Question and Answer with Farley Katz
A. My name is Farley Katz and I am the Assistant to the Cartoon Editor (that would be Bob Mankoff).
A. Huge fans. Why?
A. I grew up in San Antonio, TX and am now 22 years old. My previous jobs include a roller coaster operator at Six Flags, and a telemarketer (until they made telemarketing illegal). I plan to work here until they make caption contests illegal, sometime later this year.
A. Bob makes me read all the cartoons he deems "too funny" to protect him from laughing attacks.
Also Xeroxing. A whole lot of Xeroxing.
A. That’s correct. Every week we receive between 6,000 and 10,000 captions for each cartoon. And I read them all. I’m reading one even as we speak…”No Mrs. Feldspar, I’m interested in your mind, not your shoe size.” Hmmm...good but not great.
A. My predecessor stared me in the eyes and warned me that reading too many captions in one sitting could make a man crazy. Oh, and also to "pick the funny ones."
A. I've developed a system of sorting algorithms that allows a laptop to pick the finalists without any human input.
A. Yes and no. What actually happens is that when each entry is received it’s sorted by keywords. The keywords are grouped into 5 or 6 categories. Then I sort through all the one-liners, zingers, gags, goofs and gaffes, looking for the very best—which I pass on to Bob.
A. Take, for example, a recent contest cartoon depicting crash test dummies. All entered captions were broken into keyword groups like “insurance,” “driving,” “crashing.” So at that point it’s easier to read them and make the best choice.
A. All the unique captions are grouped together in a category we call “Huh?" "Huh?" captions have indeed made the finals. No Esperanto yet, though.
A. Caption fatigue is a serious problem. I like to combat it by drinking unhealthy amounts of coffee and by reading the captions aloud in a fast, high-pitched voice.
A. That’s when Bob Mankoff, as Cartoon Editor, summons his decades of expertise in the science of humor and chooses the three finalists. Then David Remnick, as Editor of The New Yorker, reviews the final three to ensure that even Eustace Tilley would grin slightly when reading the entries. Then I take a nap under my desk. It’s from these three finalists that we invite our readers to choose a winner.
A. I entered the contest once and they didn't choose my caption. But that's all going to change now because I can't enter anymore because it's against the rules.
A. The only way to make sure your caption passes the cut is by writing the funniest one.
A. I am a cartoonist too and hope to one day be published in the magazine.
So when send in your caption this week, take a moment and ask yourself “What would Farley do?” Probably drink more coffee. Good luck!