Roger Ebert announced on his blog today that he had won the New Yorker's weekly caption contest. His is the 281st caption to be chosen after about five years of the contest's existence. Congratulations, Mr. Ebert.
Over at the New Yorker, cartoon editor Robert Mankoff says he's delighted that Ebert won. The film reviewer claims he has submitted an entry to the contest "almost weekly virtually since it began." For the fans, Mankoff has run a few of Ebert's rejected submissions (including one hilarious penis joke that didn't pass the censors). He also has a breakdown of the film reviewer's erstwhile efforts in the five-year-old contest:
Roger was being a bit hyperbolic when he claimed to have entered practically all of the contests since its inception. Out of a possible two hundred and eighty contests leading up to his win in No. 281, the Bureau of Cartoon Caption Contest Statistics reports that he entered only a hundred and seven, which puts him in five hundred and sixty-ninth place out of 502,416 unique entrants, who have submitted a total of 1,595,506 captions.
Mankoff has previously put the odds of winning the contest at 10,000:1, which makes Chicago attorney Larry Wood's record three wins all the more impressive. But Wood is a rank-and-file lawyer for a non-profit legal aid organization, and Ebert is a famous media personality. It would never do for the publication to start handing awards to an outsize number of famous people. Even though Mankoff didn't say it, that's probably part of why it took Ebert this long to win. If average readers start thinking they have to be Roger Ebert in order to win, they'll stop submitting. And then we'll just be left with a bunch of penis jokes with well-known bylines.