Site of the week: New Yorker gets less oblique with The Monkeys You Ordered
Started in July 2010 by an anonymous dry wit, The Monkeys You Ordered recycles old New Yorker cartoons with reimagined captions of its own. But instead of trying to be clever or topical like most contestants to each issue’s contest, TMYO goes the literal route.
Each post on the site includes an old New Yorker cartoon plus a new caption that gets its humor from either explaining the scenario in a dry reportage tone of voice, or inserting probable dialogue into the mouths of the characters. For example, in one cartoon there are people sitting around a table for a business meeting, each with placid, congenial faces, except for one man who is holding a guitar and singing. The caption is simply: “Gary won’t shut the fuck up.”
Although the premise seems almost too straightforward to work, a lot of what makes each not-joke effectively a joke is imagining all the too-clever reader responses the cartoon originally received, and knowing that this literal caption is comical because it just isn’t trying so hard. What’s more, the literal captions heighten the surreal situations depicted, so that can simply laugh at the absurdity that’s already there, instead of reading someone’s swing-and-a-miss at a political joke.
Even though the site isn’t updated on even a weekly basis, there are enough posts in the archive to make scrolling more than worth your while. On occasion the site even hosts its own New Yorker Caption Contests to trump up faithful readers’ involvement and give the opportunity to hear other ironic voices. Interestingly enough, throughout all the hundreds of posts, the only times the jokes fall flat is when you can tell the author was trying to submit an actual New Yorker-type caption.
For many of the same reasons we find observational humor so hilarious, this tongue-in-cheek tumblr is an example of when less is more, and less is downright comical.