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Posted at 3:47 PM ET, 03/ 9/2011

No, Sarah Palin, my caption contest didn't end the Post

By Alexandra Petri

"WaPo, you're through. Have you no shame?"

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.

My second thought was: Wait, Palin reads me? Then it turned out (as Jack Stuef at Wonkette pointed out) that she was just retweeting something from the Weekly Standard.

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?"

By Alexandra Petri  | March 9, 2011; 3:47 PM ET
Categories:  Petri  | Tags:  Sarah Palin, caption contest  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Vivian Schiller resigns from NPR. So prank journalism is okay now?
Next: Newt Gingrich's patriotic urges


Sloppy journolistm & loony-lefty bias caused the long decline of the Post. Palin Derangement Syndrome rendered it ludicrous, and earned it a place behind the National Enquirer, but in front of the Midnight Globe, on convenience store check-out racks.

Posted by: bubbasouth | March 9, 2011 9:20 PM | Report abuse

I have to agree with Sarah Palin that your caption contest was truly shameful! None of your 3 "winners" wrote an actual caption. A caption should attempt to answer at least a few of the Five W's of journalism, which I learned as, "what, when, where, how, why.. and who cares if one of them starts with 'h'?"

You even started your column asking us to answer this: "Who is that? What's he doing there? Why is there laughter?"

In fact, I was the only one who entered actual captions. Yes, they sucked, but I should have won anyway by default.

No, young lady, what you had was a "one-liner" contest which you deceptively called a caption contest. It's a symptom of the deceit that characterizes the left-wing, lamestream media (why are there squiggly red lines under "lamestream?")

Anyway, you want one-liners? I can write one-liners that suck even worse than my captions. How do you like THESE apples?
"This fake nose really itches."

"The Reuben I'm chewing is horrible tasting murder."

"Twenty more minutes until the next bathroom break? You've got to be kidding!"

"Better open a window! I can't hold this gas in any longer."
Or how about a poem?

Alexandra Petri
Committed shameful writing in the first degree
As part of a tasteless mockery
She's moved along the scale to Palin tweet target
Who first began with just a story about the hiccups.

Posted by: divtune | March 10, 2011 1:53 AM | Report abuse

Mitt is safe from Sarah. Julianne Moore's role in the Sarah Palin film will ruin Sarah Palin chances of entering the White House.

Thomas Chi
Selling Sex with Sarah Palin

Posted by: ThomasChi | March 10, 2011 2:25 AM | Report abuse

I thought Hall won the Medal of Freedom, not the Medal of Honor. Big difference.

Posted by: rjs1322 | March 10, 2011 6:35 AM | Report abuse

Hall won the National Medal of Arts, which is a Medal of a different color. The day Sarah Palin starts defending poets is the day I stop drinking.

Posted by: jimward21 | March 10, 2011 7:51 AM | Report abuse

Apropos of our rainy day:

The rain it raineth on the just
And also on the unjust fella;
But chiefly on the just, because
The unjust steals the just's umbrella.

- Lord Bowen

Posted by: jimward21 | March 10, 2011 7:55 AM | Report abuse

The Post corporation sold Newsweek for a dollar. Do you think they will get that much when they sell the paper?

Posted by: jy151310 | March 10, 2011 8:07 AM | Report abuse

Sara Palin Tiene muy buena prensa en España y me parece justo ponerlo en conocimiento de todo el mundo, creo que esta señora en el futuro sera muy importante en el gobierno de los EE UU.

Clica sobre mi nombre

Posted by: antoniolarrosa2hotmailcom | March 10, 2011 10:56 AM | Report abuse

jimward21 wrote:
"The day Sarah Palin starts defending poets is the day I stop drinking."
Good one! Same goes for me.
_Charlie Sheen

Posted by: divtune | March 10, 2011 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Well, just for the record, I like that photo. You don't give yourself enough credit.

Posted by: dougAthensGA | March 10, 2011 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Well, Ms. Petri, when your "journalism" earns you a national medal of some sort, I am sure your candid photos will be above reproach. Best of luck with that. Also with retaining your job.

You have entirely missed the point. If this is an attempt to clear your name, it will not work. Snarky comments and disrespect are what got you into this mess, and they certainly will not get you out of it. The only thing that would be acceptable to Hall's family is a removal of the original article and a written apology addressed to Hall himself. He does not use the internet, so paper mail will be necessary. I suggest you hand-write it and sign it yourself. Anything less than that would be unacceptable.

Posted by: eohall | March 11, 2011 10:57 AM | Report abuse

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