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It’s always a joy to judge The Style Invitational’s song parody contests, which I’ve run more than 20 times since 2004. Well, except for the part where I have to — have to — deny ink to dozens of people who not only spent a significant amount of their week to produce one or more elaborate parodies or even videos, but who did them really impressively.

The results of Week 1503 — a contest for songs relating in some way to food — are thoroughly a case in point. If you were to sing along to the 19 songs, including six video performances, you’d reach No. 19, what, a half-hour later? An hour? Even with an emphasis on shorter songs up top, cutting out repetition, etc., it’s the most I could expect from a reasonable reader.

And so my lengthy “shortlist” is full of clever, funny, well-crafted parodies that should be wearing Loser T-shirts.

I do hope you’ll take the time to look down the page at all the honorable mentions, and so I’ll try not to keep you long here at the Convo.

But just as an example of how deep our bench is: I hadn’t anticipated this, but a number of Losers cleverly used Week 1503′s food theme to write about that renowned lunch table tantrum: the Trump White House Ketchup Splat, recounted rivetingly by aide Cassidy Hutchinson during the Jan. 6 hearings. Several Ketchup Splat entries made my shortlist, with veteran Loser parodist Barbara Sarshik scoring a runner-up.

Here are the other Splat finalists, in whole or part:

Pout All That You Can Pout
(to “The Army Goes Rolling Along,” the U.S. Army Song)

He would yell, mad as hell, when it wasn’t going well, and the ketchup would slither on down.
Get irate, full of hate, throw his hamberder (and plate), with the ketchup just oozing on down.
He would fume and shake, then heave a well-done steak, dyeing the walls a reddish-brown.
White House taste defiled by a rotten child as the ketchup kept dribbling on down.
(West Point grad and longtime Loser Randy Lee)

To “Up, Up and Away”

Would you like to dine with a beautiful tycoon?
Would you rather hide from the angry orange baboon?
We could have a lovely lunch together ruined by
When burgers fly; yes. he let fly

Ketchup and away,
Like a pie-throwing, an angry child cartoon

The dining room’s defaced by this tantrum-throwing loon.
The country’s been debased by this Looney Tunes maroon.
He will call the porter, blame it on some other guy
For he can lie, he can lie

Ketchup and away
Like a condiment, a condiment typhoon!
He’s stepping over the broken crockery
We’ll crawl the floor for a space to hide us.
If by some chance your thoughts turn to mockery;
He’s trying to divide us,
This loser, fools’ gold Midas.
He’s immortalized by a big baby balloon
Way up in the air, allies lampoon our buffoon
With his tiny hands he’ll toss our dreams across the sky
For he can lie, and he will lie.
Ketchup and away
With our beautiful, our big hot air balloon
Put, put him away.
(Longtime Loser J. Larry Schott)
To “Counting Flowers on the Wall” (an excerpt)
… Throwing ketchup at the wall
That don’t bother me at all.
Grabbing at my driver’s throat
When I need to block the vote.
Claiming each court where I’ve lost is just a kangaroo.
Now don’t tell me, I’ve nothing to do.
(Barbara Sarshik)

As I regularly do with our overabundance of excellent entries in our parody contests, I’ll be sharing other inkworthy “noinks” over the next few days in the Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook; just search on #parodies and a list of the posts should come up.

At least one of those noinks will belong to Duncan Stevens, who can console himself by having won yet another Clowning Achievement to be the first five-time winner of the Disembodied Clown Head on a Stick trophy. Sing along with his parody of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and see how the accents of the lyrics fit perfectly with the melody and rhythm — and, even more important, how they make you laugh: “Pumpkin-flavored spice in Belgian waffle/ Pumpkin-flavored spice potato chips/ Pumpkin-flavored burgers: that’s just awful/ Pumpkin-flavored Spam? Not on my lips.”

And at least one more will go to runner-up Mark Raffman, who pulls off a fairly rare-for-the-Invite feat of parodying a power-chord rock song, in this case the Survivor screamer “Eye of the Tiger” — its youthful vigor deliciously ironic when used for a song about battling constipation with a “high-fiber diet.” (Meanwhile, Mark’s usual go-to parody fodder, “Be Our Guest,” ended up with no ink this week, even though at least six Losers — none of them Mark — submitted “Guest” songs.)

Two more veterans fill this week’s Losers’ Circle: Rob Cohen’s overeating song with a punchline, and Barbara Sarshik’s Ketchup Splat ballad add to their voluminous parody songlists.

