wins a considerable feat.
“I don’t want to play down the contest, but I’m not putting it in my list of great achievements,” Vorenberg said.
In his article, Mankoff advised readers to submit captions frequently and to take some time to compose their entries – but Vorenberg said he only took about 10 minutes to form the idea for his most recent winning entry and 5 minutes to refine its wording, he said.
Vorenberg offered his own advice on submitting successful captions. “Think about the kinds of captions that tend to win,” he said. “You don’t want to be overtly political, and you don’t want to come off as too partisan.” He cautioned against referencing current news items that will be forgotten in the near future and added that captions should be “as short as possible.”
The prize for winning the contest is a copy of the cartoon with the caption, signed by the cartoon’s artist. Vorenberg said he plans to hang his two cartoons side-by-side in his office at home.
Vorenberg said he does not plan to keep submitting his work – unless another cartoon with an Easter Island theme is presented.

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