Joey Pipia

Port Townsend entertainer in running for New Yorker contest

PORT TOWNSEND — Joey Pipia hopes you’ll vote for him.

Not that he’s running for office.

No, the local magician and self-described “delusionist” who runs the Chameleon Theater here wants to direct your attention to The New Yorker magazine, specifically, and a particular cartoon.

The story begins with a phone call to the Pipia household last Wednesday. A New Yorker representative informed Pipia’s daughter Phina that her father’s entry was a finalist in the magazine’s cartoon-caption contest.

Between 6,000 and 12,000 entries come in to the contest, which runs in each issue of The New Yorker. Just three finalists are chosen and placed below a cartoon on the magazine’s back page.

Readers vote on which caption is the cleverest, and the winner receives a signed print of the cartoon.

This week, the cartoon by Tom Cheney depicts a man peeking out from inside a cannon that’s propped up on a ladder in his driveway.


A conventional-looking car and man are in the next driveway.

Pipia’s caption entry: “Hey, kids, you’ll need to move over. Mr. Miller’s car won’t start.”

He believes it’s funnier when you see cartoon and caption together, of course.

The other contestants this week are Bill Wiggins of Red Boiling Springs, Tenn., with “Would you call the office and ask them to open my window?” and Jim Johnston of Bethesda, Md., with “It’s a loaner.”

Pipia has submitted a handful of captions to past contests; his “move over” line is the only one to make it this far.

And frankly, he didn’t believe it at first.

When Phina, 23, told him The New Yorker had called with the news, “I’m thinking a friend of mine is playing a prank on me,” Pipia said.

But when he called the magazine’s cartoon department, his status was confirmed.

Now he hopes to put Port Townsend “on the map,” as he puts it, and bask, for a week, in the prestige that comes with penning the winning caption.

To find this week’s entries, start at, scroll down to the box with the headline Vote and click on “Go to contest 288.” Votes must be cast online by the end of Sunday, and participants must be 18 or older.

Meantime, Pipia will be distracting himself with work: He’s preparing for the Improvathon, an event billed as “24 hours of improv just for the love of it.” The improvisational theater marathon featuring local actors will begin at 8 p.m. Friday and finish at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Chameleon Theater, 800 W. Park Ave. For more details, phone 360-379-1068.

Pipia moved to Port Townsend with his wife, Jenny, and their two daughters Sophie and Phina some 20 years ago. Since then, he has made a living as the Chameleon’s director and as a performing magician.

“Can you imagine?” he asked. “This is what I do.”

For a bit of recreational reading, Pipia, 53, picks up The New Yorker on a weekly basis.

While perusing the cannon cartoon, he thought, “I really should be doing something else, like [washing] dishes. I’m a grown man, on Friday afternoon, reading The New Yorker.”

But then, Pipia said, the caption “just jumped into my mind.”


Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at [email protected]

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