A large crowd had already gathered for this year’s O. Henry Pun-Off by the time we arrived on Saturday afternoon. Some bleachers and folding chairs were set up, but many brought their own camp chairs or blankets to watch this “nearly yearly” contest in the backyard of the O. Henry Museum between Fourth and Fifth Streets.
We had missed the earlier “Punniest of Show” performances, but saw most of the second half, called “Punslingers.” In this contest, two punsters at a time came up on stage and took turns coming up with puns related to a particular topic, for example, Famous Vehicles, Religion, or Fruits and Vegetables. Strikes were given if a pun was reused or deemed off-topic. Contestants were eliminated if they got three strikes or did not respond with a pun within five seconds. (The five-second countdown really put pressure on the contestant to come up with an appropriate pun quickly.) The winner then advanced to the next round until just one person was declared the winner. These Punslingers were amazing! A sharp wit and a great memory seemed to be a prerequisite, and some contestants seemed to have improv experience too. The next-to-last topic, Diseases, evoked a particularly long exchange between contestants Alex Petri and Matt Pollock. (Who knew there were so many cancer-related puns?) Matt eventually perservered and won that round. But then he didn’t have much concentration left, and so Ben Ziek won the final round fairly quickly with the category of Insects and Bees. (Sample pun: To bee or not to bee, that is the question.)And so ended another year of the O. Henry Pun-Off. A pun, pun, pun time was had by all!