Top 5 Humorous Awards
Posted on Oct 10, 2011

5. The Bad Sex in Fiction Award

Before you start trying to publish that romance novel you’ve been working on, make sure you’ve put some real effort into writing your love scenes, because if you don’t, you might end up winning the “Bad Sex in Fiction Award.” Put out every year by the British magazine Literary Review, the prize jokingly awards the worst depictions of sex in literature. As the creators say, the award seeks “to draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it.” The award isn’t just reserved for hack writers, either. Past winners have included such literary luminaries as Tom Wolfe and Norman Mailer, and many other famous novelists have been nominated. Winners are presented with a plaster foot each year in a ceremony in London. (Above: Courtney Love presenting a plaster foot to 2006 winner Iain Hollingshead, for his book Twentysomething.)

Most Famous Winner

This is a matter of opinion, but one of the most egregious offenders has got to be 1997’s winner Nicholas Royle, whose book The Matter of the Heart included such steamy one-liners as “she made a noise somewhere between a beached seal and a police siren.”

4. The Pigasus Award

The Pigasus Award is handed out nearly every year by James Randi, a noted magician, skeptic, and debunker of “paranormal phenomena.” As he describes it, the award seeks to “honor” the worst of the charlatans and phonies who claim to have special psychic, magic, and paranormal abilities. Randi has unofficially given the awards out almost every year since 1982, and there are different categories to honor all varieties of fraud. These include the worst example of pseudoscience, the most fraudulent performer, the organization that funded the most useless study, and the media outlet that reported on the most outrageous instance of a paranormal phenomenon.  Past winners have included the Montel Williams Show, for continually having psychic Sylvia Browne as a guest, and Dr. Colin A. Ross, a Canadian psychiatrist who claimed he could shoot electromagnetic radiation from his eyes. Randi doesn’t officially give out the awards; instead, he claims to send them via telekinesis, saying that if the winners don’t receive the trophy then it must be due to a “lack of paranormal talent” on their part.

Most Famous Winner

The most notable winner of the Pigasus Award is surely Uri Geller, a UK-based psychic performer whom Randi has lambasted time and again for being a fraud. In fact, in its earliest incarnation the Pigasus Award was known as the “Uri Award.” Geller, who is known for bending spoons and performing other tricks with his supposed telepathic powers, has sued Randi repeatedly for slander and libel, with little success.

3. The Lanterne Rouge

It’s typical to reward the winner of a race, but in cycling there is another more dubious honor called the “Lanterne Rouge,” which is handed out to the rider who finishes in last place. The French term is translated as “red lantern,” and is supposedly a reference to the light that is placed on the back of the caboose on a train. It has become most famously associated with the Tour de France, where it has been unofficially handed out every year since 1903. Ironically, the competition to become the Lanterne Rouge has often been as heated as the race for the win, the logic being that unlike those who finish in the middle of the pack, the last place rider will be remembered by the public. This has proven to be true, as the winner of the race for worst often becomes a cult hero among the fans and is able to make a good amount of money from public appearances. This became such a problem that in 1980, the Tour briefly instituted a rule that said the last place rider from each stage would be dropped from the competition. Naturally, riders just raced for second to last in each stage in order to make it to the final day and claim their honor as the best of the worst.

Most Famous Winner

The man who holds the record for most Lanterne Rouge wins is Wim Vansevenant, a Belgian cyclist who claimed last place three years in a row from 2006 to 2008. He retired after his last “win,” and has supposedly become a farmer (pictured above).

2. The Bulwer-Lytton and Little-Lytton Fiction Contests

The Bulwer-Lytton award is handed out each year by the English department of San Jose State University. It’s a writing prize, but unlike the Pulitzer or the National Book Award, it seeks to honor the entrant who can provide the worst of all possible opening sentences to an imaginary novel. The contest is named after the nineteenth century novelist Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, whose book Paul Clifford opens with the now universally hated sentence “It was a dark and stormy night.” Today, there are tens of thousands of entries every year, each one more convoluted, purple, and hilarious than the next. There are now a number of different categories, and there are even several offshoots competitions of Bulwer-Lytton, like the Lyttle-Lytton contest, which restricts the contestants to 25 words or less. Lyttle-Lytton has since become its own phenomenon, and has given us such gems of so-bad-it’s-good prose as “Because they had not repented, the angel stabbed the unrepentant couple thirteen times, with its sword,” which was Graham Swanson’s winning entry from 2008.

Most Famous Winner

There’s too many great Bulwer-Lytton winners to choose just one, but a personal favorite would have to be Martha Simpson’s winning entry from 1985: “The countdown had stalled at T minus 69 seconds when Desiree, the first female ape to go up in space, winked at me slyly and pouted her thick, rubbery lips unmistakably—the first of many such advances during what would prove to be the longest, and most memorable, space voyage of my career.”

1. The Ernie Awards

One of Australia’s most famously ironic accolades is the Ernie Award, a trophy handed out every year to the man judged to have made the most sexist remark in the media. The awards were first started in the early nineties by Australian politician Meredith Burgmann, and are handed out every year at a dinner attended by hundreds of women. The “winners” are decided by which nominee receives the loudest booing when their name and comment is read aloud to the group. The Ernies are broken up into different categories, so there are separate awards handed out for offenders in the realms of industry, politics, the legal system, the media, sports, and celebrities. There is even an award for the woman who’s made the most harmful remark of the year. Past winners of the “Golden Ernie,” the overall award, have included magistrates, private companies, and even the Prime Minister, while the “Silver Ernie” has been handed out to everyone from the father of tennis player Jelena Dokic to Tom Cruise.

Most Famous Winner

One of the most notable recent winners was 2008’s champion John Maloney, the mayor of the small Australian mining town of Mount Isa, who remarked that “beauty disadvantaged” women should move to his town because its mainly male population didn’t have very high standards.


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