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At this annual U.K. competition, dishonesty is the biggest virtue

CUMBRIA, ENGLAND • Mike Naylor calls himself a “very honest” person, though he allows that this may not be true. The 50-ish animal health adviser also claims to have invested his prize money as two-time winner of the World’s Biggest Liar competition so wisely that he is now a wealthy man. First place in the contest pays about 40 bucks.

“Ah,” says Naylor, “but I also came in second twice!”

Now approaching its fourth decade, the contest is held in Cumbria, a ruggedly picturesque county in northern England. It entails standing onstage at a local pub and telling tales that are amusing, compelling and blatantly untrue. Naylor took second last year with the story of an irradiated Cumberland sausage that went on a Godzilla-like rampage.

But, he says, there’s more to it than the ability to spin a yarn. Here, a few of his hard-and-fast rules.

PLAY IT CLOSE TO THE VEST: “Everyone keeps their next story a secret. No one will tell you what it is. And if they do, it’ll be a lie.”

DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE LOCAL TALENT: “People come up here and think we’re yokels. One chap came into the pub with these fancy binoculars and said, ‘These are so good that I can see a fly on top of Napes Needle,’ which is 2,800 feet up the mountain. The proprietor got out his rusty old binoculars, polished them with his tie and said, ‘Yes, I see it too, and it only has one eye.'”

MAINTAIN INTERNAL LOGIC: “I won with a story about sheep farming being on the decline, forcing us to flood the valley and go into fish farming instead. All the houses were underwater, so for people who wanted to keep pets we put catfish flaps in the doors.”

LIE HONESTLY: “We had this bloke who told a story that he’d copied word for word from a comedy routine that had been on television three nights before. There was a bit of a riot that night. He got booed off the stage.”

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