The Invitational Week 6: Picture This
Our caption contest, plus new inkers, plus Gene's thoughts on censor-less editing.
Gene Weingarten
Feb 9

Good afternoon. Today, like all Thursdays, is Invitational Day, meaning you not only get to see not only a new contest you won’t win, but also the results of the last contest you didn’t win. In this case, the last contest was Questionable Journalism, in which you had to take lines stolen from stories in the media and propose questions they might be answering. The new contest involves coming up with captions for unusual pictures, one of which is above, that one and the others below. We’ll get to those important things in a bit, but first, we have to reluctantly deal with innuendo, filth, vulgarity, and mind-boggling saucy stories from inside the glass-enclosed, lavishly staffed Invitational Judging Complex. We will begin with some very sophisticated art history and criticism.

In April 1917. a French Dada artist named Marcel Duchamp (“Dada” is one of the greatest artistic terms of all time) realized something profound: There were no rules anymore, in art. No constraints. Impressionists and post-impressionists like Van Gogh had already established that art does not have to look like life. Duchamp went several steps further, a great leap forward, and realized that art doesn’t even have to look like art.

He submitted to a big international art show something he called a sculpture, but what was really just a commercially manufactured porcelain urinal. This is it. For some bizarre reason, he submitted it under the invented name “R. Mutt.” He was declaring it art, on the theory that anything can be elevated, by an artist, to be art. There were no rules. This urinal became one of the most important pieces anywhere, spurring bold, previously unheard of conversations that birthed modern art, which asks and seldom answers the question What is Art?


Just like the new Invitational. Pat Myers and I have realized that there are no rules anymore. We no longer are constrained by the petty, schmucky, understandable need of corporations to adhere to strictures such as “decency” or “appropriateness” that define the corporation’s “culture.” We can just try to be funny. This has led to some amazing conversations that would have been unthinkable a mere year ago. One of them occurred on Tuesday and we are sharing it here.

For the contest in which we asked you to take a published line from a publication, and suggest a question that might have prompted it as an answer, someone submitted the following, which I hereby edit only slightly:

Answer: “I obviously didn't think it was going to go in the hole.”

Q: How did [a well known, dignified, famous gay man] explain the cock ring found by a proctologist?

Now, neither Pat nor I would ever have even thought of publishing this in The Post, and had we done so, The Post would not only have fired us, but set fire to us, and would not have been prosecuted for it. But this sort of thing was now … on the table. Potentially in play! We both agreed that attributing this to a particular person was tasteless. But Pat argued that “cock ring” is a thing, and not dirty, and “cock” is a legitimate word adults use, and I asked if she felt the same knee-jerk liberal way about the female C-word, and she said absolutely not, and I accused her of being gender-inconsistent and misandrist, which is the opposite of misogynist, and she denied this, and so on.

This led to further conversation about private parts and sanctimony, and back to The Invitational, specifically another entry that read this way:

A: It's best if your partner can understand where you are coming from and potentially help you find a solution.

Q: How can your husband help you find your contact lens cleaner?

Pat had chosen this to get ink, and I suggested she was condoning a weird, barely comprehensible pussy joke, and she went nutso, saying it had nothing to do with pussies, and why do I always see pussies in everything I read, and I said, wait, what? And she said it was just about contact lens “solution,” and I said “that’s not even remotely funny,” and she said it was indeed funny and it had nothing to do with genitalia, and I said, you can’t have “coming” in a humor entry and not see double -entendre, and she rudely cited a deity not of her own religion.

And then I said this:

“You know what would be funny? If a guy who is going down on a woman said ‘I can see where you’re coming from.‘ ”




New conversations, previously unthinkable, because of the new Invitational.

Okay, so. Before we get on to the new Invitational and old winners, some drudgery:

We have a new, streamlined system here! The entirety of The Gene Pool is on this one Web page. The page will be long. But you will not have to leap to another page anymore, and all the questions and answers will accumulate here. After the intro (which you are reading now), there will be some early questions and answers -- and then I'll keep adding them as the hour progresses and your fever for my opinions grows and multiplies and metastasizes. To see those later Q&As, just refresh your screen every once in a while.

As always, you can also leave comments. They’ll congregate at the bottom of the post, and allow you to hector each other and talk mostly amongst yourselves. Though I will stop in from time to time.

SPECIAL ADDITIONAL TIP: If you're reading this on an email: Click here to get to my webpage, then click on the top headline (Media Trigger Finger) for my full column, and comments, and real-time questions and answers, and be able to refresh and see new questions and answers appear as I regularly update the post.

