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Style Conversational Week 1440: Start singin’ the news

The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week’s parody contest and movie title results

Keanu Reeves as John Wick. The franchise was replotted by many in Style Invitational Week 1436 as a guide to bathroom candles. (Lionsgate)
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First this: Are you going to be in the D.C. area on Saturday afternoon, July 3? See the bottom of the column about our Loser/Devotee potluck picnic.

I think I’d be thrilled to judge Style Invitational song parody contests every single week: The Loser Community — what I call the folks who enter the Invite regularly — produces such good material so consistently that my only disappointment is in denying ink to at least a dozen funny, beautifully crafted songs every time I run the contest, usually twice a year. And so I’m already eagerly awaiting the gems from this week’s contest, Week 1440.

Our last parody contest, Week 1420 this past January, was for “work songs” for or about a particular profession, inspired by the TikTok-viral whaling song “Wellerman” — but, as in virtually every Invitational contest, topical, especially political humor trotted right into the results, as in Rob Cohen’s entry about the profession of GOP senator:

I’ve been working in the fail mode

All the livelong day

I won’t vote for legislation

Joe Biden sends my way …

This time, though, there’s no theme to contrive to fit; just look at the headlines about events and trends of the current day. I’ll post the results on July 8, 10 days after the June 28 deadline, so hopefully your topic won’t be old news by then even by Twitter standards.

Here’s a list of guidelines (which I’ve recycled in previous Conversationals) about what I’m looking for in a song parody for the Invitational — which, remember, runs in a shorter form in print, including the four top winners, in The Post’s Arts & Style section on Sundays.

● As with all Style Invitational song parody contests, we value flawless rhyming, even if the original rhymes loosely. And we’re a humor contest; witty wordplay (including, but not requiring, clever playing off the words of the original), a zingy ending and the avoidance of bitter anger — our word for this is “screediness” — are the paths to Invite ink.

● Because the Invitational is a contest that is read rather than listened to — especially, duh, in the print version — a reader has to easily figure out how your lyrics match the tune. The best way to know this is to show someone the lyrics and see if the person — without your help or cues — can figure out how to sing them.

For the print page (which includes the four top winners), I’ll be choosing what I hope are very well known songs among at least a couple of generations. Online, I’ll include links to video or audio versions to the originals, and so less well known songs are welcome there. In either case, feel free to include the URL of a clip on YouTube or elsewhere whose music matches your lyrics. (Handy hint: To make a YouTube clip start playing at a certain point -- here’s an easier version than what I had before, thanks to Loser Suzanne Barnhill:

1. Play the video, then pause it at the spot where you want your viewer to see it.

2. Click “SHARE" in the line of choices under the video screen and title.

3. This will produce a box with the URL (link) that you want to give me. Underneath the URL is a checkoff box that says “Start at 4:07” or whatever your starting point is. Check that. That will change the URL.

4. Click “copy” next to the URL. Then you can paste that along with your entry.

Still, if this task proves confusing, don’t worry about it!

● In our Golden Era of Political Parody Videos, I’d love it if I could share your fabulously inkworthy parody as a performance, particularly if the lyrics are right there on the video — like this one by Sandy Riccardi in our Week 1287 parody contest (results here). If you send a link to a video, please also send the text of the lyrics.

This terrific video by Jonathan Jensen — from our work song contest (“Capitol Police officer”) from this past winter — doesn’t use subtitles, but the singers sing so clearly it’s not necessary. It’s always good to put your lyrics as the first post in the comments section of your video, though.

Still, the vast majority of the parodies I run are just lyrics without videos. That’s just fine!

● Our general rule with the Invitational is to run humor that hasn’t been published elsewhere. But I’ve made exceptions in cases where it hasn’t yet been distributed widely, or by another publication. Write me at pat.myers@washpost.com. about specific cases and I’ll make a ruling.

● Also, while I normally consider the Invite not to be a team sport, I don’t mind crediting two people for a single parody.

● Note that once again, I’m extending the usual deadline by a week — so you’ll have till Monday, June 28, to submit your parodies. If you’ve done a video and it’s ready for me to see earlier, drop me a line and I’ll have a look at it, in case I’d like you to tweak your lyrics. (My normally strict blind judging, in which I don’t see the writers’ names until I’ve chosen the winners, has to involve a little peeking in cases like this; don’t worry — even if I know and adore you personally, I won’t have any trouble at all denying you ink.)

If you have any questions during the process — for example, “can I use this edgy word?” — feel free to ask me at pat.myers@washpost.com. (put “Question about” in the subject line). I won’t coach you through the writing of the song, but I won’t refuse to answer a question or two.

For guidance and inspiration, a rabbit hole of earlier results:

Week 1420 (work songs)

Week 1378 (Life in the Age of Corona)

Week 1357 (general news)

Week 1339 (“modern woes”)

Week 1287 (2018; general news)

Scriptease artists*: The results of Week 1436

*Non-inking headline by Jon Gearhart

Even though we did this very contest twice previously, I was deluged with almost entirely fresh material for Week 1436, a contest to supply an alternative plot to any real movie title. I received more than 1,900 entries (plus some 200 headline and subhead suggestions) from more than 200 Losers, many of them new to the Invite or very infrequent entrants. And I ended up running almost 60 entries by more than 40 Losers in this week’s results.

