How LinkedIn’s Spammy Subject Line Became a New Yorker Punch Line

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It’s the email message no one wants to receive, the email message that spam filters were made for. Subject line: “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” You don’t know the sender; you only know he’s trying to collect you like a baseball card. This is a depressing, thoroughly modern situation — fortunately, when life gave us LinkedIn, some very funny people used it to make LinkedInade.  

For a long time, it’s been held in certain circles that there are a small handful of lines that can be used as the caption to any cartoon in The New Yorker. “Christ, what an asshole” and “What a misunderstanding!” are usually the most-cited captions; in 2011, cartoon editor Bob Mankoff wrote a short column about them

Now there’s a new contender: In September, a number of websites acknowledged that “Hello, I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” is the ultimate New Yorker cartoon caption, able to wring a laugh out of even the magazine’s most inscrutable illustrations. Especially the most inscrutable ones.

Writer, designer, and alleged genius Frank Chimero has been credited with discovering the odd synergy between the machine-generated email subject line and the arguably human-generated cartoons, adding “I’d like to add you … ” to the pantheon of universally perfect captions.

But the LinkedIn caption is the only one to have made the leap from in-joke to the actual captions. Chimero’s line was so overwhelmingly great that even longtime New Yorker editor David Remnick succumbed to its brilliance and grudgingly agreed to use it.

I have a meeting every week with David Remnick, and he makes the final decisions on the cartoons,” Mankoff told The New York Times Magazine Tuesday. “For the first 10 I showed him, I printed the LinkedIn caption on all of them.”

His reaction?

David said, ‘What the [expletive] is this?’”

But after an explanation — surprisingly, Remnick doesn’t get a lot of LinkedIn spam — the editor was won over. “Let’s just use one,” he said, according to Mankoff.

The cartoon they apparently settled on appeared in print October 5, and you can now buy it as a print from New Yorker publisher Condé Nast. Only $125!

The value of “I’d like to add you to my professional network” is hardly limited to New Yorker non sequiturs, though. It works as a caption for just about anything: