Hours to Wry
The First Ever Bay Area Pun-Off started as a gathering in a living room in Oakland in January, 2016. We had a great time competing at the O.Henry Pun-Off World Championship in Austin, Texas several months earlier and thought we'd create an event to throw some puns around. Surprisingly, as the night of the event approached, we found ourselves turning people away for lack of space in the intimate living room… Over 40 people crammed in for the The First Ever Bay Area Pun-Off (Get Thee to a Punnery)! It went so well that we immediately scheduled a second one, this time at a popular tea spot in San Francisco.
The Bay Area Pun-Off part deux: Get Thee Back to a Punnery! doubled in size from the first!
The Bay Area Pun-Off numero tres: Third Time's a Charm... (aka Icarus flies again...) brought nearly 100 people out to play and the structure of the show, along with some punning rituals began to emerge.
The Bay Area Pun-Off: 4 the Love of Wordplay! sold out (150 tickets) 8 weeks ahead of time and as the waitlist grew, we added the Fifth (All Pent Up) - which sold out in just two days.
So we booked out a monthly space and haven't looked back.
It's been incredible and it seems we're only just getting started. Also, we have to go back into this story and add more puns. Obviously...
Meanwhile, a few things we've learned along the way:
1. We've found the pun-off really works without microphones. Puns are a form of humor that fights to be heard - so we ask our audience to lean in and work for the jokes as much as our competitors will work on telling them. When someone's on a microphone, people seem to feel more entitled to chat or tune out and it's actually harder to keep a group's attention. Without the amplification, it's what we like to call “unmediated.”
Ironic update - the pun-off has grown now (2017) to the point where we need Mics to reach the room. The sentiment remains, but now we let first time performers use electricity and amplification to reach more people... that means we get to invite more people into the room too.
2. The living room where we started had benches, couches, chairs, rugs, laps, and walls… We liked the intimate experience of just being together. As we expand, we aim to continue to have more people than seats and strongly encourage and welcome blankets, picnics, and sharing.
3. Everyone wins. Sure, eventually, everyone but the last person standing will be cut from Punslingers - it’s a competition after all - and we’ve gotta go home sometime. But in the process, every punster will have a chance to make up a pun and get some laughs, some groans, and probably a shot of whiskey. Whatever happens, the room is going to clap and cheer and you’re gonna get a high five, handshake, hug, wave… whatever you need to go back to your seat with your head held high and your palm on your face... It’s a safe space for wordplay, remember?
The main feedback we get, other than, “This was the best night of my entire life…” is that people are surprised by the feeling of camaraderie and joy at this event. We're pretty proud of that and will keep working to make it so.
Come join us at the next Pun-Off or reach out and host us yourself!
Warmth & Wordplay,
PunMaster, Jonah Spear