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Atlantic Unbound Sidebar

(8/25/95 - 9/8/95)

This contest is now closed. But enjoy!

(Click here to go directly to the winning entries.)

What's a clerihew? It's a bit of rhyming doggerel invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875-1956). In its traditional form, it's a four-line verse made up of two rhyming couplets, and its purpose is to offer a satiric or ridiculous biography of a famous person. Here are three of Bentley's own clerihews:

Sir Humphrey Davy
Detested gravy.
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered sodium.

George the Third
Ought never to have occurred.
One can only wonder
At so grotesque a blunder.

Sir Christopher Wren
Said, "I'm going to dine with some men.
If anyone calls,
Say I'm designing St. Paul's."

You may have noticed that the meter in these examples is irregular. It's *supposed* to be, see, for comic effect--which is good news for all us metrical klutzes! In a clerihew, all notions of scansion are gleefully torpedoed!

Now, we want you to submit an original clerihew in the traditional style, but we want you to concentrate on a more up-to-date celebrity. Let's limit our subjects to people who've been in the news from, say, 1975 to the present. We won't be too strict about this. But we'd like these clerihews to be topical. For example:

Tom Hanks
Has accounts in fifty banks.
His earnings took a jump
When he said, "People call me Forrest Gump."

Okay, we know that isn't exactly a knee-slapper. We're just getting warmed up. Let's try a couple more:

Cumputer wizard Bill Gates
Eats off silver plates.
If his fortune ever slips,
He'll cash in his chips.

If Tonya Harding played tennis
She'd be quite a menace.
We'd have to warn Monica Seles
To protect her patellas!

Well, maybe those aren't gems of ingenuity either. Please help by sending better ones!

--EC and HR


(All addresses without @ symbols are AOL screen names.)

Mr. Rathvon and Ms. Cox
Don't fit any convenient box.
They push one to wax Ogden Nashish
For contests more addictive than hashish.

Such is the opinion of contestant RPhill5136, whose views are expressed above in Clerihew style. The Clerihew, that odd little verse form invented 100 years ago by Edmund Clerihew Bentley, proved wonderfully fertile in a 1990s context. But it also proved quite challenging, as its staggered rhythms required an artful touch in order to elicit the proper funny-bone twang. Contestant Glemward mused:

Why choose
How much sweeter
Are things that rhyme with the usual sort of meter!

And VCRogers, reflecting on the havoc we word-gamers were wreaking, concluded:

E.C. Bentley
Did not go gently
Into that good night--
But after this, he might!

Suffice it to say that your Clerihumor--from the subtle to the sledgehammer--gave us a lot of laughs. We'll conduct another of these Clerihew festivals in a future contest. Meanwhile our favorite verses are listed below, topped by three jauntily witty winners. (Contestant Sean Med quipped, "Could the prize for this contest be considered a 'hew grant?") Each of our winners will receive 5 free AOL hours plus a book of his or her choice from the Atlantic's online bookstore. Congratulations Ravensegg, Cruciver, and JebMar!

***The Clerihew Winners***

General Shalikashvili--
Now, I ask you, really.
With a name like that
Shouldn't he wear a much bigger hat?

The Kennedys
Are used to having all of the amenities.
Their wealth's so great it even beggars

Peter McNeeley
Had a great deal. He
Fought Tyson from the deck and
Made thousands per second.

***And Our Other Top Favorites***

Hugh Grant
Apologize enough to his

The artist formerly known as Prince
Has long since
Abandoned the name you could ask for on the phone
For the alchemical symbol for soapstone.

(To compare)
Has more money
Than Sonny.

Michael Jordan
Decided to shorten
His baseball career.
Hear, hear!

Warren Beatty
Loved to date, he
Fooled around with every girl he
Met except of course for Shirley.

Senator Jess Helms
Saw "Desire Under the Elms."
He turned red and ranted,
"Get this O'Neill guy de-granted!"

Deng Xiao Ping
Still rules in Beijing.
This golden rule keeps him alive:
"Don't trust anyone under eighty-five."

Mia and Woody
Debated not could he
Make love to the kiddie
But did he.
(Mad Zeno)

The Collected Works of May Sarton
Fill a small carton
Which I will deposit
Modestly back in the closet.
(Mad Zeno)

Quentin Tarrantino
Said, "There will be no
Scenes that have no death and gore;
That's what living color's for."
(Mad Zeno)

Monica Seles
Doesn't always like to be with fellas.
Billie Jean King?
Same thing.

Hugh Grant's
Been caught with a downward vector to his pants.
Since then his wealth and fame have gotten bigger.
Go figger.

The Artist Formerly Known As Prince
Makes me wince.
I just can't abide the pretentious purple leer
Of [insert symbol here].

Bret Easton Ellis
Has this important, daring thing to tell us:
Generation X
Likes sex.

Milli Vanilli
Wound up (like the Grammies) looking silly,
But though they've been accused of many wrongs,
At least they aren't to blame for those dreadful songs.

Hosni Mubarak
Has a sore back.
It hurts beyond description
To walk like an Egyptian.

Jean-Paul Sartre
Despised Descartes
Because of his insistence
On meaningful existence. (G8ly)

Hank the Cinq
Always drank
Schnappes with a peach
When entering the breach.

Dorothy Gish
Choked on a fish
At the cotillion
Embarrassing Lillian.

Henry Kissinger
Covets Kim Basinger.
If she were his frau
He'd be Kissinger now.

Prince Hamlet with a poisoned foil
Was shuffled off this mortal coil.
He could have boogied off to France
With Guildenstern and Rosencrantz.

Brave Macbeth, who would be Thane
Couldn't charge at Dunsinane
Though Macduff said that he should
When he saw that Birnam wood.

Arlen Specter
Liked to hector
The Buchanan crowd
But not too loud.

Pat Buchanan
Who briefly ran in
'92, gave jitters
To fence-sitters.

Robert Dole
Was on a roll
For awhile, but coughed,
And support went soft.

Senator Gramm
Didn't give a damn
Who knew he'd bankrolled flicks
Featuring lots of chicks.

Gingrich (Newt)
Has a bug up his snoot.
He and Dole (Robert)
Deserve to be clobbert.

The icon ironically known as Madonna
Put on a
Brassiere apparently made of zirconium:

Michael Jackson
Is *not* Anglo-Saxon,
No matter how surgeons may plastically tweak
His beak.

Steve Case
Runs this AOL place.
I think I've been conned--
But for some reason the host has failed to respond.

Good ol' Steve Case
Just bought Park Place,
Then turned up the burner.
Watch out, Ted Turner!

Bryant Gumble's
Prone to mumble
'Bout Willard Scott's
Toupee a lot.

Dear ol' Judge Ito
Thinks it's real neato
To double park
With Marcia Clark.

Bill the Gates's amassing riches
'Midst Windows 95 broad pitches,
And though he's happy as a clam
We're out there buying yet more RAM.

Whenever Bill Gates
Has a few with his mates,
"It's called Windows," he explains,
"'Cause it gives them such panes."

Boutros Boutros Ghali
Has discovered the folly
Of relying on talkin'
When both sides are balkin'.

Malcolm X
Felt like casting a hex
When he heard Spike Lee's line:
"How's your dad, Malcolm IX?"

Billy Clinton's
Lost his mittens.
Not the worst of shocks,
'Cause he's still got his Socks.

Capt. Kathryn Janeway, arms akimbo,
Is not your standard Starfleet bimbo.
"If I were on this starship for the sake of fun,
I would not wear my hair in this ugly bun."

Famed cartoonist Gary Larson
Stands accused of vicious arson.
Far-side-edness, his lawyer claims,
Cultivates a yen for flames.

Let's ask Phil Gramm
To mimic a clam:
Seal his mouth (as with glue);
It's the RIGHT thing to do.

Al Gore:
Oh, what a bore.
Two snails fighting
Would be more exciting.

Poor Boris Yeltsin!
His power base melts and
His colleagues fill glasses
To drink to his death before he passes.

When he was president, Reagan
Said, "All those Commies are pagan;
Before I retire
I'll run up the national debt until I bring down that Evil Empire."

Candidate Dole
Was on a roll;
"No more Mr. Nasty,"
He explained with a smile, "I'm tired of coming in lastly."

The telescope of Mr. Hubble
Focused on nothing but trouble
Until one day, to our surprise,
We found we had stars in our eyes.

Jesse Helms
Arts he calls wacko,
But he votes for tobacco.

Senator Packwood
Told the Senate he'd been good.
The men bought it. Not Boxer--
He couldn't outfox 'er.

