Funniest news stories of 2005

By Joe Kovacs

Wow, what a year!

It seems just yesterday that Sandy “Burglar” Berger had found a novel way to preserve classified documents by pickling them in his pants and socks. But alas, those were the good ol’ days of 2004. Thankfully, we have a fresh batch of classic comic events from 2005, so let’s get right to it.

Commandoor in chief

We’ll start off this year’s recap with a recent event involving President Bush, who gave new meaning to exit strategy (or is that strategery?).


President Bush discovers how easy it really is to prevent a non-citizen’s unauthorized entry

After answering a mere six questions from American reporters in China, the president bolted for the door and tugged on each handle, only to find out he was locked in.

“I was trying to escape,” an embarrassed Bush admitted. “Obviously, it didn’t work.”

I’ve watched the video numerous times, and my favorite part is Bush’s lamppost-like impression of Al Gore. It’s still unclear if he ever found the “evildoers” responsible for locking the door.

Plop goes the weasel?

For some reason, people are fascinated with political leaders passing out.

Three years ago, President Bush made headlines for fainting while eating a pretzel at the White House.


Did Hillary suddenly realize she’s still married to Bill?

Before that, his father – President Bush I – also passed out and puked on camera while visiting Japan.

With that in mind, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton had her 10 minutes of fainting fame when she “went South” while delivering a speech in Buffalo.

It’s never a good thing when someone is taken ill, but then again, how often do you get to see Hillary about to learn first-hand about gravity?

Potty humor

The year was flush with strange items, like the saga of Bob Dougherty, the Colorado man who sued Home Depot after “becoming one” with a men’s room toilet on which some prankster had smeared glue.

Dougherty hollared for help, but the store’s clerk reportedly deemed the matter a bit too asinine to be real.


Can’t tush this: Bob Dougherty (courtesy Rocky Mountain News)

“They left me there, going through all that stress,” Dougherty told the Rocky Mountain News. “They just let me rot.”

Paramedics eventually unbolted the entire commode and carried Dougherty out, still attached to the seat. After his detachment, he spent a week in the hospital, got a shrink and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“This is not Home Depot’s fault,” he said. “But I am blaming them for letting me hang in there and just ignoring me.”

The howling

Nature’s call was also heard on America’s Gulf Coast, as Hurricane Katrina provided plenty of pain, along with a few lighter aspects in retrospect.

First, as Katrina was approaching landfall, local residents didn’t lose their sense of humor, displaying kind messages for the inevitable “post-catastrophe tourists,” less affectionately known as looters.


Katrina brought out the finest demonstrations of Southern hospitality

Of course, no one with a conscience likes looters or the concept of being looted. That is, unless you happen to be world-famous singing sensation Celine Dion, who seemed to be quite altruistic.

During an interview on CNN (which does not stand for the Canadian News Network), the imported songstress proclaimed:

“Oh, they’re stealing 20 pair of jeans or they’re stealing television sets. Who cares?”


Celine Dion demonstrates the proper technique to ‘touch those things for once’

“They’re not going to go too far with it. Maybe those people are so poor, some of the people who do that they’re so poor they’ve never touched anything in their lives. Let them touch those things for once.”


Sean Penn became poster boy for 2nd Amendment

Thank goodness Hollywood actor and journalist-wannabe Sean Penn made it to the disaster zone packin’ heat, or who knows what kind of mayhem might have erupted.

Sean’s wife, “Princess Bride” Robin Wright Penn, came to his defense, saying, “I think it’s [expletive] pathetic to be belittling him. Do we have to go to the bowels of infantile behavior?”

Shep’s G-Block becomes the F-Block

Meanwhile, the top dogs in the news media got caught up in the intensity of the hurricane.

A man interviewed by Fox News’ Shepard Smith dropped a bomb on cable’s No. 1 anchor – the F-bomb, that is.


Shepard “F.” Smith

Smith, reporting from a hotel on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, noted people were still drinking and gambling at video-game machines as Katrina was approaching. He interviewed one man walking his dogs.

“Why are you still here?” asked Smith. “I’m just curious.”

“It’s none of your f—ing business,” was the response.

Smith remarked that was a good answer, having been broadcast on international television, and then added, “I’m watching two dogs drink out of a glass of ice water, and it’s none of my business why they’re still here, which it really isn’t.”

Hark, the Geraldo: Tears of a clown

The piece de wind resistance was Hurricane Geraldo, a Category 5 monster of his own.

After getting booted out of Iraq for his war coverage divulging U.S. troop movements with sand drawings, Geraldo Rivera was dispatched by Fox to the New Orleans Convention Center.

In the midst of a flooded city, Geraldo turned on his own facial waterworks, making a plea to allow survivors to move to a safer, cleaner area. (Video here.)


