The Washington Post

Style Conversational Week 1078: Broadway maladies of 1074

I am going to be brief today (she lied as always), because I’d much rather you spend your Invite time reading the results of Week 1074, the songs about stage or movie musicals, written as parodies of songs from different musicals. This week’s inkworthy entries are so well done — and so numerous — that a reader could think it wasn’t all that hard to produce them. (Anyone who’s written a good one will surely set you straight.)

When Matt Monitto suggested this contest (along with a ready-made example), I jumped right at it. My only concern was that you did have to be familiar with musicals, which I defined for this contest as plays in which the characters do a significant amount of singing (which allowed for operas, but not movies in which songs play only as background music). This turned out to be no obstacle at all for the Loser Parodists, who sent both parodies and descriptions of everything from “La donne e mobile” to this year’s overpoweringly popular Disney movie, “Frozen.” I had great, great fun (perhaps my spouse less so — my parakeet, though, was in heaven) starting up the YouTube clips and singing dozens of the parodies out loud. I became better acquainted with plot points of “The Book of Mormon” and “Brigadoon” and was unfortunately infested with the earworm of “Would You Like to Build a Snowman.”

The only part of the process that wasn’t fun was deciding which perfectly deserving parodies wouldn’t make the list. In print, I fit in eight songs, two of them shortened; online, I kept adding one more and one more until I was left with my usual too many for any reasonable person to read through, let alone sing out loud or mentally in the time it takes to sing songs.

It truly pains me to deny ink to work that not only required a lot of effort, but also should be read by others, because it’s so good. So I hope I’ll provide some comfort in posting non-inking songs once a day or so over the next couple of weeks on the Style Invitational Devotees page. I did this for non-inking parodies from last year’s parody results for any movie described by a parody of any song, and I think they got more exposure and appreciation than if they’d been, say, the 27th song in the results.

I chose to let a number of the songs run longer this time than I had in past years; chopping them would have weakened them, and in some cases would have rendered them unsingable.

Among the great stuff not appearing today: “Anatevka” set to “Oklahoma!” and “Oklahoma!” set to “Anatevka,” a pair sent by Nan Reiner, who simply outdid herself in this contest, sending nine outstanding parodies, along with clips of herself singing them. Kel Nagel also had the clever idea of setting the “Fugue for Tinhorns” trio from “Guys & Dolls” (“I’ve got the horse right here...”) to the tune of the “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” trio from “Fiddler on the Roof,” and vice versa, stumbling only in the bridge of “Matchmaker,” which I’m afraid didn’t come close to matching the tune and words (“But my wife thought it worked when I sang it to her,” Kel protested; as I said four weeks ago, you have to have someone else try to sing it, not just listen, since you won’t be there for the reader to bend the accents of the word to your desired meter).

And yes, this wasn't a week in which I could wait till the very end of the process to find out who wrote what: I occasionally had to ask someone a question or ask the person to tweak something. On the other hand, I did very little editing this week; the parodies appear basically as they were sent in.

This is Nan’s ninth top win, and certainly not the first for parodies, and she's now up to 194 blots of ink. Plus, I guess, the point she gets from Stats Guy Elden Carnahan for having donated this week’s prize.

Melissa Balmain’s hilarious take on “Frozen” — including the comparison of the princess’s eyes to those of a lemur — brings her not only the vintage Year 2 Loser T-shirt that probably was never worn by Elden Carnahan, but also her 48th ink. Melissa, by the way, is the author of a brand-new collection of her very funny poems called “Walking In on People,” and it’s just a delight. Here’s one called “Fed Up,” which posits a different culprit in the Red Riding Hood story:

Red Riding Hood’s grandma had chest pains galore,
cholesterol looming at two-forty-four,
and blood pressure spikes. Though she kept it all quiet,
her daughter found out and imposed a strict diet.
No more would she bundle Red off with a pail
of cookies for Granny; instead she sent kale
and casseroles ranging from foul to insipid
because she had stripped them of every known lipid.
One day Red arrived to find Granny in bed.
“Come closer, my dumpling,” the dowager said.
Forget the lame cover-up tale that came later:
No wolf gobbled Red. It was Granny who ate her.

Mark Raffman, who won last year’s parody contest, finds himself now with 137 blots of Invite ink and yet another runner-up prize. And in fourth place is a veteran Loser but not someone whose name I connected with parodies: Kathleen DeBold, who first got ink in Week 697 but oddly chose to have an actual life, gets her seventh ink and her first “above the fold,” for her nifty precis of “The Phantom of the Opera” using the wonderfully contrasting “A Spoonful of Sugar.” Kathleen gets her choice of Loser Mug or Grossery Bag.

A quick dash through Week 1078: Hyphen the Terrible

The big change between this week’s contest and our recent versions of it is that you actually have to find something that has a hyphen, rather than to use the first or last few letters of any word. Online, just use your search function and move down the page: Even though most Web pages don’t break up words with hyphens just to make the line lengths more uniform, there are still plenty of hyphens to be found in modifying phrases, hyphenated names, compound words, etc. If your search lands you on a hyphen that was supposed to be another punctuation mark, like a long dash, don’t use that.

Ultimately, of course, the humor rests with the funny word and definition you come up with. Funny sample sentences are a great way to make a definition funnier; unfunny sentences somehow don't do the same trick. As you can see in the examples, the placement of the hyphen isn’t all that important, but you need to include it to follow the conceit of the contest, even if it doesn't add to the humor.

Losers with the Fringe on tap: Join us July 13

Loser Wrangler Pie Snelson is getting a group togther for a contingent to go to see fellow Loser Ward Kay’s play “The Livonians” as part of the Capital Fringe festival in Washington on Sunday, July 13. The tickets, which usually cost $17 plus a $5 “button” that is the one-time fee to attend the festival, are $12 each if you get them in blocks of 10. (And the tickets can be used for any show.) So if you’d like to be part of the group, e-mail me at ASAP and I’ll forward you to Pie. I’ll definitely be going.


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