Ben Schwartz’s cartoon is set in the hallway of an apartment building. A resident holding a small garbage bag is standing in the doorway of his unit and addressing a suspicious-looking character who’s about to shove into the trash chute what looks like a dead body wrapped in plastic and secured with rope.
I first thought about rules that limit the size and weight of items that can be thrown down trach chutes:
- “Hey!…That exceeds the maximum size and weight limits.”
- “You have to take heavy objects to the ground level trash room.”
- “Just so you know, special arrangements can be made for the disposal of unusually large or heavy objects.”
The next caption, which is similar to the last three, presumes that the neighbor knows but is surprisingly blasé about what’s in the carpet: “Don’t shove a body down the trash chute. Take it to the ground level trash room.”
I then went in the other direction, and made the neighbor obtuse: “I thought I heard gunshots in Unit 3, but it must have been a car backfiring.”
Now let’s see how you did.
I’ll start with the best of the “obtuse neighbor” entries, all of which assume that the body’s wrapped not in plastic but in a rug:
- “Hey! You can’t put rolled-up bloody rugs down the chute!”
- “If you don’t want that rug, I’ll take it.”
- “Hold on! Isn’t that the carpet from the lobby?
- “I thought you loved that rug.”
Many of you had the neighbor/witness worrying for his own safety:
- “Um…I’ll just throw this out later.”
- “Oops, forgot my glasses. Can’t see a thing without them.”
- “I don’t see a thing. You’re just a guy with a large croissant.”
Here’s a similar entry that’s especially clever because it implies that this isn’t the first time the neighbor has witnessed a serious crime: “Here I go again, right back into witness protection.”
There were a lot of wife jokes, but these were the best:
- “I haven’t seen your wife in a while.”
- “Hi, Frank. How’s the wife?”
- “How’s the wife?”
- “Jesus, Ed. Just get a divorce like the rest of us.”
- “Doesn’t your wife usually take out the trash?”
- “Did you and your wife ever see that marriage counselor I told you about?”
That sixth entry would be stronger without the last four words. The caption should end with the punch line: “marriage counselor.” The words that follow add nothing.
I love the following captions, all of which assume the neighbor is another murderer or maybe the accomplice:
- “Who am I to judge? There’s a head in this bag.”
- “Hey, mind if I go first? I only have a head.”
- “Make it quick. This head is really heavy.”
- “Wait, you forgot his hands.”
- “Maybe I should throw the head in first.”
- “You forgot the head.”
No fewer than three entrants submitted that last caption, so if Mankoff decides it’s the best of the week or one of the two runners-up, he will have to give credit to someone whose name he chooses at random (ed. note: in that case, the winner would be the person who entered it first).
Like I did, many of you highlighted the fact that the corpse is too big for the chute:
- “Hey! Oversize items get brought to the basement.”
- “The last time you did that, you clogged the chute.”
- “I think bodies are supposed to be left by the curb.”
- “Hey, that exceeds the building’s 13 gallon bag limit.”
- “Can I put mine in first?”
A similar set of captions suggest a better method for disposing of murder victims:
- “Hey, dump that in the East River where it belongs.”
- “What’s wrong with the river?”
- “Hey, I paid extra for the river!”
Here’s this week’s best pandemic joke: “You, of all people, should be wearing a mask.”
And here are the best puns:
- “People have always been disposable to you.”
- “What’s with the trash talking?”
I especially like that second entry, which was the only one to imply that the victim was still alive. Very dark. Very funny.
Speaking of dark, here are the week’s best sick jokes, which are sure to upset animal-lovers:
- “Can I go before you? I’ve just got a bag of cats.”
- “Mine’s a cat. What’s yours?”
Equally dark are these captions that have the neighbor offering helpful advice:
- “You’ve never heard of a saw?”
- “Bodies must be chopped up first, like this.”
- “You’re supposed to cut it up first.”
These two entries provide a possible motive for the crime:
- “You realize I’m reporting this, unless that’s the guy who plays bagpipes.”
- “How are Mary’s ukulele lessons going?”
As an attorney who defends low-income tenants against unwarranted evictions, I especially like this final entry, which assumes that the murderer is a landlord: “You’ll have my rent by Tuesday.”
What a strong collection of captions. Several made me laugh out loud, but the one that made me laugh the hardest was, “Who am I to judge? There’s a head in this bag.” My wife completely disagrees—she says I should have chosen, “Hey, dump that in the East River where it belongs”—but she can get her own contest.
Lawrence Wood has won The New Yorker’s Cartoon Caption Contest a record-setting seven times and been a finalist two other times. He has collaborated with New Yorker cartoonists Peter Kuper, Lila Ash, Felipe Galindo Gomez, and Harry Bliss (until Bliss tossed him aside, as anyone would, to collaborate with Steve Martin). Nine of his collaborations have appeared in The New Yorker, and one is included in the New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons.