Style Conversational Week 140: The Empress of The Style Invitational on this week’s cartoon winners and new haiku contest

Every week for the 16 1/2 years I’ve been Empress, I take the guy for granted. What a treasure.

And yes, yes, dears, you’re all treasures too. Having an especially treasury month, Rob Cohen has now won his third and fourth Invite contests in the space of three weeks. His idea of a horde of distressed people swimming to the desert island — “Trump won!” — was Bob’s overwhelming favorite; he called it “brilliant” and said it really could be a New Yorker cartoon. The win plus an honorable mention this week, the “Mt. Everest” sign on the island, give him 90 blots of ink all-time.

Second place goes to Mike Gips and his GPS in the desert, advising, “In 375 miles, crawl right.” There were other Waze jokes, but “crawl right” was the key. This and a joke about an eye-rolling Empress brings his ink total to 270 since Mike started Inviting back in 2003. (See below about his new Style Invitational podcast, “You’re Invited.”) Meteoric Rookie Steve Smith takes third with his Covid-Sensitive Dracula-at-the-bar joke, while Greg Dobbins takes fourth with the barkeep asking Putin to “name your poison.” (Bob didn’t want to draw Putin because he didn’t want to resort to heavy-handed labeling to make it clear who he was.)

(Did you know that Bob sells his Invitational sketches and finished art? He has a special page on his website for Invite people to contact him and order a cartoon: . They’re always in black-and-white because he does the coloring in his ancient version of Photoshop.)

What Doug dug: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood tells me he especially enjoyed this week’s contest, and who am I to doubt him? For faves he singled out the runner-up by Greg Dobbins’s Putin joke, along with Jeff Shirley’s man on the island sobbing as the “How to Tango” book washing up on the beach; Robyn Carlson’s priest coming into the bar and saying “Just once I wanted to walk in alone”; the psychiatrist diagnosing the rabbi, priest and minister, all sitting on the couch, as being in the wrong cartoon (similar entries by Jeff Shirley and Jon Gearhart); and Mike Gips’s cartoon with the Empress as the therapist advising a guy in a dunce cap.

Beggaring description: An unprintable: Here’s one that others might love but I couldn’t, from Kevin Dopart for the desert setting: “Draw a Family Circus parody of Billy’s wandering dashed path — this time with a Billy skeleton at the end of the path’. Caption: ‘Daddy has the week off, so Dolly fills in and resolves her primogeniture issues.’” Call me a snowflake, but I can’t handle jokes (at least ones that are at all graphic) about dead children. I could never have worked for National Lampoon.

‘You’re Invited’ podcast Episode 2: Chris Doyle tells how he does it

Did you catch last week’s premiere episode of the podcast about The Style Invitational? Host Mike Gips interviews me for half an hour. It’s lots of fun. But WAY better is Episode 2 of “You’re Invited,” which dropped, as we trying-to-be-current codgers say, this past Tuesday. And that’s because Mike spends the whole episode talking with the Invite’s most successful Loser by far, Chris Doyle — Chris Doyle of the 2,244 blots of Invite ink, including a ridiculous 59 first-place wins.

In an engaging voice that still betrays a bit of his New England roots, Chris touches on a variety of topics and dish, some of what was news to me:

— I knew that Chris had been a mainstay the New York Magazine Competition, the inspiration for the Invite, until that contest folded in 2000 and he began entering the Invitational in earnest. I did not know that he’d gotten even more ink in that contest than he has in the Invite! And given that NY Mag had a one-entry-per-contest limit … well, he explains to Mike how he made that work. I also didn’t know that the contest’s retiring editor, Mary Ann Madden, had asked Chris to take it over. (Fortunately for us, he declined.)

— Are you getting your entries together for Week 1400, our foal names contest? Chris tells how he takes on the ponies every year. (Systematically.)

— Chris, who’s been retired for many years and now lives in the Dallas area, reflects on his wide-ranging musical tastes, evident in his Invite parodies ranging from old-timey tunes to country ballads to Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok.”

— He tells about his two long-term round-the-world voyages with his wife, during which he’d send in his Invitational entries from whichever port town would have some Internet cafe during the early days of Ye Olde Information Superhighway. And the time when they were on a ferry between the islands of New Zealand, and it was foggy, and that week’s Invite asked you to use a phone book …

— He offers his Secret to Lots of Ink. It does not involve bribes. Usually.

Chris is so lively in his interview with Mike, so much more than I was. And Mike himself continues to ask friendly questions that keep the conversation flowing. He also reads his favorite entries from the past week’s contest, which last week were the “ha-”- word limericks. (Gary Crockett, prepare to blush.)

