Kim Warp has drawn a prop comedian (he has an arrow through his head) performing a stand-up routine for that toughest of audiences: God.
Because the comedian is in heaven, I first thought of the old saying that addresses both death and comedy: “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.”
I then thought of captions that would explain how the performer died, and because he’s a prop comic I landed on this: “I died on stage.”
Next I came up with variations on old jokes that would work in the context of this drawing:
- “Two Jews are walking through the desert…”
- “How many atheists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?”
- “My brother is so stupid he believes in more than one God.”
- “I said take my wife.”
Many stand-up comedians end their routines by saying, “I’ll be here all week.” The comedian in this drawing is going to be around for eternity, so I came up with, “I’ll be here all week, and every week after that.”
What if God was a disrespectful audience member? I liked the idea of the Almighty shouting out rude comments to a guy who’s just trying to get through his act, so my next caption was, “Oh, great, a heckler.”
God is all-powerful, and the comedian in the drawing looks like the kind of guy who would make Viagra jokes, so my final caption idea was, “You’re omnipotent? Take a pill”—a joke that should really be followed by a rimshot.
Now let’s see what you came up with.
Like I did, several of you thought of the fitting but perhaps too obvious, “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.”
You also submitted captions that explained how the comedian died, and many of your entries were far more inventive than my very basic, “I died on stage.”
- “I guess laughter wasn’t the best medicine.”
- “You mean I literally died out there?”
- “This is the second time I’ve died on stage today.”
- “I’m here because some people can’t take a joke.”
As someone who’s often criticized (especially at work) for making inappropriate jokes—I’m a poverty lawyer and some of my colleagues are extremely earnest—I appreciate that fourth entry.
There was an entire subcategory of “how I died” captions that focused on the arrow. Here’s a small sample:
- “Actually, it’s not a trick arrow.”
- “No, the arrow is real.”
- “The arrow is real.”
All are good, but the third and shortest entry is best. Here’s another version of the same joke that’s clever but far too long: “Oh, Steve Martin uses a fake arrow. Wish I had known that three minutes ago.” Steve Martin, it turns out, is now a caption writer who recently started collaborating with New Yorker cartoonist Harry Bliss: https://tribunecontentagency.com/steve-martin-harry-bliss/. I also collaborated with Bliss, and while I’m a little annoyed with Martin for taking my job—isn’t he busy enough with his stand-up comedy, talk-show and SNL appearances, acting, writing, and music?—I have to admit that their collaborations are really good.
While I made a rather juvenile joke about God’s being omnipotent, several of you addressed his omniscience by making a reference to the line that precedes so many jokes: “Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.”
- “So I’m guessing you’ve heard this one before, too.”
- “Well of course you’ve heard this one before.”
- “Would you mind telling me if there are any you haven’t heard before?”
Here’s a caption I like because it tells a long story—the comic is Jesus and he wants to reject the path that God has set out for him and pursue a non-traditional and difficult line of work that God doesn’t approve of—in just nine words: “No, Dad, you want me to be a carpenter.”
I’m ashamed to admit how much this caption made me laugh: “I hope that was thunder.”
Here’s the best of the many variations on the “I’ll be here all week” joke: “Thank you. I’ll be here for all eternity.”
There were several “God as heckler” captions, and I especially liked these two:
- “I never would have pegged you as a heckler.”
- “Did not expect the heckling.”
Two captions presume that God, though not a heckler, is making the comic’s job difficult by challenging the premise of one of his jokes:
- “It doesn’t really matter if you’d actually go into a bar with Buddha.”
- “OK, assume for a minute that you would walk into a bar.”
The second entry is better because it’s shorter and ends with the word “bar,” which serves as the punchline in both jokes.
Here are a few lines that stand-up comics often deliver, and that take on a more interesting meaning in the context of the drawing:
- “If you don’t want to get made fun of, pal, don’t sit up front.”
- “I see we have a celebrity in the audience tonight.”
- “Is this thing on?”
- “So, where are you from?”
And here’s the rare good pun: “Tough cloud.”
In the following caption, the performer doesn’t realize he’s dead or recognize his surroundings: “What the hell am I doing at the Lincoln Memorial?” A similar caption has the comic confusing the Throne of God for The Lincoln Memorial, but this time he’s expressing more simmering anger than bewilderment: “This better be the Lincoln Memorial.”
One of you emphasized just how annoying comedians who rely on props can be: “So instead of another flood, you’re sending me to punish mankind?” And one of you let the comedian defend his routine: “This killed in purgatory.”
There were many fine entries this week, and one of my favorites came completely out of left field: “When I was born, the doctor said you had a sense of humor.”
My absolute favorite, however, was the personally meaningful, “I’m here because some people can’t take a joke.” In the end, of course, I don’t get to select the winning caption or the two runners-up. That role is reserved for the God of captioning, Bob Mankoff (or B-b, which is how the most reverent write his name to avoid the risk of the sin of erasing or defacing it). As always, He will anoint the week’s champion.