Roger Ebert may be best known for his film criticism, but a lesser-known fact about the Pulitzer Prize winner was his ardor for submitting cartoon captions to the New Yorker's weekly Cartoon Caption Contest.

The writer once claimed on his Chicago Sun-Times blog that he had submitted a caption for nearly every cartoon contest the magazine held.

He wrote in 2009:

“I have entered the New Yorker’s Cartoon Caption Contest almost weekly virtually since it began and have never even been a finalist. Mark Twain advised: ‘Write without pay until somebody offers to pay you. If nobody offers within three years, sawing wood is what you were intended for.’ I have done more writing for free for the New Yorker in the last five years than for anybody in the previous 40 years.

It’s not that I think my cartoon captions are better than anyone else’s, although some weeks, understandably, I do. It’s that just once I want to see one of my damn captions in the magazine that publishes the best cartoons in the world. Is that too much to ask?”

To his delight, one of his captions was published two years later with this cartoon:


The New Yorker noted Ebert exaggerated a little when he said he entered almost every competition. According to the Bureau of Cartoon Caption Contest Statistics, the writer entered 107 of the 280 competitions.

Ebert died on Thursday at the age of 70. Even though he had to have part of his jaw removed because of cancer in 2006, he continued to work, garnering more than 800,000 followers on Twitter. It was just two days before his death when he announced he would be lessening his workload due to health. He is survived by his wife, Chaz Hammelsmith, a step-daughter and two step-grandchildren. 

Check out some of Ebert’s submissions that didn’t make the cut below: