“WaPo, you’re through. Have you no shame?”
By Alexandra Petri
My first thought on hearing that Sarah Palin had tweeted this in response to something I’d written was: “Oh no, she’s read the Justin Bieber coverage.”
After all, I frequently wake up in cold sweats from dreams in which I am reprimanded by Sarah Palin for writing too much about Justin Bieber — or vice versa. This is the single most shameful thing that can happen to anyone, ever, including wearing white after labor day while being Charlie Sheen.
But I was intrigued: What made her decide that we had reached the absolute limit?
There were numerous possibilities! This weekend, I wrote a piece insisting that “We are all Charlie Sheen.” My Justin Bieber coverage borders on the exhaustive. I’ve written more than a dozen pieces about Palin herself, who is like cocaine except that there are rare occasions when cocaine might make your writing better. And I spent a good ten minutes yesterday pondering whether to write something entitled: “Is Justin Bieber the New Sarah Palin?” before I decided that moving to Thailand to become a sex professional would be less embarrassing to those who love me.
But no! The culprit was a caption contest, featuring a photo of President Obama and the awesomely bearded poet and Medal of Honor recipient Donald Hall.
Apparently, alleging that this image might be ripe for caption is proof that I am a horrible ageist philistine. You want evidence that I’m ageist? Read this, not that! You want evidence that I’m a philistine? Uh, I recently cut off Samson’s hair, and I hate Schubert.
Still, I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, Sarah Palin et. al., but caption contests have been around for a while. They fall, like rain, on the just and the unjust alike. From the sounds of the coverage, you would think I’d gone to Mr. Hall’s home with a megaphone and read “Sudden Things” in a snide voice, or that caption contests were a new invention, designed explicitly to bedevil old gentlemen with rich life experiences who wind up in amusing snapshots.
Maybe this is a good time to explain the concept.
A caption contest presents you with a photo. (Sarah, a photo is basically like a TLC series about you, but sometimes it can show you in an unflattering light.) Then, the people who see this photo attempt to write something called a caption, the goal of which is to provoke laughter in the people who read it with the photo.
Does this help? This is an unflattering picture of me.
\Now, say something funny about it!
I’m not defending caption contests per se. They reside in the bowels of humor, along with puns, slideshows of humorously misspelled signs, and whatever Carrot Top is up to these days. Calling a caption contest high comedy is only true in the sense that Pineapple Express was high comedy.
But you have to start somewhere.
True, maybe I lack shame. But it’s not manifested in the caption contest.
It’s manifested in this piece relating an actual news item to the life of Justin Bieber, because every time you do that, someone waterboards a kitten.
But keep reading, Sarah! And if you’re ever in the area, let’s have a sandwich!
P.S.: For anyone who was curious, the winning caption was: “You want to see MY birth certificate?”