The art of the cartoon caption is no easy feat. Captions need to be quick and pithy, and slice through the heart of the cartoon without using bad puns and stale jokes as a crutch. But one nine-year-old girl has so far proved to be a real maven when it comes to cartoon captioning; she went viral after a family member tweeted her New Yorker caption contest submissions, with fans noting she's way better at captioning than some of her much older counterparts. Like, myself, who has never written a New Yorker caption she doesn't want to light aflame and then bury underground, but who's bitter, not me!
Bess Kalb, a comedian and TV writer whose credits include Jimmy Kimmel Live and the New Yorker's "Daily Shouts" column, posted a series of tweets on Wednesday celebrating the captioning achievements of her cousin's 9-year-old kid. "Everything is terrible but my cousin’s 9-year old daughter Alice has been quietly and masterfully slaying the
@NewYorker’s caption contest and it’s pure delight," Kalb tweeted, along with a sampling of some of Alice's work. One, featuring a man hitchhiking on a cloud as an airplane passed by, was captioned, "the air is good out here." Another, featuring a woman talking to a chef in what looks like a prison, reads, "I told you to give the mayor a pizza." My personal favorite, which shows a giant subway sandwich traveling through a subway station, was captioned, "Well that's new." Alice is a genius.
Kalb pulled out a few more, including one showing a Neanderthal communing with a wooly mammoth, captioned, "Do you want to play tic-tac-toe?" Another, featuring a slew of doctors speaking with a hospitalized gingerbread man, reads, "Looks like you have a case of the gumdrops."
Apparently, Alice's captioning prowess has been growing for some time. Kalb shared some of her earlier work — from 2017, but a year is a long time for a nine-year-old — and while she's certainly improved since then, her captions were no less delightful:
Kalb's thread netted Alice quite a few Internet fans, with folks pouring in to praise her cleverness and quick wit. "'Looks like you have a case of the gumdrops' is my new favorite line," one person tweeted. Actor and comedian Megan Neuringer was similarly impressed, tweeting, "she’s...a genius?" Others implored the New Yorker to take Alice on full time:
Of course, it's very cute when kids are funny, but Kalb, who tweeted that she showed Alice everyone's kind comments, pointed out that it's extra important for adults to praise little girls for being clever. "Alice is an incredible kid. She loves her little brother and
@HamiltonMusical (she knows EVERY lyric). Teachers don't always encourage creative writing, so today has been a huge shot of confidence for her. Let young girls know when they're funny and smart. Many people don't," Kalb tweeted.
And it's true — in a world in which women are often criticized for not being funny, and where male-driven comedy films and television programs far outnumber those by women, it's all the more important to cultivate creativity and humor in little girls. When I was young, being "funny," or goofing off during recess, or writing funny stories, was something I was conditioned to think I could only do with the boys, since my female friends thought jokes were immature. Studies claim men don't like funny women, or that funny women are crass, or that if one woman-driven comedy fails it's proof that women can't make jokes, even though thousands of male-driven comedies have totally tanked (remember Freddie Got Fingered? Lord). But as everyone from Barbara Streisand to Gilda Radnor to Tiffany Haddish has proved, women are hilarious, and the more we tell little girls how funny they are, the more funny women we'll have to celebrate in the future.