Read of the Day: “Wonder List: An Insider’s Look Into the World of Pun Competitions”
5:30 pm, August 29th | by Colette McIntyre
In today’s Read of the Day, Alexa Kurzius regales us with the tale of how she spent three nights battling (mostly male) word warriors at the Punderdome 3000, a monthly pun competition in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Imagine an industrial-esque performance space filled with a raucous rumble of 300 intelligent-looking, four-eyed men and women slurping Budweisers. Imagine dark walls, dark ceilings, and a well-lit stage, emblazoned with colored construction paper letters spelling “PUNDERDOME!” Imagine you are wearing a nametag saying, “Hello my name is Yoda Man!”
Maybe there was something electromagnetic in the night air, kindling my confidence and setting ablaze a desire to participate. Maybe it was the crowd, a jury of my peers who came to support words, sport, and all-over corniness. Maybe it was the career calling I never had as a former advertising copywriter and current journalism grad student.
Whatever it was, there I was: on stage with a white board and marker and 90 seconds to come up with as many puns as possible.
Let me take a step back and talk a little bit more about the rules at Punderdome. A category is assigned for each round and after your 90 seconds, you have three minutes at the mic. Performances are scored by the clapometer, an unscientific measurement of audience response manned (or woman-ed) by a person in a blindfold. Battles mount as the competition takes height, and the best punners trade euphemisms, catechisms, and wow-isms until winner takes all.
That night, I had the unfortunate luck of going in the first heat of the first round with five others. Our category, cleaning, was assigned by Jo Firestone—the delightfully polite Brooklyn-based comedienne and Punderdome cofounder. Jo hosts the gig with her dad, Fred, who runs business seminars by day and memorizes Rodney Dangerfield jokes at night. Given that I had no time to prep and even less to observe, I went for volume. The most puns wins, right?
Except that I fell into a vacuum of angst, windexing and waning on what to say. Do you know how fast 90 seconds goes? I said a prayer to Mr. Clean and dust-busted out a few somewhat clever one-liners before mopping off stage. Had I actually said any of the aforementioned puns I might have gotten more than a meager, pitying clapometer score.
To read the piece in full, click here.