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Style Conversational Week 1490: Smile though your heart is aching

The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week’s song contest and ‘signs of incompetence’ results

Bob Staake's alternative sketch for this week's illustration, for Rob Cohen's winning entry in Week 1490 (signs of incompetence in a particular field). Bob makes his Invite sketches, as well as the pre-computer form of his finished work, available for sale to the Loser Community at

Yes, nobody’s feeling funny today.

But I hope that over the next 18 days — you have that extra week — you might find something in the news to write some funny lyrics about for Style Invitational Week 1490. Invite song parody contests always deliver, thanks to our perennial Loserbards as well as those who often get their first Invite ink in these contests.

As a contest for lyrics that will be read in print (at least in the newspaper version), the Invitational puts a higher premium on rhyme and recognizable meter than it would if it were an all-video contest; and the songs’ lines can’t be repetitive because that makes tedious reading.

If you’re new to Style Invitational song contests, PLEEZ read this 2021 Style Conversational column that spells out what works best for Invite purposes. (But remember that the dates mentioned were for Week 1440, last summer!) The column also includes numerous links to songs from earlier contests.

If this isn’t addressed in the Week 1440 column: I’m pretty expansive on what constitutes “news.” It doesn’t have to play off a specific news item, but the topic should concern someone or something that’s currently mentioned in the news. So while you might pen a love song to Benedict Cumberbatch, especially if it mentions his current movies, it’d be harder to justify a love song to your cat.

For the nuts ’n’ bolts of submitting an entry, here’s what I write on this week’s entry form, which restates and expands a bit on the directions in the Invite itself:

"In this week’s Style Invitational contest, Week 1490, write a satiric song about anything in the news these days, set to a familiar tune (or if you’re making a video, feel free to use an original tune). Do mention which song (if any) you are parodying, even if it’s obvious to you. And if there’s a recording of the original on YouTube or elsewhere on the Internet that matches your parody, please include the URL so the Empress can listen and, if you get ink, share it with readers.

"If you make a video of either a parody or your original tune, please include the lyrics here but also a YouTube link to your video that the Empress could share with Invite fans. (Lyrics ON the video are best of all, but not required.) Important! If you’ve made a video, be sure to indicate that in your entry along with the link (e.g., “video of me singing the song”). You want to make sure I know that the link goes to a performance of YOUR song and not just a recording of the original.

"In the print version of the Invite -- including the four top winners -- the songs being parodied must be very widely known so that readers will be able to know the melodies as they read the lyrics. Online, however, we can do parodies of less iconic songs, since we can link to a clip of the original. Please don’t embed links in text; just copy and paste the URL above or below your song; otherwise the Empress ends up with garble.

"Your song may not have been already published elsewhere, except for some online sharing or posting for a small audience; if you’re not sure if your song qualifies, go ahead and submit it along with a note, and the Empress will make a ruling. (If you send an email to whose subject line mentions this, she’ll see your question much earlier.)

"You get an extra week! Entry deadline is midnight is one moment before midnight on Monday, June 13, wherever you are. (However, if some terrible thing happens and you have to do it the next day, go ahead; you won’t be locked out. But don’t make a regular practice of it.)”


LOL in a day’s work*: The results of Week 1486

*Non-inking headline submitted by both Jesse Frankovich and Chris Doyle

I’m glad I decided to give another go to our 2002 contest asking for indications of incompetence in a particular field: Week 1486 drew a deluge of some 2,000 entries, of which I run 54 in this week’s results online, and fit about 40 in print (almost all were very short). Most of the inking entries featured funny quotes, though for some, just the concept did the trick (e.g., Kevin Dopart’s Incompetent rabbi: wears a yarmulke with a propeller).

It’s the first Clowning Achievement trophy, but the fifth Invite first-place win, for Rob Cohen, who nailed the quote included in the cartoon atop this page. Like many of today’s entries, it bested a few other funny entries with the same general idea. In second place, rookie Karen Lambert continues her swift ascent into Invite-fixturehood; in fact, she also placed second just two weeks ago for something you could say both at the hairstylist and when bringing your car to the gas station: “Very funny, ha ha – no, I wasn’t under the influence when I did this.” This time, her incompetent comic asks, “There aren’t any of those oversensitive people in the audience tonight, are there?” Hall of Famer Frank Osen conjures a future Cake Wrecks case with “Happy Birthday Brian With a Y!” And because Bob didn’t want to draw a picture of a song, Diana Oertel gets her incompetent astronaut (“Are we there yet?”) turned into a full-color artwork.

