A jab at the woes of the nation's banks has been named the top tall tale of 2009.
The Burlington Liars Club bestowed its highest award Wednesday for this line: "I just realized how bad the economy really is. I recently bought a new toaster oven and as a complimentary gift, I was given a bank."
The quip earned Larry Legro of Sun Prairie, Wis., the dubious _ but serious _ distinction of being the year's World Champion Liar.
"I was ecstatic," said Legro, 58, a state health inspector. "I told people all year I was planning to win this contest."
Legro told The Associated Press he had been submitting entries for four to five years, even if his wife didn't share his enthusiasm.
"When I told her I won I could see her roll eyes like, 'Why do you want to do this?'" he said. "Because it's there. Somebody's got to do it."
The Liars Club got its start in 1929 when local journalists Otis Hulett and Mannel Hahn fabricated a news story about a lying contest between the Burlington police and fire departments. The police chief won, they said, after he said he'd never be good at lying because he never told a lie.
The club is based in Burlington, a town of about 15,000 about 35 miles southwest of Milwaukee. It has more than 2,000 members around the world, said Joel Weis, the club's president.
Over the years, the top entries have been about random topics. Last year's winning line was: "My grandson is the most persuasive liar I have ever met. By the time he was 2 years old he could dirty his diaper and make his mother believe someone else had done it."
"A good lie isn't just a tall tale or exaggerating," said Garth Seehawer, 72, the Oconto Falls man who came up with that gem. "You have to have something fun, not believable but impossibly true."
But Weis said this year's panel of three judges picked Legro's lie out of more than 100 entries because of its relevance. It alludes to the fact that the government spent more than $700 billion to bail out the banking industry in the last year or so, and more than 100 banks collapsed nationwide.
"It comes down to timing," he said. "I think historically we'll be able to look back at this one and laugh. This definitely will have its mark in time."
The four runners-up include a fib about a man who was so speedy that he could have been a baseball superstar. But his dreams were derailed because whenever he hit a line drive to right field, he rounded the bases so fast that the ball hit him as he approached second base _ and he would be called out for interference.
Another said this year's bug season is so bad that even a photograph of his dog had ticks.
A lifetime membership in the Liars Club costs $1. It grants the holder the right to submit an unlimited number of fibs each year.
Legro said he came up with the winning entry while exchanging e-mails with his older brother about the economy. He said he wasn't sure if younger people who don't remember when banks gave out appliances would get the humor.
Still, he's grateful for the notoriety that comes with being a champion liar.
"I don't know if this qualifies me to be politician," he joked. "I guess we'll see."
On the Net:
Burlington Liars Club: http://www.burlingtonliarsclub.com/