Like most people who work in the print news business, Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Steve Breen wanted to help find ways to attract and keep readers.
About 10 years ago, Breen began giving readers of The San Diego Union-Tribune a weekly opportunity to caption one of his drawings. The idea grew into a regular, now syndicated, comic strip titled Caption It!
“Young people are now getting humor from creating, viewing and sharing memes, GIFS, TikTok videos, etc. I love traditional comic strips and there are still some really excellent ones. I just like Caption It! because it gets people more involved. I wish we could run 20 captions every week instead of one,” Breen said.
Beginning this week, Caption It!, becomes a weekly feature of the Keizertimes. The cartoon and winning caption from a previous week run alongside a new un-captioned image.
Breen got his start as an editorial cartoonist in college, his work in that field garnering him a pair of Pultizers as he grew. He credits his sense of humor, and satire, though with influences such as Mad Magazine, Saturday Night Live and SCTV. Pat Oliphant, Paul Conrad and Jeff MacNelly were some of the major influences combining his humor with cartooning.
When it comes to serving up a Caption It! image, there much more going on than simply putting an odd image to the page.
“What I try to do is tee up a good piece of art so that someone out there can hit it out of the park. I try to think of a weird but helpful set-up,” Breen said.
Choosing the winning caption is a whole other art itself but, here’s is a hint: the best jokes take time.
“If I draw a clown eating a hamburger, I’m going to get a million Ronald McDonald gags from people and most of those captions will be bland and predictable. I’m looking for something that comes out of left field,” he said. “I look for originality, brevity and something that makes me laugh out loud. Humor works, most often, when something is unexpected.”
He also encourages local teachers to use Caption It! as an exercise in creativity.
“We have some fantastic San Diego-area teachers who do the Union-Tribune’s contest with their students every week and some of our best submissions come from this demographic. Try to come up with ten captions and then bounce them off your parents and siblings, then send the three that get the biggest laughs. Oh, and avoid Ronald McDonald gags,”
Entries can be sent to [email protected] by 10 a.m. Tuesday of every week.