Sobbing baby in hurricane zone gets consoled by unidentified toddler, right

“Let them walk out of here, let them walk the hell out of here!” Rivera sobbed. “These people in the same clothes, where do you think they go to the bathroom? They don’t wash their hands, they don’t wash their face, these babies. What the hell?”

I’m glad to be alive at this moment in history, because if anyone in another era tried to explain to me the essence of Geraldo, it would be virtually impossible to understand. Once someone has been “Geraldoed,” all becomes “dastardly” clear.

All the world’s a ‘stage’

If you ever thought NBC’s “Today” show was a bit shallow, now there’s proof.


As usual, ‘Today’ show skims the surface of issue

During a live shot about rising waters in Wayne, N.J., reporter Michelle Kosinski appeared in a canoe on a suburban street – attempting to dramatize the severity of the flooding disaster.

A few seconds after she went live, however, a pair of men walked in front of the camera – the waters barely covering the tops of their boots. (Video here.)

ABC reporter Cokie Roberts, noted for pretending to be broadcasting from outdoors on a wintry day when actually inside a warm studio, was unavailable for comment.

Holy water

“Jesus” appeared to make news again this year, being sighted everywhere from tree bark in a rough section of Rochester, N.Y., to pieces of toast.


Was Jesus trying to say: ‘Be thou clean’?

I thought the most interesting sighting was a purported appearance in a Pennsylvania bathroom.

“Shower Jesus has been freed from the wall!” proclaimed Jeff Rigo of Pittsburgh, who put on eBay “a section of plaster wall bearing the apparent face of the Son of God. No other items, promises, tidings, or guarantees are included.”

An online casino made an “acceptable offering” of $1,999 to purchase the image.

Something’s fishy

The city of Rome, Italy, banned goldfish bowls, claiming they’re too cruel.

“It’s good to do whatever we can for our animals who in exchange for a little love fill our existence with their attention,” said Monica Cirinna, the councilwoman behind the ban. “The civilization of a city can also be measured by this.”

The newspaper Il Messaggero reported that round bowls caused fish to go blind. Funny, that refrain has been used for other practices.

No translation necessary

The best comedy is universal. Here’s an example.

During a television talk show in Holland about the serious topic of sex with a handicapped person, the host gives a lesson in how not to behave during a solemn subject, as he loses control upon hearing the strange voice of his guest. There’s no need for an interpreter when you check the video and turn up your sound.

Repossessed

USA Today, known more for its pie charts than serious journalism, raised a few eyebrows (and some other facial parts) when it retouched a photo of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, making it appear she had a “demon-eyesing stare.”


Condi Rice, before and after USA Today’s exorcism

Once exposed, the newspaper exorcised the demonic pic from its website, explaining: “After sharpening the photo for clarity, the editor brightened a portion of Rice’s face, giving her eyes an unnatural appearance. This resulted in a distortion of the original not in keeping with our editorial standards.”

That’s kind of funny – USA Today suggesting it has “editorial standards.”

Wandering eyes

While Rice’s eyes had been doctored, the most famous real-life scare-stare belongs to Georgia’s Jennifer Wilbanks, better known as the “Runaway Bride.”


Jennifer Wilbanks: Eye have issues

To recap, Jennifer led Americans on a magical mystery tour when she disappeared just before her wedding, hopped on a bus to Las Vegas, and turned up days later in Albuquerque, falsely claiming to have been kidnapped.

While many speculated cold feet was to blame, Jennifer said it had nothing to do with that.

“I had a host of compelling issues which seemed out of control,” she said.

My favorite part of the story, though, was when Wilbanks was escorted through an airport to fly back home, she sported a colorful, crocheted blanket over her head, shielding her face from the public.

I never really understood the purpose of that, as it just made her seem like more of a fruitcake.

However, for the curious-minded, someone on the Internet provides us a glimpse of Jennifer’s expression under the blanket:


Wilbanks’ anti-attention strategy: Cover head with a colorful blanket

Sacked for his sack

Continuing with this theme of bizarre photos, the Des Moines Register reported a 65-year-old Wal-Mart greeter was fired for welcoming customers with a computer-generated photograph of himself wearing nothing but a Wal-Mart sack.


Wal-Mart’s Employee of the Year: Dean Wooten and his sack

Dean Wooten, a seven-year veteran at the world’s largest retailer, said, “I didn’t have nothing against Wal-Mart. A friend of mine got the photo of the body off the Internet, and he had a picture of me and he put my head on it. When I first seen it, I pretty near died laughing.”

Wooten applied for unemployment, but a female judge ruled that “a reasonable person would know the act of showing a naked body wearing a Wal-Mart sack would not be good for the employer’s business.”

From wall of sound to wall of hair

In the chronicles of music history, May 23, 2005, strikes a bizarre chord.

That’s the day when legendary rock ‘n’ roll producer Phil Spector debuted his Chia-Phil hairstyle to the world while facing charges of shooting actress Lana Clarkson.