Meanwhile, I was totally won over by Marty Gold & Kids’ exuberant video “Ode to the Chinese Buffet,” and not just because I’ve always been a sucker for said establishments. Clever lyrics (dad Sam gets a co-credit), pretty good singing, an infectious joyfulness — and is that Marty playing, one-man-band style, the first-ever orchestration of “YMCA” for multiple clarinets?

But you don’t need a whole staged production to make a great video: I was also charmed by First Offender Judy Freed of Florida, who simply sang (beautifully and utterly clearly) into a camera, backed by a karaoke track, for a knockout parody of the “Pippin” song “Corner of the Sky” in which she touts therapy-by-pie. Judy also kept her video to under two minutes, as did Jonathan Jensen — who can sing, play the piano and look at the camera simultaneously (not to mention make funny faces) — with “It’s Not Easy Eating Beans.” Without a story or significant visuals (e.g., a slide show or on-camera action — like Sandy Riccardi’s video putting the “nut” in Nutella), you’re asking a lot of the viewer to sit there and wait for your next line for several minutes at a time. It helps if the music moves along as well.

Meanwhile, if you were robbed of ink this time, most of the parodies shouldn’t seem old by the time we do the second-chance retrospective contest in December. I’ll probably run one from Week 1503.

What Pleased Ponch: Ace Copy Editor Ponch Garcia read the print Invite, which had space for nine of this week’s 19 parodies, and pronounced them “uniformly clever.” Everyone’s a winner! The print list — which favors songs, especially shorter songs, that I think will be familiar to multiple generations — comprised the top four winners plus Beverley Sharp’s Dracula ballad, “If I Only Had a Vein”; Melissa Balmain’s and Hildy Zampella’s “Supercalifragilisticexpialadocious” verses (even the title was truncated to fit in one column of type); Nancy McWhorter’s “My Favorite (fattening) Things”; and excerpts from Marty Gold’s “Chinese Buffet” and Sarah Walsh’s “This S’more That I’m Eating.”

We’re routing for you: This week’s brand-new state slogan contest

Your more obsessive Style Invitational readers may have noticed Bob Staake’s greater involvement lately beyond drawing the Invite’s cartoon weekly since 1994: Instead of “What do you want me to draw?” Bob has often produced his own examples for recent contests, even supplying a well-crafted one for the Limerixicon.

I’m delighted to have Bob as a collaborator — after all, it was his creative input as a temporary replacement in Year 2 that prompted my predecessor, the Czar, to keep him on forever. But as he became a wildly successful and famous artist and author over the next three decades, Bob understandably turned his creative efforts elsewhere, in many directions at once, and sort of stopped by the Invite once a week for old times’ sake.

Maybe it’s nostalgia on his part, or just a temporary catching of breath from all his book projects and speaking engagements, but in the past few months I’ve once again begun to think of him more as a partner than just the guy I send an assignment to. And then, just recently, Bob sent me an email: “ “This came to me in a dream last night and I think it has terrific potential.” Then he proceeded to lay out what with almost no alteration is this week’s contest, Week 1507, along with several persuasive examples.

Since just two weeks ago I ran another place-name contest, for “sister cities,” denizens of the Loser Community might still be in map mode, and ready to apply that to this week’s contest: Use the first letters of consecutive U.S. states in a “route” as the first letters of a slogan describing the state at the beginning of the rout.

Sooo much easier to show an example, like this one of Bob’s I didn’t use: FLORIDA: A Gator Always Tastes gamy (Fla. Ala, Ga., Ala, Tenn., Ga.)

Meanwhile: We have done contests for state slogans in the past, but not for a long time. One warning: Don’t describe any state by saying that there’s nothing interesting about it. In other words, don’t brag that you’re ignorant.

Text files to past slogan ink (scroll past that week’s new contest to the winning slogans):

Week 640, state mottoes (my contest)

Week 231, mottos for the backs of the then-new state-themed quarters (the Czar’s contest)

Week 2 (!!), motto for Maryland

Give it a shot. If I don’t have enough good stuff in four weeks … I think I could find an extra song parody to run.

Inking out loud: Coming — the Invite and Convo on audio!

I’m eager to see what happens with next week’s Invitational and Conversational: Like many other Post articles, they’ll offer the option of an audio version! It’s automated, but it’s usually so good that it takes a minute to realize it. (Here’s a random story from today’s paper; click on the “Listen” icon just under the photo.) Next week’s results will be the 100-Scrabble-tile passages from Week 1504, which Ms. AI should be able to handle — but what’s going to happen when we get to neologisms?

Okay, go enjoy those parodies: Happy New Year for those who count to 5783 — remember, everyone gets another day for Week 1506; deadline is Tuesday, Sept. 27.

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