P.C. Vey’s cartoon is set in a police station, where a fisherman is looking at a line-up of five fish who are wearing numbers for identification. A plainclothes detective is looking at the fish and speaking, though it’s not clear whether she’s addressing the fish, the fisherman, or the armed and uniformed officer standing behind her.
Sometimes a distinctive physical feature helps the witness tie a suspect to the crime, so I thought the detective might want to see if any of the suspects had a hole in its mouth from a fish hook: “Number 5, show us the left side of your mouth.”
Because detectives often ask suspects to repeat something the perpetrator said or did at the crime scene, I came up with this caption: “Number 5, flop around like you’ve been hauled out of the water and thrown on a riverbank.”
After the witness has identified the perpetrator, detectives (at least the ones on TV shows) sometimes revel in the fact that the perpetrator will pay for the crime with his life: “Number 5, you’re gonna fry. But first you’re gonna get breaded.”
People refer to fish they almost caught as the ones that got away, so I had the detective saying to the witness, “Don’t worry. He’s not getting away this time.”
People also exaggerate the size of such fish, so I thought the detective might say, “They’re small, but otherwise they match the description you gave.”
Because fishermen are prone to exaggerate the size of the ones that got away, stories that aren’t entirely true are called “fish stories.” Therefore, my final caption was, “I intended no disrespect when I called your statement a fish story.”
Now let’s see how you did.
There were a lot of references to the one that got away, but this was the best and most direct: “Do you see the one that got away?”
Many of you alluded to a fisherman’s tendency to exaggerate the size of the fish he almost caught. Some of your entries had the detective addressing the fisherman:
- “Are you sure it’s number 4? He was so much bigger in your original report.”
- “In your original statement, you said the fish was much bigger.”
- “We couldn’t find any as big as you described.”
- “Are you sure it was much, much bigger?”
- “You thought he was how big?”
Other entries had the detective addressing the fish:
- “Can you all try to look much larger?”
- “You’re all free to go; he says it was much larger.”
I can’t explain exactly why, but I think those last two captions would be better if “bigger” were substituted for “larger.”
Like I did, some of you had the detective instructing the fish to repeat the criminal’s behavior:
- “Number 4, leap out of the water and shake your head violently.”
- “Number three, thrash wildly.”
- “Number 4, please swim gleefully away.”
Others had the detective looking for signs that the fish had been hooked by the fisherman before getting away:
- “Turn straight ahead and open your mouths.”
- “Number 4, open your mouth.”
In the following entry, either the witness has positively identified one of the suspects or the detective just wants to give the witness a closer look at that suspect: “Number 3, please swim forward.”
I was gratified to see so many good “fry” captions:
- “All of you are released—except you, Number Three. You’re gonna fry.”
- “Make sure now, because the one you choose is going to fry.”
- “It’s almost lunch, let’s fry them all.”
- “One of ‘em is gonna fry.”
I especially like the way that last caption captures the way a hardbitten cop, especially one on TV, might speak.
This next entry is similar to the “fry” captions but uses another cooking term that has a double meaning that fits the drawing well: “No. 3. Take him in the back and grill him.” That entry is really good—and it’s the only one that has the detective addressing the armed officer standing behind her—but I think it would be better if it were modified to read, “Take No. 3 in the back and grill him.” When I first read the initial version, I thought for just a second that the detective was addressing the fish, and that momentary confusion detracted from the joke. The modified version is tighter and less confusing.
I like these two references to catch and release:
- “They’re part of the Catch and Incarcerate program.”
- “The others will be released.”
And these puns are pretty good:
- “Please hurry. We had to pull all of them from school for this.”
- “We found the suspect hiding in a school.”
- “I understand you’ve been the victim of a fishing scam…”
I’d like that last caption better without the ellipses.
The next two captions put a nice spin on the cartoon by making the fish the victims/witnesses:
- “Fish, please look closely. Is this the man that caught you?”
- “They’re requesting to put you in a lineup, next.”
The second caption is superior because the first does not explain why the fish are wearing numbers for identification.
I like the following entry—“Good luck. These black fish all look alike”—but it requires an explanation because some readers might assume it’s racist. The target of the joke is not black people, but racists who subscribe to the offensive notion that all black people look the same. Given the problem of racial profiling, the fact that the cartoon is set in a police station gives the caption additional resonance. I hope I’ve interpreted the caption correctly, as I’d hate to reward someone for making a racist joke.
Finally, here are two solid entries that don’t fit any particular category:
- “Looks like they’re all off the hook.”
- “None of you will ever walk.”
My choice for the best of the week is, “We couldn’t find any as big as you described.”