Overview:

In a nation obsessed with lying, a new game show arrives to celebrate types of prevarication, awarding our best liars.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Carl (announcer): Today’s show is sponsored by Dissembler Nation, the resume and CV organizer unit that “Gets You Jobs!”

Audience: [rousing applause]

Dave (host): Everyone lies sometimes, don’t they? What kind of a liar are you? Our celebrity panel will choose among today’s contestants and the winner will be taking home a pile of cash along with a wax statuette of Bland Uzerpol, the famed moral theorist from Tanif, Colorado. Carl, introduce our contestants!

Carl: From Banquo, North Dakota we have Indio Snakes. And from Jollory, Maine, Merdie Caromine. From Baycrest, Texas we’ve got, Pam Spador. From Colle, Mississippi there’s Terene Goldersill. And here’s Bellows Umptick from Mercator, New Mexico. Then there’s Jose Lopez of Gelt, Oregon. And lastly, we have Val Iro, from Poco, Minnesota.

Dave: Very good! Let’s go to Indio first. What kind of liar are you, Indio?

Indio: Well, Dave, I’m one of those folks who utters untruths. I’m not a liar, per se. Uttering untruths does not always entail lying. Here’s what I mean: I speak untruths without lying because I merely repeat factual errors that I don’t know are factual errors.

Audience: [vigorous applause]

Dave: Ok! Let’s go on to contestant two, Merdie. What kind of liar are you?

Merdie: I’m a social liar, Dave, a mannerly liar. I would not hurt anyone’s feelings. When a friend asks me how they look in their new jacket, instead of telling them what I really feel, I say, “That jacket looks great! It’s you!” But what I really had in mind was, “That coat looks like a dead wildebeest wrapped around you, complete with fleas, ticks, vermin, and the horns.” People will ask me, “How do you like my new hat?” and I think, “You look like an idiot in that legible cap, a rank idiot.” But I say instead, “That hat is so cool!” Another friend asks, “How did you like my lamb recipe, Merdie?” I say, “I loved it!” But I actually took one bite of the lamb and spit it out onto a tallow bush in my backyard and dumped the full plate over the fence, swishing my mouth with a gulp of chardonnay.

Audience: [explosive laughter and applause]

Dave: Thanks, Merdie. Our third contestant is Pam. What kind of liar are you, Pam?

Pam: Dave, I’m what you’d call an inveterate liar. I simply cannot tell the truth at any time. I lie in my throat every day of the world. How tall am I? I’ll add two inches to the report. How old? I’ll deduct five years from the calculus. I might have said anything about everything in all the years since my youth. I lied and told people I was a fighter pilot, a luthier, a Kluge operator, a dermatologist, a merchant marine, a pole dancer. I claimed I mastered an orchestra of instruments. I have repeated common political lies and improved them as I passed them along. I’m so thick into my lies that I can’t even risk seeing old friends and acquaintances because I don’t remember what I’ve told them in the past!

Audience: [booming applause]

Dave: Thanks, Pam. Contestant four, Terene. What kind of liar are you?

Terene: I prefer the white lie, the half-truth, Dave. Where did I go on that errand today? I’ll say I went to the hardware store, but that’s only a bit of the truth because I also stopped at a sushi restaurant next door to the hardware store and spent a small fortune on sashimi. I’ll also say I got a degree from Columbia but I mean the nation of Colombia, not the New York University with that name. That kind of thing.

Audience: [loud applause]

Dave: Very good, Terene. Now there’s our fifth contestant, Bellows. What kind of liar are you, Bellows?

Bellows: I lie to myself. I’m self-deceived. Hello paradox! I am at once the deceiver and the deceived! I flatter myself and bask in the flattery!

Audience: [excited applause]

Dave: That’s so interesting, Bellows. How about our sixth contestant, Jose? What kind of liar are you?

Jose: I actually work in an industry completely devoted to fabrication.

Dave: Don’t tell me. Advertising?

Jose: Yes!

Audience: [enthusiastic applause]

Dave:  And now our seventh and final contestant. Val, what kind of liar are you?

Val: I’m actually not a liar, Dave. I am committed to the truth no matter what. I hate dishonesty and I would never taint or stain or blemish my soul with a lie. I’m the type who’d tell Nazis I’m hiding Jews in my attic. I’d divulge our nation’s secrets at the mildest inquisition. I’m brutally honest with the two friends I’ve retained. I don’t even know if you can trust me—since I’m not any kind of liar.

Audience: [subdued polite applause]

Dave: There we have it, panel. Which of the contestant goes home with the prize?

Panel: [discussing the matter inaudibly]

Dave: Well, panel? Who will it be?

Panel: We’re going to give it to Pam, the inveterate liar! 

Audience [wild deafening applause with yelling and whistling]

Dave: Fantastic! Fantastic! Fan-tastic! Any words from our inveterate liar?

Pam: I’m honored, Dave. Truly honored.

Dave: [to the viewing audience] I’m Dave Ponk. Join me and Carl Nguyen, along with a new panel of celebrity judges, next week for another episode of “What kind of liar are you?”

Audience: [loud applause]

J. H. McKenna (Ph.D.) has taught the history of atheism and other classes since 1999 at the University of California, where he has won teaching awards. He has published in academic journals and the LA...