“A pun is the lowest form of humor … when you don’t think of it first.”— Oscar Levant
Wordplay is sadly pun-derrated. However, if you like coming up with groan-inducing quips, why not try taking your talents to the next level? Here are three of the world’s greatest punster contests, along with some of the one-liners that’ve helped the winners earn their trophies. Jest be careful using these in real life...
1. The Great Durham Pun Championship
Since 2011, the city of Durham, North Carolina has held this annual event, also known as “Pundemonium.” According to the official rules, “[Pairs] of punsters are given a subject. Punster number one will then have 10 seconds to come up with a relevant pun. Punster number two then gets ten seconds. On it goes, until someone’s pun doesn’t pun out ... the last pun person standing will be crowned the Pun Master of Durham.”
Jake Palmer won this coveted title in 2012, and some of his friends were thoughtful enough to film his performance. Below are a few of the highlights.
“You’re really potion your luck with this one!”
“I’ve wand-ered into dangerous territory here.”
TOPIC: “Marriage & Divorce”
“I don’t even really think I can COMMIT to this category!”
(To his opponent): “You do appear very well groomed.”
2. The “Shop Pun of the Year” Award
Small businesses in London, England love serving up humor with a side of cheese. The city’s home to such delightful establishments as a fish-and-chips restaurant named “The Codfather," a barber shop dubbed “Jack the Clipper," and a wine & spirits store known as “Planet of the Grapes."
In honor of this comedic tradition, the Local Data Company (which observes the area’s retail industry), held a public election to determine which boutique had the most “pun-derful” name. After taking a commanding 33.3 percent of the vote, the secondhand shop “Junk and Disorderly” emerged victorious. Runners up included "Sofa So Good" (a furniture store), "World of Woolcraft" (a needlecraft shop), and "License 2 Fill" (a takeout joint).
3. The O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships
Listen up, punsters: Here’s the big one. Founded in 1978, the O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships are organized by a group called “Punsters United Nearly Yearly” (P.U.N.Y.) and takes place in Austin, Texas. Unlike the previous entries on this list, participants compete for not one but several titles at these games. They are as follows:
Punniest of Show:
Competitors deliver a rehearsed pun-filled routine in this category. Jerzy Gwiazdowski took home the trophy (which—fittingly—is shaped like a horse’s rear end) for his state-themed rant in 2012. “I’m a new man with a new outlook, and Iowa lot of that to you!” he shouted. “You won’t always be happy, but Missouri loves company!”
Here, punsters face off in one-on-one matchups featuring a given topic before advancing to the next round. Ben Ziek became the 2013 champion, having survived the final heat. Earlier in the contest, he fought his way through the subject of “toys” by saying things like “I used to have curly hair… and stinging insects kept coming up to it. I had to say, ‘Get out of my Frizz, Bee!’”
McClughan Memorial Most Viable Punster Award:
Longtime O. Henry devotee George McClughan sadly passed away in 2001. To honor his legacy, contestants have begun the practice of voting for “one of their own” as the competition’s “most viable punster.” The most recent recipient was Alexandra Petri of Washington, DC, whose skills you can see on full display in the above clip from the 2013 tournament.