The Commuter Challenge

1 March 2013

The March 2013 Challenge

by CC @ 00:48

Submit both cartoons and captions for our own Cartoon Caption Contest.

Step 1: Submit at least two captionless one-panel drawings, preferably without word balloons. They may be as intricate as you like, or as rudimentary as xkcd or explodingdog. You can carefully construct detailed illustrations, or you can slap some clip art together, or you can draw stick figures; any approach is acceptable. Any topic is fair game, but keep in mind that a good drawing for this challenge would involve a certain amount of ambiguity that even you don’t know how to resolve to its maximum humorous effect. The burden of making your cartoon funny will fall on the other participants, so you don’t need to draw anything with a built-in punchline. Draw a moose in a bubble bath. Draw a politician shaking hands with a robot. Draw an anthropomorphic book saying something to an anthropomorphic deck of cards. Draw anything at all.

Step 2: Submit captions for at least two of the illustrations that were submitted by other participants. You should not submit captions for your own drawings at any point.

Although any level of participation is encouraged, the suggested minimum requirements of this Challenge involve the submission of at least two cartoons and at least two captions. The deadline schedule is:

  • March 17 – Submit the drawing for at least one captionless, one-panel cartoon. The submissions will be posted here.
  • March 24 – Submit the drawing for a second captionless, one-panel cartoon. The new submissions will be posted alongside the earlier cartoons.
  • March 31 – Submit caption suggestions for at least two of the illustrations that were submitted by other participants.

If you don’t want to draw but you do want to submit captions (or vice versa), please do so. And of course if you want to submit more drawings or more captions than the suggested minimum, please do so.


Ryan Finholm


Mike Hamrick “Hey Jerry, did we get a new pope, or have you not been eatin’ right again?”
Brian Raiter “Okay, it finally turned white. Let’s put the fish on; I’m starving.”


Brian Raiter “I saw this great show called ‘Entourage’. Gave me a bunch of ideas.”


Brian Raiter “Do not remove this tag from desert under penalty of law.”


Brian Raiter “So it seems that none of you are familiar with the quardatic fromula.”
Brian Raiter “It’s to remind you that we must constantly look at things in a different way. Now I want you all to turn to the chapter on factoring binomials and rip it out.”
Brian Raiter


Ryan Finholm “Day 43: I have decided to take my chances on the open sea rather than brave the Spring Break crowds.”


Ryan Finholm “No way Alice — if I’m not allowed to use the manhole cover, then you can’t use the traffic cone.”


Ryan Finholm “I have no problem with interstellar travel. But airplanes? Those things are deathtraps.”


Ryan Finholm “Ha! You look exactly like I did four months ago. Loser!”
Ryan Finholm “If you’re my 2pm job applicant interview, the first thing you should know is that the dress code is casual.”


Mike Hamrick In the next life Coleen came to regret her frequent application of the word ‘literally’ to otherwise nonsensical idioms.
Ryan Finholm “The accommodations are sub-par, but the room service is fabulous.”
Ryan Finholm “I have climbed down Satan’s ragged fur, traversed the center of the earth and escaped hell in order to… hey wait, are those scones?”


Ryan Finholm “And now we have part two of that two-part dedication to my ex-wife…”


Ryan Finholm “I don’t care what you think you are now — tomorrow you better be a crash recital dummy.”


Mike Hamrick Frank looked on in horror when the realization hit him that for the better part of a day he’d been wearing another man’s pants.


  1. This challenge was pretty fun. I liked that it involved mid-month submission requirements, and I especially enjoyed the aspect of getting other takes on the random(ish) drawings we submitted.

    While creating and submitting my drawings, I had no captions in mind. I abandoned any drawing idea that I thought might lead to a specific punchline, and I abandoned any drawing idea that I thought might stand reasonably well alone without a caption. My first drawing of the gulls seemed to me like a good idea because it was current and already somewhat ridiculous – this gull’s hours-long photobombing of the one spot that was the center of much of the planet’s attention this month seemed like a goldmine of possibilities, and I think Brian and Mike delivered some great ones. The toes drawing was just randomness on my part. The third drawing actually took me a bit of time even though I didn’t actually draw anything; it is a cut-and-paste amalgam of three previous drawings that Brian had submitted to previous Commuter Challenges; the backdrop is from the ‘illustrate a previous CC submission’ challenge, the character is from the spooky drawing challenge, and the hatchet is from the sketchfight challenge. I’d submitted it with the intention of throwing Brian off, but somehow he found the perfect caption for it. My fourth drawing was just an idea that seemed to me to have a lot of potential, and Brian’s “quardatic fromula” caption gave me a good long chuckle.

    I wish that I had submitted some real zingers as captions, but despite thinking about it a lot and carrying around printouts of the drawings wherever I went for those last seven days, I was really only completely happy with my ‘loser’ caption for Brian’s drawing #4. Maybe I overthought it.

    I am glad to see Mike’s caption submissions. The seagull caption is especially strong: fart jokes are never not funny. And I’m really happy that he came up with a good caption for the pants one, which completely stymied me.

    by RyanF — 1 April 2013 @ 12:47

  2. I was surprised to find just how much easier it was to come up with captionless cartoons than it was to invent captions. In the first week of March I wrote down a dozen cartoon ideas in less than an hour; then it was just a matter of picking out the ones that were within my meager drawing skills (and finding the time to draw them). But coming up with captions was very, very hard.

    There was one thing that I noticed a little bit from back when we did the New Yorker caption contest, but much more so this time, and that is the instinctive tendency to come up with a caption that just explains the picture. Like for example, I thought of a caption for my own #3 that involved the alien complaining about the balloon having crashed into its flying saucer. The problem with such captions is that there’s no joke. The trick, I realized, is that coming up with the explanation is only the first step; the second step is to find the punchline in the situation. Working under a deadline, this was something I needed to keep reminding myself.

    I originally drew seven cartoons. When I posted the submissions for March 24th, I saw Ryan’s submission that was an amalgam of my drawings. In the remaining minutes before midnight, I pulled out #8, which is simply the drawing that Ryan Finholm had submitted for the ‘illustrate a previous CC submission’ challenge without the speech balloons. In hindsight it is no surprise to me that that cartoon was the one that made Mike Hamrick laugh the hardest.

    I should also admit here that my #5 was a straight execution of an idea by Mike Hamrick. His suggestion for the drawing portion of this challenge was a literal rendering of “from hell to breakfast”. The idiom is obscure enough that I felt confident that it wouldn’t be recognized by anyone else reading this (i.e. Ryan).

    by Brian — 1 April 2013 @ 13:25

  3. Oh, I have another confession. I completely failed to recognize the context of Ryan’s cartoon #1 at first. I don’t follow the news very closely, and it never occurred to me that this was a specific rooftop. In fact, I initially assumed that the chimney was actually supposed to be a steam vent. Thankfully, I was enlightened during a conversation with Mike in time to work on a new caption.

    by Brian — 1 April 2013 @ 13:31