What you So, so might you ink: This week’s joke haiku contest

This week’s contest, Week 1401, was suggested by Longtime Loser (and last week’s winner) Melissa Balmain, who’d just published a haiku by L.A. comedy writer Paul Lander as a topical “Poem of the Week” from Light, the online poetry journal she edits. She shared it to the Style Invitational Devotees Facebook group, commenting, “Possible germ of an Invite idea?” Dang, it’s the whole package. Paul’s “How Hot Is It?” haiku — “It is so hot that/ my iPhone now qualifies/ as a Baked Apple” — became the example for the contest, thereby giving Paul his first blot of Invite ink in a contest that, until yesterday when I contacted him, he didn’t know existed.

I was considering widening the scope of the contest to any one-liner joke fit into haiku form, but then figured that most any of the entries that we’ve run in our numerous haiku contests over the years could be termed jokes. So we’re going with the “X is so Y” type.

Yes, you may vary the wording. As long as we have the “so” idea, we’re good.

We’ve had two excellent “so” joke contests over the years, 24 years apart. One of them was one of the Invitational’s very first contests: Week 21 in 1993. Here are the results, beginning with the Czar rolling his eyes at some old chestnuts that were submitted along with the fresh stuff. Then, as now, topical humor was a good way to get ink. Of course, most of these run more than 17 syllables, but you can’t reuse these jokes anyway.

Report from Week 21, in which you were asked to describe things through So-So comparison. “Ross Perot is so unusual, it’s said that when he was born they threw away the baby and raised the placenta.” A splendid joke, when it was first applied to Tiny Tim in 1968. And: “George Burns is so old that when he was born the Dead Sea was just sick.” This was originally said about George Bernard Shaw, who died in 1950. Fair warning: In the future, if you serve us chestnuts, we will roast you.

Fifth Runner-Up: Donald Trump is so annoying that Amnesty International wants him beaten and locked up. (Tom Gearty, Washington)

Fourth Runner-Up: D.C. streets are so badly maintained they have more potholes than Jerry Garcia’s sofa. (Robin D. Grove, Washington)

Third Runner-Up: The Mississippi River has been so aggressive, it is now being called the Msissippi. (Pai Rosenthal, Sterling)

Second Runner-Up: Joe McGinniss is so original he deserves to win the Style Invitational, Ted Kennedy thought to himself. (Tom Jedele, Laurel) [This was a dig at the author’s nasty 1993 book about the senator, which included lots of presumable mind-reading.]

First Runner-Up: Bill Clinton has gained so much weight that I-495 has been renamed the Sansabeltway. (Paul Sabourin, Greenbelt) [Sabourin went on to become half of the cult-favorite comedy song duo Paul and Storm]

And the winner of the Mortimer Snerd Ventriloquist’s Dummy: Jack Kent Cooke is so litigious that I’m not going to finish this thought. (Chuck Smith, Woodbridge) [Cooke was the owner of what’s now named the Washington Football Team; I don’t remember what this entry might be alluding to in particular, but in 1993 he was going through divorce litigation as well as trying to bill the state of Virginia millions for his efforts in trying to get the team moved there from Washington; it eventually ended up in Maryland in what was initially called Jack Kent Cooke Stadium.]

The White House staff is so young that the most common question on Air Force One is, “Are we there yet?” (Chuck Smith, Woodbridge)

The White House staff is so young they have to write home when they go to Camp David. (Paul B. Jacoby, Washington)

The White House staff is so inexperienced that it has never “been” with another staff. (Meg Sullivan, Potomac)

Spike Lee is so desperate for a crossover hit that he is filming “Dennis the Menace II Society.” (Chuck Smith, Woodbridge)

Saddam Hussein is so evil he will have to pass an ethics test to get into Hell. (Leonard Osterman, Potomac)

Mayor Kelly is so sensitive to sexual harassment that she refuses to accept mail addressed to “The Hon. Sharon Pratt Kelly” because she is no one’s “hon.” (Carol V. Strachan, Silver Spring)

Washington streets have so many potholes, it’s like driving over a giant, deserted Whack-a-Mole game. (Paul Kondis, Alexandria)

Don King has so much static in his hair, he electrocutes anyone who give him a noogie. (Audrey Kovalak, Springfield)

The White House is so full of Arkansans they are cutting crescent moons in the restroom doors. (Forrest L. Miller, Rockville)

Ross Perot is so paranoid his theories are laughed at by Oliver Stone. (Paul Sabourin, Greenbelt)

[Maryland] Gov. Schaefer is so petty that he had “43” painted on his limo. (Greg Griswold, Falls Church) [I’m a weensy bit surprised that the Bronx-born Czar got this reference.]

The Haft family is so dysfunctional that Herbert sold the family tree to Crown Books for pulp. (Christopher P. Nicholson, Arlington) [The very rich and flamboyant Haft family, whose various members owned D.C.’s Dart Drug and Crown Books, were constantly warring.]

Dan Quayle is so dumb. (Chris Rooney, Reston)

And Last: The Style Invitational is so popular that the next Supreme Court justice will be chosen on the basis of “humor and originality.” (Al Toner, Arlington)

And Least: The Style Invitational is so funny I forgot to laugh. (Tony Buckley, Washington)

And a quarter-century later (less than two months after the inauguration of you-know-who) …


In Week 1215 the Empress sought one-liners of the form “X is so Y that …” Once again, she didn’t tell the Loser Community to sling gibes at our president, but once again, those are what mostly were slung, big league. Perhaps a dozen entries offered that Trump is so self-centered that he thought the song was about him.

4th place: The Trump White House is so brazen, it’s offering foreign donors a night in the Putin Bedroom. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

3rd place: My friend from Weight Watchers is so competitive that she always halves what I’m halving. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

2nd place and the toilet-shaped mug: Donald Trump’s hands are so tiny, the women he grabs don’t even notice. (Brian Allgar, Paris)

And the winner of the Inkin’ Memorial: My chiropractor is so unscrupulous, he charges Paul Ryan the same price as people who have backbones. (Jeff Shirley, Richmond, Va.)

So close, yet so far: honorable mentions

“The Bachelor” is so fixed, it ought to be called “The Gelding.” (Lawrence McGuire, Waldorf, Md.)

Kellyanne Conway’s been so quiet lately that Richard Simmons is asking what’s happened to her. (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

President Trump’s skin tone is so unusual, nothing rhymes with it. (Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich.)

John McCain is such a bold, independent-thinking maverick, he complains about Trump’s nominees before voting for them. (Duncan Stevens)

Political correctness has gotten so out of control that the last time I ordered French toast at a diner, a millennial at the next table jumped up and started screaming, “Cultural appropriation! Cultural appropriation!” (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

Donald Trump is so great. #totallyriggedStyleInvitationalclaimsIbroketherules #aftereverythingIvedoneforthePost #suchanastyempress (Melissa Balmain, Rochester, N.Y.)

The crowd was so huge at Trump’s inauguration that the Park Police considered setting up a second Porta-John. (Hildy Zampella, Falls Church, Va.)

Kim Jong Un is so paranoid that his food taster has a food taster. (John O’Byrne, Dublin)

America’s lawyers have been getting so much love for their help fighting the immigration ban, cabbies are giving them free rides to chase ambulances. (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Mitch McConnell is such a negative guy that his bobblehead shakes its head no. (Pie Snelson, Silver Spring, Md.)

The insult was so trivial that even @realDonaldTrump wouldn’t respond to it. (Jeff Hazle, San Antonio)

The movie was so awful that everyone in the theater stopped texting to watch in disbelief. (Hildy Zampella)

Trump is so out of shape, he gets tired in conversations with foreign officials just pressing their buttons. (Dan Helming, Maplewood, N.J.)

Donald Trump is so reckless he asked Kim Jong Un to pick him up at the airport. (David Kleinbard, Mamaroneck, N.Y.)

Canadians are so angry about Trump’s travel ban, they are asking politely that it be repealed. (Mark Raffman)

Donald Trump is such an inept fascist, he can’t even make Metro run on time. (Mark Raffman)

The Old Woman in the Shoe had so many kids, she had to learn to multi-tsk. (Chris Doyle)

President Trump is so self-absorbed, he thinks the word “meme” has two syllables. (Jesse Frankovich)

Chuck Norris is so tough, his shower floor is strewn with Legos. (Chris Doyle)

The Democrats have been so shut out of the governing process, they’re writing letters to their congressmen. (Dan Helming)

The suspect’s rap sheet was so long that the police had to print it on the back of a CVS receipt. (Hildy Zampella)

Kids are so ungenerous these days that mine always want me to pay them back every time I borrow a couple hundred dollars for beer and cigarettes. (Ivars Kuskevics, Takoma Park, Md.)

Facebook is so polluted with political vitriol that my friends who voted for Trump and RUINED OUR COUNTRY (HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY NOW) don’t even pay attention to my posts anymore. (Mark Raffman)

Donald Trump’s hands are so large that his skin has to stretch really thin to cover them. (Steve Glomb, Alexandria, Va.)

Betty White is so old that when she says she saw “Hamilton,” she saw Hamilton. (Ira Allen, Bethesda, Md.)

Your Mama’s been used so much that even this contest doesn’t want to touch her. (Kevin Dopart, Washington)

Keira Knightley is so thin, she could pass as Monday’s Washington Post. (Kevin Dopart)

The Style Invitational’s readership is comprised of people so nitpicky that they’ve already mentally corrected the first part of this sentence to “composed of.” (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

And Last: The Empress is so objective that she reads entries with a blindfold on. (Kel Nagel, Salisbury, Md.)

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