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Adam and Drew, Pt. 2: A Cartoon Caption Contest Interview

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In which Cartoon Caption Contest champ Adam Szymkowicz answers the Derwent Drawing Pencil-sharp questions of master cartoonist (and professional carver of headstones) Drew Dernavich. Szymkowicz's questions and Dernavich's answers will follow in the next few days.


Congratulations on winning The New Yorker's Cartoon Caption Contest. You're now the proud owner of a unique collaborative piece of artwork, and you will of course need to protect it by buying the Extended Warranty from me. I'll have my people contact your people. Until then, a few questions:

Have you ever been caught with a clip-on tie?

How long did it take you to come up with the caption?

If I had drawn the parrot speaking, what might it have been saying?

Who is your favorite cartoonist, New Yorker or otherwise (think carefully about this one, Adam...)?

Are you considering a career as a cartoonist, or is this a one-off for you?

I see that you're involved with the visual arts. What other kind of art are you interested in? What kind of art inspires you?

As a fellow New Englander and a stone engraver, I have spent my share of time in Vermont. Tell me something that you find funny about Vermont.

Finally—what are your plans for the cartoon?

Congrats again and best wishes, Adam—

Drew Dernavich

Adam's reply:

As far as I can see it, the clip-on tie is the most important safety device developed in the last thirty years. Did you know that since the introduction of the clip-on tie, accidental hanging-related deaths have dropped a remarkable 11% among regular tie wearers?

As for the caption, it was spawned out of the ether, in about twelve seconds. As long as it should feasibly take to envision a clip-on parrot.

If the parrot were to be speaking, the first thing I'd have to determine was whether the parrot was talking to another parrot, or to one of the businessmen. If the parrot were talking to another parrot I think he'd have to be saying "Well, where'd you get yours?" If it was speaking to the businessmen it would have to be saying "Awk! Don't worry, it's on the company card! Awk!" or something of that nature.

My favorite cartoonist is a toss-up between Bill Watterson and Gary Larson. I grew up on "Calvin and Hobbes" and "The Far Side"—I think it shows.

I'd love to be a cartoonist, except I can't draw. I have the artistic talent of an Ikea coffee table. Maybe less. However, this does not mean that I can't enjoy art. I really am driven by cartoons, from the old "Looney Tunes" and "Acme Hour" that I used to watch at my grandmother's house. Something about the Coyote's unattainable quest for the Roadrunner just gets me. I also have a deep love for all things literary, and am constantly inspired by the classics (Kerouac, Melville, Cheever, among billions of others), and by new writers that I hear about word-of-mouth or through some of the newer literary mags (McSweeney's, Vestal Review, Black Warrior, etc.).

Something funny about Vermont...that's tough. After you've lived somewhere long enough even the mundane becomes absurd. I'm not sure if this is all that funny, but it's interesting to go walking through the fields near my house and see old foundations and ancient farming equipment. It really puts you in your place to see the land reclaiming that which was once used to cultivate it and bring it more into the sphere of man. Sorry, waxing mad philosophical. A slow place like Vermont gives you a lot of time for that sort of thing.

As for my plans for the cartoon...just you wait. It's actually the first subtle step toward my eventual world takeover.

All right, my turn to ask questions:

So why parrots on businessmen's shoulders, and what would you have had the parrot saying?

Who is your favorite cartoonist, and in line with that, how did you decide you wanted to be a cartoonist?

What's the most ridiculous thing you've ever engraved on a headstone? What do you want engraved on yours?

What do you prefer, boxers or briefs?

If you were given a shovel in a public place, by someone you didn't know, what would your first instinct be?

You have ten words to describe yourself, they all must begin with the letter "T"...ready, get set, go!

Finally, if you were given the choice, would you rather de-pants a bear (assuming bears wore pants) and immediately be mauled, or would you rather be mauled by a bear, knowing that in the future (after you healed) you would be able to de-pants it without injury? Why?

Good luck, keep up the awesome cartoons, and enjoy answering these questions.

Your friend and fan,

Adam Szymkowicz

P.S. Who are these "people" you're talking about? Are there people watching me?! Are you in on it?!

Update: Dernavich replies.


Other Emdashes caption-contest interviews:

  • David Kempler, winner #100 (“Don’t tell Noah about the vasectomy.”)
  • David Wilkner, winner #99 ("I’d like to get your arrow count down.”)
  • Richard Hine, winner #98 ("When you’re finished here, Spencer, we’ll need you on the bridge-to-nowhere project.”)

  • Carl Gable, winner #40 ("Hmm. What rhymes with layoffs?”)
  • T.C. Boyle, winner #29 (“And in this section it appears that you have not only alienated voters but actually infected them, too.")
  • Evan Butterfield, winner #15 ("Well, it's a lovely gesture, but I still think we should start seeing other people.")
  • Jan Richardson, winner #8 ("He's the cutest little thing, and when you get tired of him you just flush him down the toilet.")
  • Roy Futterman, winner #1 ("More important, however, is what I learned about myself.")

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