How to Give Wine a Subtle Hint of Funny

What better way to celebrate the confirmation of our SXSW panel on words & images than with caption shop talk?

There are some cartoon tropes that lend themselves to endless variations: the grim reaper, the desert island, the guru on the mountain, the government of the United States. And then there are things that are in themselves so absurd that they are difficult to add humor to: again, the government of the United States. But another example of this is wine. The language of wine tasting is inherently ridiculous. When you talk about wine you’re allowed to give it all kinds of flavors and characteristics that aren’t really there: trees, nuts, leaves, flesh, backbones, noses, legs, a short temper. It’s almost theological. The language associated with tasting wine is similar. I still have no idea what a “long finish” is besides the amount of time it takes the next day to get rid of a really bad wine headache.

And so, every time I try to think of a good wine cartoon, I end up in the same rut. You can twist wine language in all kinds of ways: it’s got a crooked nose, it’s got a full body but don’t call it fat, it’s got a 7:30 train to Seacaucus – but it always struck me that none of it is as funny as what real wine experts say. It seems so ripe for parody, but in reality the best way to parody it is to just leave it alone. It is probably the same approach that should be taken with cartoons about Joe Biden and Sarah Palin.

It’s why I was so pleased that the good editors at the New Yorker published this cartoon this week, after helping me tweak the caption a little bit. It’s one of the only wine ideas of mine that ever made it out of the notebook and onto scratchboard (besides this silly one). It seemed like a good twist on the whole thing. While financial language isn’t absurd, it does have it’s own set of semi-intelligible jargon, and it’s a logical idea that your stereotypical Wall Street types who are experienced drinkers would also be interested in the financials of a wine brand. There are lots of ways that you could write the caption, but to my mind it had to sound both like opaque wine language and like they were describing a specific company. It had to blur the analytical and the experiential. And also it had to sound completely natural.

So, mission accomplished. And now, back to doing cartoons about vodka, which is a heck of a lot easier.

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2 Comments

Filed under Cartoons

2 responses to “How to Give Wine a Subtle Hint of Funny

  1. Marissa M

    I manage an independent coffee shop on Newbury Street by day and fantasize about being published in the New Yorker by night (no shame). Although I generally have faith in tasting notes, you should get a load of third wave coffee lingo! If you can’t taste stone fruit in your wine, try tasting it in your coffee.

  2. Pingback: What does your wine label say about you? | Words, Pictures, Humor

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