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See the Winners of the Inaugural Comedy Wildlife Awards. Which Is a Real Thing.

In this meme goldmine, hippos, gorillas, and rodents ham it up in the candid shots.

Wild animals don’t have a sense of vanity, which is good news–otherwise, the subjects of the photos in the Comedy Wildlife Awards would probably be fairly mortified by the way they look in the shots that took the top honors in the competition’s inaugural edition. If Ryan Gosling gets captured on camera with his finger up his nose, an army of lawyers presumably descends upon the photographer–but if it’s a mountain gorilla, feel free to laugh it up at the big fuzzball.

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The contest was created by wildlife photographer Paul Joynson-Hicks this year to showcase the less-than-marketable shots that photographers have long been able to capture, but have been unable to sell to agencies. “Before now, all that wildlife photographers have been able to do is try and sell them as prints,” Joynson-Hicks explains. “Sometimes agencies have bought them, but not really–but I found that at any exhibition I did, people often went for the funny wildlife images, as well as the smart ones.”

Anybody who spends much time around animals knows that they can be funny, but Joynson-Hicks still didn’t anticipate the reaction he got to the contest. “I’ve been completely flabbergasted by the extraordinary response,” he says of the 1,502 submissions he received from 52 countries.

Shots like the ones captured by those who entered the Comedy Wildlife Awards are amazing, but not exactly what we’re used to from nature photography. But skipping the majesty of the beasts that roam the forests and plains, and capturing them at their clumsiest–when the elegant leopard faceplants in the savannah, or when the grand elk emerges from the forest with its face covered in brush–is a more honest view of nature, anyway. Humans have presumably been delighted at the chance to see animals in funny poses forever (or at least as long as we’ve felt secure enough in our environments that we weren’t primarily worried about being eaten by the hilarious wildlife), but the Comedy Wildlife Awards nonetheless feels like the sort of concept that was tailor-made for the Internet. And at any rate, that laughing seal captured in the runners-up would probably find them equally hilarious.

About the author

Dan Solomon lives in Austin with his wife and his dog. He's written about music for MTV and Spin, sports for Sports Illustrated, and pop culture for Vulture and the AV Club.

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