* * *.

And finally, a new orgasmically satisfying feature: You can ask your questions here. With the big ugly orange button below. Here it comes.

Ask a Question!

You can also ask questions here. They go to the same place, but if you are scared of orange buttons, you can do that other thing.

Leave a comment

The Invitational Week 6: Picture This – a caption contest. Plus Questionable Journalism winners.

By Pat Myers and Gene Weingarten, Empress and Czar of The Invitational

The Invitational is no longer flush with money and can no longer commission a series of cartoons from the great Bob Sub-Staake but we can still ask the Loser Community to write up some captions. In fact, since we are no longer limited by the small space on a newspaper page, we can have more pictures to choose from. This week: Write a caption – as many as 25 total – for any of the pictures below; they range from medieval oddities to runway shots to family photos. Begin each caption only with the letter on the picture – as in “A. [your caption]” – so that the Empress can sort the captions by picture.


Deadline is midnight Friday, Feb. 17. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Feb. 23.

Here are this week’s pictures:

Winner receives a little tin of Instant Underpants – “just add water.” Because you never know when you might suddenly need a pair of wet underpants. We have given these out several times over the years, but have never received a photo of the recipient wearing them. We’ll wait. Donated – unopened! – by Longtime Loser Edward Gordon. First Offenders receive the Fir Stink for their first ink: a smelly tree-shaped air “freshener.”

Ask a question!

And here are the results of Week 4.

ALERT: For those of you who feel that you had better entries than the one we chose, please complain immediately and at length in high dudgeon to the editors of The Washington Post.

Asking The Har Questions: The Results of Invitational Week 4
Week 4 was another of our Questionable Journalism contests, in which Losers could choose any sentence from something published that week, and pair it, A&Q-style, with a question it could answer. Click on the links to see the original contexts.

Third runner-up:

A. “I don’t know where this will go.”

Q. What did he say that told you he wasn’t quite the playa he’d claimed to be? (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

Second runner-up:

A. “There is a big grassroots movement that’s sprung up.”

Q. What did the plumber say after using his plunger on the vegan’s toilet? (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

First runner-up:
A. “Milk is released immediately upon sucking.”

Q. What happens when a farmer trains cows to judge “American Idol” auditions? (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

And the winner of the Joys of Jell-O cookbook:

A. The tortoise was discovered in a restroom at Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas.

Q. Mr. Hare, what are the grounds for your allegation that your opponent cheated?

(Mike Gips, Bethesda, Md.)

Dregs, the Questions: Honorable Mentions
A. Banishing it has become a conservative cause across the nation and a priority of DeSantis.

Q. Does basic human decency stand a chance? (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

A. Teachers who are trying out the draft curriculum said it has been popular.

Q. How have students responded to the new “Pub Crawling 101” course? (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

A. You should try to welcome any disruptions to your routine with open arms.

Q. Now that we members can carry guns in the House, Mr. Speaker, how would you advise dealing with the pesky news media? (Chris Doyle)

A. “Ready to go. Up to date on shots and deworming.”

Q. How does a Tinder profile show you’ve taken the covid advice of both the CDC and Donald Trump? (Jon Carter, Fredericksburg, Va.)

A. Will bad actors use AI to promote bigotry or hijack nuclear weapons?
Q. Any guesses about what’ll be in that new movie with Nicolas Cage and Kristen Stewart? (Mark Raffman)

A. “Aim for the head,” he said.

Q. How did the Navy captain summarize bathroom etiquette? (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)

A. The layoffs included two dozen massage therapists.

Q. What was the first indication that Trump had vacated the White House? (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)

A. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy demanded a Gang of Eight intelligence briefing from the president on the balloon.

Q. Why did President Biden say there was only room for six people on his balloon? (Richard Wexler, Alexandria, Va.)

A. I can see where we can find common ground.

Q. Instead of this $20-a-pound whole-bean coffee, don’t you guys just sell a can of Maxwell House? (Kevin Dopart)

A. I wish it was more transparent, because that’s what it’s all about.

Q. What do you think of my new warm-weather burlap windshield? (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

A. “I was able to knock down some shots in the second quarter which really helped.”

Q. How have you been coping with your low approval ratings on the economy, Mr. President? (Jon Gearhart)

A. I was sitting among a group of friends and strangers, cheering for a group of boys participating in a ceremony with their mothers.

