What started off as a joke on an internet discussion forum has today evolved into a full-blown satirical award function. The Darwin Awards recognise and (more often than not) posthumously honour individuals who have contributed to human evolution by taking themselves out of the gene pool through acts of remarkable stupidity. The year 1993 saw the dawn of a new era for the awards with the setting up of an official website that chronicled stupid deaths from around the world and included them in the race for the rarely-coveted award. The principle of the award has remained unchanged since it first appeared around 1985: “In the spirit of Charles Darwin, the Darwin Awards commemorate individuals who protect our gene pool by making the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives. Darwin Award winners eliminate themselves in an extraordinarily idiotic manner, thereby improving our species' chances of long-term survival.”

01 darwin awards "Winners can collect their prize from me personally. In the afterlife."

Criteria for the Award

The winners of the awards must comply with the following: 1. Reproduction: The candidate must remove himself from the gene pool. After all, this is the entire point of the award – to celebrate the longevity of the human race due to the elimination of the genes that would cause someone to do something as stupid as strive for a Darwin Award. Death is very often the most effective cause of sterility. 2. Excellence: People die in stupid ways all the time, so commonly stupid deaths won’t be considered. To win a Darwin Award, you have to do something so stupendously idiotic – so inexplicably daft – that the world sits up and takes notice. Unfortunately for the winner, though, they’re rarely around for the award ceremony. 3. Self-Selection: The candidate must be the cause of his own demise. It’s one thing to be mauled by a shark while surfing – that’s just bad luck – but quite another to be gobbled up by one because you tried to pet it on its snout while whale-watching. 4. Maturity: The candidate must be of sound judgement. This excludes children under the legal age and anyone with a mental handicap, both of whom could be said to be unaware of the ramifications of their actions. If, however, you are a full-grown adult who attempts to do something  as stupid as trying to play Russian roulette with a semi-automatic pistol (and not a revolver which would give you a chance at survival) then you definitely qualify for a spot on the dubious podium. 5. Veracity: The story has to be backed up by reportage in a reputable newspaper, television report, or responsible eyewitnesses. If the story is found to be untrue, then it is disqualified, but if the story is particularly amusing it earns itself a spot in the ‘Urban Legend’ section of the official website.

02 darwin awards Who wouldn't want to pet the snout of this adorable creature?

The Best Pool Cleaners

Only the best candidates make it through the rigorous qualification process, but the rewards are worth it. A chance to be immortalised on the internet and remembered as a statutory warning for all who come after you. Here are some of our favourite lessons in what not to do: 1. Macho Men: Two Polish farmers get drunk one day and challenge each other to a series of increasingly-escalating “manly” bets. First they strip naked and beat each other with frozen turnips, but this is mere child’s play. The gauntlet is thrown down when one of them picks up a chainsaw and establishes his claim of being the manlier between the two by chopping off his foot. His friend – not to be outdone – proceeds to do the same with his own head. "It's funny," said one companion, "when he was young he put on his sister's underwear. But he died like a man." 2. Midnight Special: Ken Charles Barger took a leaf out of the book of comedy movies one cold night in December. Startled awake by the sound of the ringing telephone next to his bed, he reached out and picked up the loaded pistol he kept next to the telephone and proceeded to “answer” the call by discharging the gun once he had placed it on his ear. Death had him at hello. 3. Balloon Priest: A Catholic priest from Brazil decided to raise money for charity by strapping himself into a chair attached to 1,000 helium balloons, along with a GPS, water, food and a thermal suit. It sounds well-prepared until you realise that he had no idea how to use the GPS. So when he got worried at around 6,000 feet up, he tried to make a call for help but none was forthcoming. Nine days later, the Brazilian Navy abandoned its search for the priest, who might have been proud to hear that he earned a rare Double Darwin – owing to the fact that just being a Catholic priest already excludes them from the gene pool.

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