The judges howled, they snorted, they roared... oh, sorry, that was the animals in this week's cartoon. But there was definitely a snort or two as well as generous guffawing from the bench when the panel got to Bert Verrall's simple yet inspired caption. Bert's win brings the honor of top entry to Palmer, proving that Wasilla isn't the only part of the Mat-Su that's good for a laugh.
There were many strong entries this round, I cackled like an addled grouse every time I glanced at the web page. (OK, no more animal sound effects.) But is funny the right measure of a political cartoon?
The slew of entries that went strictly for a gag punchline and the judges' choice of a winner on the strength of its humorous impact illuminate a long-running debate among political cartoonists: Is it enough to simply be funny or does the editorial cartoonist have a responsibility to deliver an insight or opinion with each drawing? Should we tickle ribs or knock heads?
The fear is that too much emphasis on humor undermines the power of our bully pulpit by trivializing it. We cartoonists worry that we will chuckle away our position at the intersection of satire and journalism to become mere entertainers. Yet, in a week where the Joint Chiefs of Staff all signed a letter protesting a Tom Toles Washington Post cartoon and riots resulted from the publication of cartoons that many Muslims found insulting and blasphemous, the power of a cartoon to strike a nerve is looking startlingly healthy. And laughs are getting hard to come by.
So which is it? Knock heads or tickle ribs?
Of course it's a false choice. There's a place and a need for both. And what's great is when you can do the two at once. It's a question of balance. In that balance let's not undervalue humor. Any jerk can give you an opinion, but how many can give you laugh? While there is a risk of frittering away the ability to have impact by overreliance on gags, it's one of the few things I'm less worried about today than I was yesterday.
To second-guess the judges or to post other cartooning concerns, click on the "add new comment" button. Note: the deadline for captions to be considered by judges has been moved to noon of the Thursday following publication of each new cartoon. Feel that deadline pressure! Captions are still welcome after the deadline, but are ineligible to win.
Peter Dunlap-Shohl, ADN Cartoonist