Q. What's is like watching "MILF Manor" at a bar? (Kevin Dopart)

A. “There will be a chess match along the lines.”

Q: What is the worst idea ever for a Super Bowl halftime show? (Steve Honley, Washington, D.C.)

A. Our main finding out of this is that fat matters a lot.

Q. What life lessons can be gleaned from the lyrics of Sir Mix-a-Lot? (Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

A. Far from it.

Q. Where should I stand to take a selfie with a water buffalo? (Chris Doyle)

A. This ordinance was originally agendized at an October City Council meeting.

Q. Is there any progress on your proposal to ban the verbing of nouns? (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

A. “That moon-white face turns toward us, with a jagged line of black makeup running through it like a crack.”

Q. How can you tell when Rudy Giuliani has just dyed his hair? (Leif Picoult)

A. They don’t care about being invited to elite parties in Georgetown.

Q. What’s the philosophy of the Georgetown Party-Crashers’ Guild? (Duncan Stevens)

A. The Federal Reserve Board announced that it was transferring $107 billion into Treasury’s accounts.

Q, How can the government afford to keep eggs on the menu at military bases? (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

A. Moderates have seemed willing to turn a blind eye to any potential overreach so long as Bolsonaro’s movement is contained.

Q. Why isn’t there a bigger uproar in Brazil after the outgoing president looted, vandalized and left his BM in a shoebox at the presidential palace? (Bill Dorner, Indianapolis)

A. Fifty bucks per foot.

Q. Besides reduced sentences for donating their organs, what else does Massachusetts plan to offer prisoners? (Chris Doyle)

A. “They are hyper-focused on the opportunity to breed, and they therefore lose some of their wits.”

Q. Why do so many high school boys perform poorly on standardized tests? (Lee Graham, Reston, Va.)

A. Seen from the ground, their ephemeral parabolas look like calligraphic brushstrokes.

Q. What was it that William F Buckley said about forward passes? (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

A. “Will anyone I know be happier if I save this?”

Q. What thought process do you NOT want lifeguards to engage in? (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

A. If the outcome is No. 2, then they’ll be kind enough not to shove the U.S. economy off a cliff.

Q. Why might we want to try giving the Freedom Caucus a dose of a gentle laxative? (David Smith, Pleasanton, Calif.)

A. “They poop prolifically, and their droppings—thanks to their olive-heavy diet—are oily and slick.”

Q: What State Department travel warning offended the Greek ambassador? (Leif Picoult)

A. She gets through the day by flinging open her windows for some fresh morning air, lighting incense and wiping the soles of her shoes.

Q. How does Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene deal with the stress of trampling on the dreams of immigrants and the less fortunate? (John Hutchins, Silver Spring Md.)

A: The pagination.

Q: Is there anything on George Santos’s resume that’s accurate? (David Garratt)

A. Just a single new cutting-edge chip-making facility costs $20 to $25 billion.

Q. Why are Lay’s and Pringles so expensive? (Frank Osen)

A. “It was just annoying to do it over and over and over again.”

Q. How did my wife explain to our couples therapist why we had sex only three times during our five years of marriage? (Jon Ketzner, Cumberland, Md.)

A. It depends on who you are speaking to.

Q. Does it matter if I mix up subjective and objective pronouns? (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)

A. 1 Roma tomato, seeded and diced.

Q. What’s the dinner special at the Institute for Runway Models and Ballerinas? (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

A. The caller identified himself as “General Matthew Weyer,” said he was stationed in Afghanistan and needed money to ship a box to the United States.

Q. How did George Santos use the phone to raise money for his Congressional run? (Karen Albamonti, North Kingstown, R.I.)

And Last:
A. Enter the storm door.

Q. For this week’s Invitational, should I submit my latest racist joke, sexist joke or storm door joke? (Jeff Contompasis)

The headline “Har Questions” is by Beverley Sharp; the honorable-mentions subhead is by Bill Dorner.

Ingest foodstuffs with genuine Losers! This month’s Loser Brunch is at Asian Palace in Columbia, Md., on Sunday, Feb. 19, at noon. (The E has to miss this one, alas.) More info and RSVP at Our Social Engorgements on the Losers’ website,

Banter and share humor with the Losers and the Empress in the Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook; join and the Devs will anagram your name every which way. And see more than 1,000 classic Invite entries in graphic form, also on FB, at Style Invitational Ink of the Day.

Title:(Beverley Sharp)
Subhead:(Bill Dorner)
Prize:(Edward Gordon)