Today we found time to sit down with Tamara Nolte, creator and host of Caption Contest Live!, the only show where you're encouraged you be on your phone. Tamara's traveled all over and performed around the country, so it was a blast getting to find out more about her and hear more about her upcoming show.
CSz Philly: So Tamara, you've lived and performed in New York, Chicago, and elsewhere, but what I didn't realize was that you are originally from Philly.
Tamara Nolte: I am from Philly! Well Media, technically! Growing up in Philly was fun. I did a lot of community and children's theater growing up, both at Young People's Theater Workshop and Upper Darby Summer Stage. Both had a huge impact on my life and career path. Since moving back to the east coast it's been fun to reconnect with my Philly roots.
I heard Tina Fey spent some time as a director, or maybe an assistant director at Upper Darby Summer Stage. Any chance you were directed by her?
I didn't! She had already did moved to Chicago by the time I was doing Summer stage and had already moved to NYC by the time I moved to Chicago- but I have dreams of running into her here in NYC and singing the summer stage song together.
That would be amazing. Be sure to send me an invitation to that. Now, let's talk about your show coming up on July 24th, Caption Contest Live. How did you get started with caption contests?
I had just moved to NYC and was uniquely prepared to notice the absurdity of everyday life with naive eyes. I began snapping pictures of things that tickled me and posting them on Facebook. Being that I am friends with a large number of comedians from Chicago and beyond, people began commenting on the picture with possible captions. The idea starting taking a life of its own after I took the most well-received comments and overlayed the caption text onto the image. I think people loved seeing their ideas validated in such a public way.
I love that this all came about so organically. Do you have any favorites from the contest? Pictures that you thought were really absurd or just funny, or times that someone just blew your mind with an amazing caption?
Gosh! There are so many pictures that made me laugh so much, but what made me laugh even more was peoples reactions to them. My friends would go on long tirades about what happened in the days contest.
I also loved when a caption won that I didn't understand, and then someone has to explain it to me. That has happened a few times. Like Gentle Ben. I will say, because the winner was selected based on the number of likes the post got, I feel like it wasn't always the funniest captions that ended up winning.
Taking an online caption contest and turning it into a live stage show doesn't sounds like it could present a lot of problems. What were some challenges you faced when putting together this show?
In the first few runs of the show I had comedians try to come up with captions on the spot. I realized quickly the fun of the contest is leaving it open for the audience to play along. The most entertaining part is watching the entries come in, in real time.
So this is a show where the audience can really make or break the show! I bet that must be really satisfying for an audience member to see their entry get a huge reaction from the crowd, and people can play from home as well, right?
Yup! People can play from home through Facebook so it's been cool to see the interaction of people live in the theater and at home.
One time we were even able to video chat a winner into the show from her home. She was on her couch in Chicago and we were in a theater in NYC. It was magical!
Let's cut to the chase, Tamara. What's the trick to winning? You've seen a lot of photos and a lot of captions. Surely, you must have some observations on what makes a winning caption. Is there a secret?
I wish I could say that the trick is to be the funniest, but that is not the case! Here are some tips based on the trends I have seen:
1) Get your caption in early. Most winners are with in the first 15.
2) Keep it short.
3) Keep it punny. (Double puns are very successful as well)
4) Get to know the people who play the game. People are more likely to vote for names they recognize.
But really, and this is the preschool teacher in me, it's not about about actually winning as much as it's about the amazing community of super creative people looking to make people smile. So play, pun, and have fun, knowing you are in a group of champions.
You've been doing this for a while now. How long are you planning to keep going for?
This is going to end the two year run of caption contest! And we're looking forward to celebrating all the past players.
So this show is the last chance people have to play the game or to see the show! That means people had better make sure they mark their calendars for July 24th at 8:30pm. Because after that, there's no telling when their next chance will be.