Louis B. Leakey,
though old and though creaky,
Made fundamentalists goosey
By digging up Lucy.

Mrs. Leno's son, Jay,
Stole the ratings away.
He showed David Letterman
Who was the betterman.

Tammy Faye Bakker,
Gaudy homemakker,
Though in on it all,
Let Jim take the fall.

L. Ron Hubbard
Went to his cubbard,
Turned pseudo theology
Into pscientology.

Don King,
He's got the rights
To the world's shortest fights.

Colin Powell,
Is in disavowal,
Though his stature has grown,
His party's unknown.

Dan Rather,
Blither blather,
Still anchors his spot,
But I'd Rather he'd not.

Ross Perot
Has a lot of dough.
He'll wonder where the money went
If he runs for President.

Kato Kaelin
Has a grip on fame that's failin'.
But while he's there,
Check out that hair!
(Sean Med)

Snoop Doggy Dogg
Is enveloped in green fog.
Money? He has a lot.
And he spends it all on pot!
(Sean Med)

Lisa Marie
From Wacko Jacko did flee.
Could it have been so bad?
He's no weirder than her dad!
(Sean Med)

Elizabeth Taylor
Diets constantly so as to look frailer.
"Though I may at times be chubby,"
She says, "I'm never without a new hubby."

Pee Wee Herman:
For awhile was squirmin'
When shown on TV with the bobby
Who'd discovered his secret hobby.

Jeffrey Dahmer the gruesome
Sincerely said, "You look toothsome."
Methinks his life of fantasy
Was much too praying-mantisy.

Newt's mum, Mrs. Gingrich
Used the "B" word, which
Got her in for scones and tea
With the B (...ing ever so gracious) Hillary.

Newt Gingrich hated art;
He plotted to tear the NEA apart.
The common folk led a revolt;
Now he's a villian in a novel by Victoria Holt.

Emily Cox is a wonderful writer,
To finish her work she pulls an all-nighter!
She used to spend her time so well,
Until she discovered AOL!

A most interesting thing about Jim Carrey,
He played a dope whose name was Harry.
Now he's on top and life is cool,
Making millions of bucks to be a fool.

Connie Chung
Had a golden tongue
But it didn't help her views
On the evening news.

Ted Turner
Is on and off the burner.
First the deal with Microsoft is hot
Then it's not.

Barney is a dinosaur
That little kiddies all adore.
"I like you. You like me."
Di-a-be-tics don't agree.

I fear Patrick Swayze
Is fast going crazy.
He's traded in beating up chumps
For a ballgown with matching pumps!

Hillary Rodham
Said "We got 'em!"
While Harry Wu
Said "Not enough from you!"

Barney is a peaceful and friendly dino
Apt to make the average man become a wino
When evolution touched him he bypassed monkey and seagull
And instead was metamorphosed into animated treacle.

Candidate Robert Dole
Thinks he's good for America's soul.
I'm betting my snapple
He'd be better as pineapple.

There is a politician named Newt
And most liberals think he's a beaut.
He thumbed his nose at Hillary and Bill;
And now he thinks he's king of the hill.

They say that Al Gore
Does nothing all night but snore.
Tis no wonder his wife Tipper
Wakes none too chipper.

Harry Wu
Had a rmwnvu.
Now he's been sprung,
He can be interviewed by Connie Chung.

Larry Fortensky's in a tizzy
He's out on the street without his Lizzy.
No more livin' high on the hog
Prince has turned back into...Frog.

Michael Jackson is a little strange.
His whole body, he'll rearrange.
If he's not careful and be aware,
His eyes will end up in his hair.

Bonnie Charlie, Prince of Wales
is often seen as one who fails;
Hounded by a hungry press,
he could be called Your Royal Lowness.

Hillary Clinton, beset by dragons,
withdrew inside encircled wagons;
There, protected from attack,
she shot Congressional machismo monsters in the back.

Billy Crystal
Has surely made a fistful
On the stages of Comic Relief
By making us laugh beyond belief.

Remember good old Al Haig?
He forgot he began as mere sperm and egg
His ego grew so very large
He announced erroneously, "I'm in charge!"

Our dear friends Rathvon & Cox
Volunteered for the school of hard knocks
By soliciting the silly verse
Of jocular ninnies and beasts even worse.

Copyright © 1995 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.