The 38th annual O. Henry Pun-Off was held last Saturday in the backyard of the O. Henry House on Fifth Street. Every year the crowd seems larger, and I’m guessing that close to 1000 people watched this year’s event. A few even perched in the giant live oak trees that shade much of Brush Square.
Local favorite Minor Mishap Marching Band entertained the crowd while the participants were registering for the competitions. Since Bill and I were not sitting inside the tent, a ten-minute downpour forced us to take shelter in the nearby Hilton. Skies remained cloudy, but it did not rain again that afternoon.
We returned to Brush Square as long-time organizer, Gary Hallock, was explaining the rules for the “Punniest of Show.” Each contestant had 90 seconds to deliver a prepared presentation of puns. Some memorized their bit and some used notes. Topics included Star Wars (very popular), music, sports, movies, and states/countries. We recognized many of the contestants from previous Pun-Offs.
Six judges scored each participant, and then their highest and lowest numbers were eliminated to determine an overall score. Early on, Ben Ziek earned a perfect 40 and subsequently won the contest. Southpaw Jones came in second with 39 points. An audience “clap-off” broke a tie for third place and Gy Odom was declared the third-place winner.
The second event, Punslingers, began around 3 PM. Pairs of contestants took turns making puns on selected topics, including Hot & Cold, Carpentry & Construction, Movie Titles, and Winged Creatures. This contest required quick responses (by the time the judges counted to five), and puns could not be reused. Ben Ziek also won this competition—an impressive third time that he has won both events.
Video of the 2015 Pun-Off is currently posted here on Livestream and will soon be available on YouTube.
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