Earlier this month, Bill and I attended the annual O. Henry Pun-Off behind the O. Henry Museum in Brush Square Park. We joined hundreds of people who gathered under the large white tent and huge oak trees for a Saturday afternoon of pun.
The event started with a set by local country band, Croy and the Boys. The colorful signs are reused from year-to-year, so an ongoing joke throughout the day was that this was the “41th Annual” Pun-Off.
Punniest of Show started around noon with long-time organizers Gary Hallock and David Gugenheim as the emcees. The audience and contestants were reminded of the accepted definition of a pun: “the humorous use of a word or words in such a way as to suggest different meanings or applications OR words that have the same or nearly the same sound but different meanings.” Each of the 33 contestant were given 90 seconds for their pun-filled presentation. Unlike previous Pun-Offs, no one was eliminated for going over the time limit this year.
The 2018 Punniest of Show topics included: Punctuation, Letters, Drugs, Weapons, Alcohol, Star Wars, Colors, Math, Trump, NPR, Groceries, Poop, Music, Sesame Street, Chickens, Potatoes, Philosophers, #metoo, Ancient History, Cities, Guns, Eagles, Games, Female Singers, Trees, Britain, Gems/Minerals, and Birds.
Six judges rated the presentations on a scale from 1 to 10. The lowest and highest scores were dropped, and the remaining scores were added together. Three contestants had perfect total scores of 40: Toby Gwiazdowski (Math), Jerzy Gwiazdowski (Cities), and Marisa Roper (Female Singers).
The three-way tie was resolved by an audience clap-off. Toby was declared the winner, with Marisa and Jerzy in second and third places, respectively.
After a short break, the Pun-Off continued with Punslingers. This contest is not easy. Competitors take turns making up puns on specified topics and have only have 5 seconds to start the next pun after their opponent stops talking. This year many contestants needed to be reminded that their sentences needed to actually include puns.
The first round topics were: Occupations, Fast Food, Bedding, Wild West, Headwear, Math & Physics, Athletic Equipment, Flying Machines, Crimes, Footwear, Beer, Cleaning Supplies, Coverings & Coatings, Medical Devices, Holidays/Celebrations, and Auto Manufacturers. Some explanations were needed. For example, Headwear had to be removable from the top of the head (hats, wigs, etc.) and Auto Manufacturers did not include types of vehicles.
We could only stay for the first round of Punslingers competition. I later read that last year’s Punniest of Show (and brother of Toby), Jerzy Gwiazdowski, was the 2018 Punslingers winner. Gwiazdowski family reunions must be interesting!
Videos of this year’s O. Henry Pun-Off are posted here.
© Austin Downtown Diary, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Austin Downtown Diary with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.