Phil Spector, touched in the head? Photo unretouched.

One blogger noted: “His hair says, ‘Damn it! I’m Phil Spector and I can shoot whoever the hell I want!'”

The parody website Faux News covered the appearance of the crazy coif this way:

The prosecution in Phil Spector’s murder trial claimed an early victory today, when Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Larry Ridler cleared the way for five barbers – all of whom claim the record producer’s hair verbally threatened them – to take the witness stand in the music legend’s upcoming murder trial.

Each of the five barbers claim that, while attempting to give the producer a trim, Spector’s hair verbally threatened them.

One of the barbers, who spoke under condition of anonymity, said Spector’s hair “sounded like a cockroach being voraciously devoured by a naked mole rat while being run over by a dump truck. It had the scariest voice I have ever heard. I needed new pants.”

Just desserts

People get bent out of shape much too easily these days, taking offense even when there’s no evil intended.

Burger King found that out when a Muslim man who ordered an ice-cream cone at the fast-food chain in England happened to think the swirl on the cone’s packaging looked like the name of Allah written in Arabic.

Claiming it was sacrilegious, the next step for him was to threaten holy war.

“This is my jihad,” said 27-year-old Rashad Akhtar. “How can you say it is a spinning swirl? If you spin it one way to the right you are offending Muslims.”

Frozen with fear, Burger King spent thousands repackaging the product, but maintained, “The design simply represents a spinning ice-cream cone.”

I guess Burger King really means it when it says, “Have it your way.”

Everyone knows it’s Cindy

Finally, much of 2005 was spent with anti-war activists doing what they do best, being crazy Froot Loops from the leftward land of silliness.


Cindy Sheehan

California’s Cindy Sheehan got the ball rolling by dumping herself in a Texas ditch, demanding a second meeting with President Bush, after he had already met with her entire family.

Cindy, who called terrorists “freedom fighters” and said she won’t pay federal income tax, encouraged plenty of nutjobs to come out of their shells.

Her efforts reached a peak Aug. 17 with a nationwide vigil for peace.

“Everyone had something to say,” wrote a blogger documenting the event on Zombietime.com.

“For example, this woman wanted the world to go backward in time to 2003, so that the invasion of Iraq would once again be a potential future event that could be avoided this time around.”


Woman in Berkeley, Calif., protests living in 2005, longing for 2003

Not only were protesters of the human kind present at the reported 1,627 events organized by MoveOn.org, some brought their pets and adorned them with signs reading, “Dogs for Cindy.”

“I noticed that many of the dogs were wagging their tails even during the silence,” wrote one peace activist from Ithaca, N.Y. “Seemed like they were enjoying themselves!”


Canines, including this pair, turned out in force to support Cindy Sheehan in nationwide peace vigil Aug. 17

Sheehan also sparked a whole industry of people looking to cash in on her saga.

An entrepreneur on eBay tried hawking a baseball on which he claimed Cindy’s face magically appeared.


Online auctioneer eBay could not verify that image on baseball was indeed that of Cindy Sheehan

The ad stated: “Commemorate this crazy loon’s departure from the ditch along with all the other America-hating terrorist-defending squatters and mainstream press as they head back to Berkeley and other liberal alcoves by ordering this one-of-a-kind baseball she has appeared in.”

The image on the ball looked like a typical sad face that could have been drawn with a magic marker.

But eBay yanked the item, claiming the ball had not been properly authenticated.

The removal had some heads spinning.

“We were wondering how it is that this auction was canceled, and yet other auctions such as the ‘Virgin Mary On Toast’ were allowed to proceed,” Sam Hill protested to eBay. “I would be curious to see what proof eBay accepted that the toast was indeed an authentic likeness of the Virgin Mary. … Or is eBay more comfortable allowing the Virgin Mary to be mocked than Mother Sheehan?”

Perhaps the official end to “Cindymania” came Thanksgiving weekend when Sheehan held a very lonely book-signing near the president’s ranch in Crawford.


Cindy Sheehan swarmed signing copies of her new book in Crawford, Texas (Associated Press)

Cindy accused “right-wing” websites of “spreading a false story” that no one bought her book at the event.


Sheehan battles writer’s cramp, as well as urge to sleep, during book-signing in Crawford, Texas (Reuters)

“That is not true,” she maintained. “I sold all 100 copies and got writer’s cramp signing them.”

Stunning. The loneliest, most publicized book-signing in history, and Cindy gets cramps. I think there’s a cure for that. It’s called deportation.

Well, that does it for another year. I hope everyone had a fantastic Chrismahanukwanzakah.

See you in 2006.


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Previous columns:

Funniest news stories of 2004

Funniest news stories of 2003

Funniest news stories of 2002

Funniest news stories of 2001

2000: All the news that’s fun to print