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Attempt #5: The Funniest

Instead of merely generating a funny caption, we attempted to nudge the model towards captions that are funny enough to win the contest. The process used six historic cartoon caption contests and prompted GPT-3 with each contest’s three most-funny captions.

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#763: Here is the cartoon for July 5, 2021 by Michael Maslin
captionless cartoon by Michael Maslin

Our submission: “I’ve never seen a car this hot before”

Check out all three generated captions.

“The grill is shot too.”

27% of readers thought it was funny.

“Check the oil”

16% of readers thought it was funny.

“I told you to get a Chevy.”

24% of readers thought it was funny.

“I’ve never seen a car this hot before”

30% of readers thought it was funny.

“We’ve got a lot of parts in common.”

20% of readers thought it was funny.

“I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but its exhaust smells like a bag of ass.”

19% of readers thought it was funny.

About this approach

The process uses a database of captions and cartoon descriptions created by NextML. It includes this list of historic cartoon descriptions and a ranked list of every reader-submitted caption, based on reader-voted funniness (NextML runs a survey that crowdsources a caption’s funniness). The ranking is submitted to New Yorker editors, which, to our knowledge, is used to select the contest’s finalists.

We grabbed the descriptions and top-ranking captions for six contests. Here’s the prompt to GPT-3:

Write a funny caption for a cartoon.
Cartoon Description: A well-dressed man complaining about his fuming soup to a server.
Cartoon Caption One: Cancel the molten lava cake.
Cartoon Caption Two: You know what? Just bring me back the one with the fly in it.
Cartoon Caption Three: On second thought, let's skip the chocolate lava cake for dessert.

Cartoon Description: A magician shredding a document that a woman is holding.
Cartoon Caption One: This is the exact moment Susan realized she may be an accomplice and not a magician's assistant.
Cartoon Caption Two: When I did this trick at my old accounting firm, they called it a felony.
Cartoon Caption Three: It's not magic. It's a Georgia ballot box.

Cartoon Description: A man and a woman talking on a mountainside as a yeti walks by.
Cartoon Caption One: Like it would have killed you to ask him for directions.
Cartoon Caption Two: Oh, shit! What if your sister-in-law is also right about God
Cartoon Caption Three: Don’t bring a camera, you said. Just enjoy the experience, you said.

Cartoon Description: A man is offering a woman a hot dog next to a food cart on a giant pyramid
Cartoon Caption One: He offered us a franchise, but I think it’s a pyramid scheme.
Cartoon Caption Two: Finally, hotdogs are at the top of the food pyramid.
Cartoon Caption Three: Of course it’s kosher – who do you think built this place

Cartoon Description: Couple watching tv with a food cart in their living room
Cartoon Caption One: We meant get a job AND move out.
Cartoon Caption Two: Ask if they deliver.
Cartoon Caption Three: When I said I wanted some concessions, this is not what I had in mind.

Cartoon Description: an auto mechanic talks to the owner of a Wienermobile.
Cartoon Caption One:

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