Because of the one-liner format of the contest, and since each entry began with the name of the movie, I was able to sort out all the entries alphabetically by film, without a clue to who wrote what. That let me see that there were all too many jokes about John Wick and bathroom candles, or Dolittle (116th Congress), Raging Bull (guess who), even The Italian Job, half a dozen entries all riffing off that ever-sufferin’ biblical guy from Tuscany.

It’s the fifth win, but the first of our new Clowning Achievement trophy, for Ann Martin, who gets Ink No. 115 in her Invite career; the multi-degreed classics scholar knew her market and scored with “Paper Moon: In Part 1 of ‘Back to Our Offices: 2021,’ a hilarious documentary about a contest for best butt photocopy.” Second-place Eric Nelkin used Joe Versus the Volcano as the perfect name for the last election — amazingly, it wasn’t already all over the Internet. Runner-up Lee Graham turned Portnoy’s Complaint into a Karen joke (will readers from 2030 have a clue?); and Susan Geariety hilariously parlayed the horror film Seed of Chucky to reference Prince Charles’s relationship with son Harry.

While I often like to run a self-referential “And Last” entry — this time it was Chris Doyle’s Les Misérables, referring to inkless Losers (as if he’d know from that) — it shouldn’t be too inside-baseball, assuming that any reader would be familiar with earlier contests. So I didn’t run this one, which did make me laugh:

MalcolmX: The Empress is at her wits’ end as a computer glitch at The Post removes the second horse from all the entries in the Kentucky Derby foals contest. (Jeff Shirley)

What Pleased Ponch: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood is off this week, so Other Ace Copy Editor Ponch Garcia told us his faves, all from the honorable mentions:

Avatar: Can picking just the right World of Warcraft character change the life of a shy teen? Spoiler alert: No. (Todd DeLap)

Breakfast at Tiffany’s: Or “How I lost my job with the Secret Service.” (Pam Sweeney)

F9: Vin Diesel schools John Cena in refreshing Word documents fast and receiving Outlook emails furiously. (Jeff Rackow)

Mean Girls: The story of three young women of average height, weight and intelligence from Normal, Ill. (Rob Cohen)

Raging Bull: Ferdinand has finally had enough with the flowers. (First Offender Kara Laughlin)

The 39 Steps: Documentary peeks in on AA’s new “premium plan.” (Mark Raffman)

The Lovely Bones: Does Kirk have a thing for McCoy? (John McCooey)

Rated X’ed: The unprintables: The Post has a brand-new executive editor, Sally Buzbee, fresh from heading up the worldwide Associated Press. And I hope she’ll first learn about The Style Invitational in a way other than reader complaints. So I thought these entries would be better nestled down at the bottom of the Convo (some were requested by their writers not to be considered for the Invite (im) proper:

He’s Just Not That Into You”: At the end of a romantic evening, a woman realizes her date is rather inadequate. (Jesse Frankovich)

The Flash (2022): It’s leaked out that this remake of “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” will be over before the opening credits. Running time: 12 seconds. (Jon Gearhart)

And in just all-around bad taste: Old Yeller: A still-rabid Kimberly Guilfoyle is finally put down just before the 2024 Republican Convention. (Kevin Dopart)

Social Engorgements update! Loser/Devotee picnic, Saturday, July 3

A couple of weeks ago in this space, I noted that Alex Blackwood, my co-admin of the Style Invitational Devotees group — and Invitational reader-junkie — would be in town from Houston for an unrelated event on July 1, and would be free to Meet the Losers on Friday and Saturday. And she’ll be staying with me and the Royal Consort here at Mount Vermin in Fort Washington, Md., about seven miles due south of the Beltway. Many Losers and Devs are eager to meet her — and one another, now that we’re finally emerging from covid hibernation.

I decided that the best way is to have y’all over for a potluck picnic here at my house, anytime between noon and 4 on Saturday, July 3. I’ll provide Salvadoran barbecued chicken and some other stuff, and you bring a moderate amount of food to eat and share: That way, the more people we have, the more food we’ll have (I really don’t care about how many of each food group), and we don’t have to worry about an accurate count. There’s no program of events; just come and chat; if you like, you can walk in the woods behind our house, or saunter down the hill to the Piscataway Creek waterfront. Kids are welcome, pets not so much. We’ll have tables outside; if it rains, we’ll bring them inside and be a bit cozier.

As always, you don’t have to be a Loser, just someone who enjoys The Style Invitational. I’ve posted information about my address etc. in the Devotees group; if you’re not on Facebook and would like to come, email me at pat.myers@washpost.com. for details. (If I don’t know you, expect to chat with me a bit first.) If you’re planning on coming and I do know you, let me know, too.

If you can’t make it on July 3: Alex plans to do some D.C. sightseeing on Friday, July 2; we were thinking of the new Planet Word museum at 13th and K, and maybe the nearby National Museum of Women in the Arts, though they both require advance tickets. We’ll see.

And later on: Sunday, Aug. 22: A Loser brunch at the home of Loser Sam Mertens in Silver Spring, Md., which is a dry run for Saturday, Sept. 18: The Flushies, the Losers’ annual awards potluck banquet and songfest to honor this year’s (and last’s) Loser of the Year, Rookie, Most “Imporved,” Least Imporved, etc.

I’m guessing that for those later events we’ll be able to sing along with some of the parodies from Week 1440. Looking forward to hearing from you soon.

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