Wednesday

what is "sophisticated humor"?


[To win the New Yorker cartoon contest], should you make a pun or, perhaps, create a visual gag about a cat surreptitiously reading its owner's email? Neither. You must aim for what is called a "theory-of-mind" caption, which requires the reader to project intents or beliefs into the minds of the cartoon's characters. An exemplary New Yorker theory-of-mind caption (accompanying a cartoon of a police officer ticketing a caveman with a large wheel): "Yeah, yeah—and I invented the ticket." The humor here requires inference about the caveman's beliefs and intentions as he (presumably) explains to the cop that he invented the wheel. A non-theory-of-mind caption (accompanying a cartoon of a bird wearing a thong), however, requires no such projection: "It's a thongbird." Theory-of-mind captions make for higher-order jokes easily distinguished from the simian puns and visual gags that litter the likes of MAD Magazine. To date, 136 out of the 145 caption contest winners (94 percent) fall into the "theory-of-mind" category.


How to Win the New Yorker Cartoon Contest
Patrick House

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