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Crowdsourcing Humor

Humor is traditionally at the hands of its author. What happens when the audience picks the punchline?

Each week, on the last page of the magazine, The New Yorker provides a cartoon in need of a caption. Readers submit captions, the magazine chooses three finalists, readers vote for their favorites. It's humor—crowdsourced—and with more than 2 million submissions provided by 500,000 participants, it provides tremendous insight as to what makes us laugh.

In a fast-paced and funny talk, Bob Mankoff, The New Yorker's cartoon editor, will analyze the lessons we learn from crowdsourced humor. Along the way, he'll explore how cartoons work (and sometimes don't); how he makes decisions about what cartoons to include; and what crowds can tell us about a good joke.

Additional Supporting Materials

Questions Answered

  1. What is crowdsourced humor? What lessons can we take from the laughter of crowds?
  2. Why are some cartoons successful while others aren't? How is humor affected by placement, context, and audience? How do successful cartoons play with narrative expectations and tensions?
  3. How have lessons learned from the caption contest changed Mankoff's own creative process? What can aspiring humorists learn from engaging with their audience?
  4. How did Mankoff—and The New Yorker—perceive its audience's sense of humor? How has that perception changed since beginning the Caption Contest?
  5. What can a punchline tell us about a reader?

Speakers

Organizer

Rhonda Sherman The New Yorker


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