We have some quick, creative minds in Forest Park. A prime example would be Terry Keshner, who was a finalist in The New Yorker magazine’s Cartoon Caption Contest. The 40-year-old freelance journalist took second place for his caption. Not bad, if you consider the contest attracts 6,000 to 7,000 entries per week.


The New Yorker displays a captionless cartoon at the back of each issue and readers submit their punch lines. Terry e-mails captions at least twice a month. He aims for the unexpected remark that was made before the action in the panel takes place. In this case, he looked at the doctor’s face and detected a condescending look. So, he has the doctor make a condescending quip about Mr. Rabbit’s need to quit drinking.

The caption, with its alcohol reference, seems pure Forest Park but the author is in fact a non-drinker. Terry has enjoyed his seven years in town and appreciates being able to take the Blue Line to his job at WBBM radio. Terry is a news writer/news anchor/sports updater for the station.

He previously spent five years working for CNN in Atlanta, before their Sports Illustrated show was shut down. When he moved back to this area, the Oak Park native chose Forest Park for its affordability.

In addition to his radio duties, Terry continues writing short stories, screenplays and essays on the side. His essay about owning the ugliest wallet on earth was published by the Chicago Tribune.

Terry’s many skills do not include the ability to draw. He has never created a cartoon but is an avid reader of the funny papers. He enjoys The New Yorker cartoons, as much as the magazine’s strong writing. As for the caption contest, he often thought his submissions were funnier than the finalists. Still, he thinks it’s brilliant that the magazine gets its readers to do the work for them.

Adam Moerder is The New Yorker staffer who screens the captions. He sifts through thousands to select the 50 finest. Adam admits that after a couple of hundred bad captions, the job can get tedious. He’s looking for funny and original but the jokes are often old and stupid. Many readers submit Dick Cheney jokes for some reason.

Adam passes along the top 50 to editor Bob Mankoff, who selects the top three. Mankoff is also responsible for choosing the cartoon. Adam said that sometimes they are rejected cartoons; other times the cartoonist has crafted it specifically for the contest. Readers then vote to select the winner. First Prize is the cartoon signed by the artist.

Among the thousands who try – and fail – to have their captions published, is renowned film critic Roger Ebert. When I e-mailed Mr. Ebert about this, his reply was as concise as a cartoon caption, “I’m afraid it’s true!”