What Doug Dug: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood agreed with me on this week’s top winners, and also singled out Jean Sorensen’s brain surgeon “(whispers to self) “You got this!”; Tim Livengood’s dairy farmer (“I like these cows that got only one — they take a lot less time to milk”); and Coleman Glenn’s wine taster (“I’m detecting notes of … grape? Yeah, definitely grapy”).

Bonus: Annabeth’s Bets: “Slot,” or copy desk supervisor, Annabeth Carlson gave the print Invite another read on Thursday, and she had different favorites, though she said she liked the whole list so much that it was hard to choose. She finally cited Kate Sammons’s accountant, who got rid of the company’s red ink with one easy trick; Howard Walderman’s doctor’s receptionist, who calls on people by their maladies, like “Mr. Hernia”; Bill Bouyer’s Fox News anchor (“I can’t read this. It’s too ridiculous”); and, from First Offender Aaron Olszewski, the cat trainer (“They think their job is possible”).

Why they call him Loser of the Year, and other thoughts on the Hot Flushies:

Yes, the thermometer pushed past 90 degrees last Saturday in the backyard Loser Steve Leifer in Potomac, Md., but a well-spaced crowd of some 70 Losers and various hangers-on had the usual boffo time at the 26th (!) Flushies, the Loser Community’s annual awards potluck/singalong/general revelry. Several of the tables were moved off the patio into shadier spots, and a few of us took Steve up on his invitation to wallow in the pool.

The singalong consisted of a set consisting entirely of Style Invitational-themed parodies (plus Jonathan Jensen’s classic original “Love Me, I’m a Loser”). It was beamed live to the Style Invitational Devotees Facebook group, but alas, I haven’t been able to find a recording, except for Duncan Stevens’s “Keeper of the Stats” (“Master of the House”), a tribute to Ur-Loser Elden Carnahan, who’s been maintaining an indispensable database and meticulous tables — covering the whole era of Loserdom since Week 1 in 1993 — at Elden wasn’t able to attend on Saturday, having just had people poking around in his brain and still grooving on the subsequent meds, but he — and you — can enjoy the parody here on the Devs page (Duncan’s amazing lyrics are in the comment thread).

This year’s Loser of the Year, Frank Mann, proved especially apt for the title. First of all, it doesn’t necessarily go to the year’s highest-scoring loser; it’s for the highest-scoring Loser who hasn’t won the title before. So while Frank did score an impressive 50 blots of ink from March to March 2021-22, his totals were surpassed by former LOTY Jesse Frankovich. And former LOTY Duncan Stevens. And (ditto) Chris Doyle. And Mark Raffman. And Kevin Dopart. And Tom Witte. And Jonathan Jensen. And Beverley Sharp. And Jeff Contompasis. But still! Pretty good company! And Frank had lots of hilarious ink in lots of different contests, and certainly was worthy of the Loser of the Year plaque he took home.

Then, this very afternoon, Frank, who’s a lawyer for a federal agency, sent me this note:

“Ok. This is super embarrassing. In trying to hang my LOTY plaque. It slipped through the crack behind a 7 foot cabinet that DEA thoughtfully bolted to the wall. In other words, it’s now a wonderful time capsule that won’t be unearthed for another 15 years — if then. Don’t ask me about the various steps I went to to try and retrieve it, but safe to say, it’s gone until the next renovation or massive earthquake. Is there any way to pay someone to make a duplicate? If not, I’ll just go on happily as Loser (and Clod) of the year.”

Yes, that’s right. Frank works for the Drug Enforcement Administration. Which seems not to be able to pull something out from behind a cabinet.

We’re getting Frank another plaque.


See It Now! Loser Jonathan Jensen’s musical to open in Baltimore

Move over, “Fiorello”: The Royal Consort and I are definitely going — and we’d love to be part of a Loser contingent — up to Baltimore in mid-July to see “Do It Now!,” a musical about the city’s legendarily colorful 1970s-'80s mayor William Donald Schaefer, with both music and lyrics by Loser Jonathan Jensen. The show has been in the works forever — there was an article about it in the Baltimore Sun in 2012 — and finally, after much reworking, makes its debut at the Fells Point Corner Theater July 16-31, as part of the Baltimore Playwrights Festival (tickets and info here). We’re going up to Niagara Falls, Ontario, for the Loserfest vacation trip July 25-29, so we’ll want to go on one of the first two weekends. We’ll set up an event listing on the Devotees page to coordinate. (Meanwhile, Loserfest Pope Kyle Hendrickson can fit a couple more people into the Niagara festivities; check here for the Fungenda and lots of other info. He’s set a May 31 rough deadline.)

So have fun writing a song (or, for many of you, taking a week off from entering), but remember that Week 1489, the contest to rearrange the words in a movie title to make a new movie, is still running; deadline May 30.