When I was sent to cover the O.Henry Pun Off a few couple back, I had no idea what to expect.
I anticipated the O’Henry Pun Festival would take place at O’Henry Middle School. Regrettably, it did not.
The Pun Off Festival was held at the O’Henry museum on E. 5th street downtown. As we drove past the little museum, intellects streamed out onto the courtyard where it took place, filling up the huge outdoor Pun-arena. We had arrived just in time for the one-on-one Pun-a-Thon.
What I had imagined for the 2014 O’Henry Pun Off truly was not in sync with reality. At all.
|Location: a nasty school cafeteria with the oily odor of wet potato chip||Location: a luscious courtyard tucked in behind a charming old house, amidst bustling downtown, right down the street from the charming Chez Nous|
|Contestants: a horde of gangly middle school boys with outrageously sized adam’s apples and wire spectacles||Contestants: a line of intelligent adults, both female and male, in largely graphic tees and plimsolls, with tasteful glasses and stylized hair|
|Audience: a smattering of skinny pre-professors, complete with inch-thick spectacles||Audience: half speculative twenty somethings clad in a combination of hemp garments and floral shorts with vogue sunnies; half middle-aged adults, intelligent looking, also in hemp clothing, lounging on picnic blankets and old camping chairs|
|Head Honcho: the principal. In a suit.||Head Honcho: A sixty-four year old man, somewhat weathered, but healthy. Wearing a Pun themed t-shirt and maybe bike shorts (hard to say exactly), enthusiastic and weepy (it was his last year)|
|Speeches Made: maybe one by a student committee or staff sponsor thanking the parents and participants and reminding everyone to put away folding chairs at the end||Speeches Made: A touching, heart-warming end-pf-office speech delivered by Head Honcho about his time as producer or the Pun Festival; citing the fact that he prepares all year for the event, and requesting, no begging, for someone to step up and take his place as fearless leader; received with thunderous applause and moist eyes|
|Rules and Regulations: Not very many, if any; generally an encouraging spirit, allowing all children (no matter how unfortunate their puns) to flourish||Rules and Regulations: Strict set of rules and scheduling, in the first round, two contestants and an overarching theme (such as Medical Supplies, Art Supplies, Wheeled Vehicles, WWII, etc.) selected at random, two MCs with strict rules on the exact definition of a pun (for example, “Excuse me, but that’s not a pun, but rather a double entendre. Please try again.”), a five second period allotted to each punner, and three strikes before the lesser contestant was asked to leave; from there, round two begun|
|Quality of Puns: not very good, potentially a few gems||Quality of Puns: generally incredibly impressive and wildly entertaining, a few upsetting excuses for good puns, but overall very pleasing|
|Best Pun: Did you hear about the teacher who lost her sight because she couldn’t control her pupils?||Best Pun: (under the theme of Medical Supplies) When I’m killing someone, I usually start with a little opening on the top of the head–it’s my scalpel…|
|Most Upsetting Situation: There is a grand total of two puns and then there is a jarring silence for the next two and half hours||Most Upsetting Situation: The theme is Vehicles With Wheels; contestant number one makes a mediocre pun about scooters; contestant number two replies with, “Car-dee-car-car!” (it’s like a fake laugh, get it?); contestant number one announces a pretty good pun with the word truck; contestant number two says, “Cart-dee-cart-cart!”; the audience groans…then CONTESTANT NUMBER TWO WINS THAT ROUND because CONTESTANT NUMBER ONE IS SO DISTRACTED!!! WHAT. Car-dee-car-car, cart-dee-cart-cart Man WINS. Horrible.|
|Second Most Upsetting Situation: child falls off of the stage and breaks femur||Second Most Upsetting Situation: The theme World War II is announced, a pun is made about tanks, contestant number two makes a pun about Hitler, contestant number one is stumped, the gong rings, AND THE ROUND ENDS. They don’t even get to such puns as I did Nazi that comin’! or “I don’t really know what to say–I guess I’m just Stalin!” WHAT.|
|Overall Impression: Wow, what an extreme waste of a day.||Overall Impression: This is the best use of my time since that chocolate cake eating session last week! Where has the Pun Contest been all my life! I’ve found the meaning of human existence…how freeing!|