The Rejection Collection (and Caption Contest)

che quevara.jpg One of Diffee's most popular cartoons from The New Yorker. You can see more at cartoonbank.com

So, this is my first blog ever. And here it is in/on the Huffington Post. Not Bad. That's like having your first cartoon in The New Yorker, or your first date with Cameron Diaz, or your first stuffed bobcat in the National Museum of Taxidermy Arts in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. (I made that up)

My first cartoon did not, in fact, appear in The New Yorker. They got my second one. Where did my first one appear? I'll get to that in a minute, but first let me try to sort of introduce you to this whole deal we're doing. I've been asked to do a series of blogs about my new (and only) book called The Rejection Collection: Cartoons You Never Saw and Never Will See in The New Yorker. (Henceforth referred to as TRC:CYNSANWSTNY) As the lengthy title suggests, this is a collection of cartoons The New Yorker rejected. I picked thirty cartoonists and chose five rejects from each to include in the book. Here's what it looks like:

I think Danny Shanahan's cartoon on the cover says more than I possibly could about what you'll find inside. It also says a lot about the reasons why most of the contents were passed over by a sophisticated literary magazine. I love this cartoon, but you can't get away from the fact that, funny as it is, in the end, It's a gag about a projectile vomiting ventriloquist's dummy. And I think it's hard sometimes to fit that sort of thing in the midst of the latest John Updike piece.

So what we want to do in this space is dig in to some additional and occasionally tangential content that compliments what you'll find in TRC:CYNSANWSTNY.

I'll talk to Bob Mankoff, the cartoon editor at the New Yorker and see if he can defend his obviously flawed choices. I'll ask him the tough questions like "How come you didn't buy this one?" I'll sit down with many of the cartoonists themselves and find out how they came up with their ideas in the book and maybe even talk about some of the ones of theirs that I rejected from The Rejection Collection. (imagine that.) We'll discuss the daily and weekly grind of coming up with gags and the process of submission. You'll find out what Sam Gross eats for lunch, hear the latest Roz gossip, and learn what keeps Gahan Wilson up at night. Perhaps most importantly, at least as far as this first installment is concerned, we'll have an interactive element, which I'll tell you about right now.

It brings us back to the beginning -- my first cartoon. It was published in a much-loved, but short-lived comedy newspaper in Boston called The Weekly Week (Boston's Only Redundant News Source for News) It was being put out by a bunch of comedy friends (Eugene Mirman, Bill Wasik, Ben Dryer, Brian Spinks, Mike Jerominski, Karyn Coughlin, Patrick Borelli, Brendon Small, Bryan Olsen and more) many of whom have gone on to other things. Some bigger and better, others roughly the same size and quality. They knew me at the time as a struggling comedian with wide sweat stains. Like most people, I have a profound fear of public bombing. To be fair to myself, I had a few good jokes. I just had trouble delivering them. But it was hardly my fault -the microphone wouldn't stop shaking. Heeeyyy! How you folks doing? Where you from?

Anyway, somehow these guys found out that I could draw so they asked me if I wanted to do a cartoon for the paper. I had never done one before that -never even thought about it. We tossed around some concepts and had a hard time with it because none of us really liked cartoons. In the end, because we were into "alternative" comedy, (we put the "onceptua" in conceptual comedy.) we came up with the idea to do what appeared to be a typical political cartoon -- chock full of deeply symbolic images and characters that seemed to be making deep political points and inferences, but which in fact made no sense at all. The thought that no one would ever laugh at it, ever, kind of cracked us up. (The folly of young comedy writers everywhere - finding funny that which isn't to others.) To tell you the truth though, it still makes me smile a little now after almost eight years. It must mean I'm still young. Awesome.

Anyway here's the cartoon:

week cartoon.jpg

See what I mean, it's hilarious how not funny it is.

So why exactly are your sharing this? You must be thinking.

Well the reason is because we're going to do a caption contest. And not one of those slow pitch softballs they give you in The New Yorker, with the ripe visual set-up just begging for your caption. We're gonna make it tough. And seeing as this whole Huffington thing has a political bent, I figure what better cartoon to use for the caption contest than my one and only political cartoon (or political cartoon parody as the case may be). I think this will be a fitting challenge to you aspiring captionists out there. You'll have to try to make sense of a visual that was created with the specific intentions of being nonsensical. It's a purposefully indecipherable, farraginous, hodgepodge of pseudo-political images. If anyone out there can craft a caption that not only makes sense of it, but also makes it funny, my hat's off to you. So there it is: a tossed gauntlet, a line in the sand, a double dog dare, a rising splitfinger knuckleball. Let's see if anyone out there can hit it.

Now, at this point, you're probably asking yourself one of three questions:

Who's judging this thing?

What do I get if I win?

Is "farraginous" really the right word?

The answer to those questions are: Me, nothing, and probably not.

Actually, if you win, we'll post it here for others to admire, I'll draw you a brand new version with your award-winning caption ideas included, I'll sign it, and then we'll mail it to you. So what I'm saying is you'll make upwards of fourteen dollars on eBay. That and you'll win the opportunity to wile away the rest of your years knowing that, at least once in your life, you were the world's best. So that's it for now, but there's much more Rejection Collection stuff to come. Let me leave you with a word of wisdom that might help you through your own rejections: "If like gives you lemons, make furniture polish." Yuk yuk yuk. Thanks, I'll be here all week.