“The inveterate punster,” Leacock wrote, “follows conversation as a shark follows a ship.” What is missing from the Pun-Off, then, is this conversation; onstage, we inveterate punsters are forced to play only with the words we can find inside ourselves, rather than lying in wait for a punworthy moment in the course of normal dialogue. Hence the excess of gimmes like “philosophers Kant hold their liquor,” as opposed to a more organic, transcendent play on words, as when I misremembered the color of a friend’s car years ago and he told me that “it must have been a pigment of my imagination.” Or when a friend interning for a congressman confessed that he snuck a glance at John Boehner’s crotch in a Capitol restroom and I declared him the Peeker of the House. Such turns of phrase are unlikely to appear in any serious writing I attempt down the road, and yet the elation they produce is among my favorite feelings: a credit to their author and a gift to anyone with the wit and good sense to enjoy them.B. is a mighty punster whose lines are often delivered with a deceptive blandness that means the non-language-attuned may miss them altogether. One I remember particularly fondly, as we traveled by boat in Costa Rica and an enormous flock of seabirds came into view: "One good tern deserves another!"
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Ted Trautman on the O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships: