Jerry Zezima, a Newsday assistant editor who writes a nationally syndicated humor column for his hometown paper, The
As a guy who has always loved puns, and has been known to use as many as 10 at a time (even if they don't work, I can say, "No pun in 10 did"), I had long looked for a venue where my wordplay would be ear relevant.
That's why I was happy as a clam, I will admit for shellfish reasons, to find out about Punderdome 3000, a monthly contest for people who have grown to love puns and audience members who have groaned to hear them.
Punderdome is the brainchild of entrepreneurial comic Fred Firestone and his real child, funny daughter Jo, who together, if you consider their surname, are two tires, though fortunately they are not too tired to put on a great show.
The latest one was held, as usual, at Littlefield, a fabulous performance and art space in Brooklyn, where a tree grows because, of course, everything happens in trees.
I signed up, showed up and found myself in a crowd of about 400 young, happy and friendly people who were so eclectic that they must have paid the eclectic bill and so hip that I, clearly the oldest among them, figured I'd need a hip replacement.
I also was one of 17 contestants, who included individuals and two-person teams, which brought the total number of participants to about two dozen if you add them up, though you shouldn't divide them, especially if you are division-impaired.
When I registered with Jo in the Littlefield lobby, I had to pick a punny nickname, so I selected JZ because, I said initially, "They're my initials."
Fred and Jo took the stage (and gave it back) to explain the rules: Contestants would be given a topic and have a minute and a half to prepare. They would then be called up to a microphone and have two minutes to be off and punning.
Their scores would be registered on a "human clap-o-meter," on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest), based on the reaction of the crowd.
The first round was divided into three parts. My group, composed of six contestants, went last. The topic: sea creatures.
After the first contestant went, I stepped up to the microphone and said, "Before we started, he and I decided to swap puns. It was a squid pro quo."
The crowd went wild. "Your applause is so loud," I continued, holding my hand to my head, "I have a haddock."
I rattled off a stream of sea-creature puns. As my two minutes ended, I said, "Everything I said up here was on porpoise."
I got thunderous applause that registered at 9.5 and, along with two other punsters in my group, made the first cut.
The second round's topic: yoga. Since I don't do yoga, it was, I said, "a stretch," but after saying that the practice was invented by a famous baseball player, "Yoga Berra," I scored a 10 and went on, with three other contestants, to the semifinals.
The topic: the names of people you went to high school with.
I said I went to high school so long ago that many of the boys in my class became Founding Fathers. "Then there was the guy who became big in coffee: Joe. And the girl who became a lawyer: Sue."
I ended by saying that I went to college at Pun State.
My score: 10. I was in the finals! It was me against One-Two Punch, a team of two bright and funny young guys, Dylan DePice, 26, and Noah Berg, 24. There was no preparation time. We would stand at separate microphones and, for four minutes, volley puns. The topic: babies.
"My little granddaughter is so smart, she's studying Shakespeare," I began. "The other day I heard her say, 'To pee or not to pee, that is the question.'"
This gave birth to a series of infantile comments ("We're in a womb with a view") that whipped the crowd into a frenzy.
My score: 10. I won! I was Punderdome champ.
My prize: a chocolate fountain and fondue maker. I brought it home to my wife, who has had to put up with my puns all these years. It was the least I could fondue.
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