I'm not someone who typically laughs out loud at the movies or television. Oh, I find lots of things funny, but my acid test for humor is if I laugh out loud. When it comes to the printed word, if you can make me laugh out loud solely by the use of those words on the page (no help from visuals, no help from sounds), I will join your fan club forever. Hence, my devotion to the annual Bulwer-Lytton "It was a dark and stormy night" contest which toasts the worst in opening sentences.
This year, David McKenzie, of Federal Way, Wash., submitted the grand-prize winner:
Folks say that if you listen real close at the height of the full moon, when the wind is blowin' off Nantucket Sound from the nor' east and the dogs are howlin' for no earthly reason, you can hear the awful screams of the crew of the "Ellie May," a sturdy whaler Captained by John McTavish; for it was on just such a night when the rum was flowin' and, Davey Jones be *report me*, big John brought his men on deck for the first of several screaming contests.
Very clever. But the one that made me laugh out loud was this one by Tony Alfieri of Los Angeles, Calif.:
In a flurry of flame and fur, fangs and wicker, thus ended the world's first and only hot air baboon ride.
If that one doesn't hit your funny bone, take a look at the Web site to see if you can find one that does! For your reading pleasure, the site offers several dozen runners-up and the winners of different opening-sentence genres, plus a page devoted to a "Lyttony of Grand Prize Winners" from the last 27 years. Or if you think you might just have the talent to write a "dark and stormy night" sentence of your own, take a look at the rules on the Bulwer-Lytton Web site. They accept entries year round.
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