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Texas Prepares for Puns


Today, the lowest form of humor receives a moment of glory. It's the 31st Annual O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships in Austin, Texas. Dozens of contestants from all over the United States will compete for the titles of puniest in show and pun-slinger champion. Gary Hallock has presided over the O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships for the past 18 years. He's a past winner of the puniest-in-show title, joins us from the studios of member-station KUT in Austin. Why O. Henry?

Mr. GARY HALLOCK (Organizer, O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships): O. Henry, of course, is well known as the author of many short stories, characteristically, those with a twisted ending. I think that's very analogous to what punsters are doing.

SIMON: Well where a pun is concerned, kind of a groan is a very desirable reaction, isn't it?

Mr. HALLOCK: Well after all these years, we have groans to love it, and the contestants at the pun-off generally tend to be the perpetrators of puns, flipping them back and forth, left and right, twisting the language until it cries uncle.

SIMON: Let's give our listeners a demonstration, if we could. We've been joined now by someone in the studio. You're going to be the judge, right, Justine?


SIMON: Justine Cannon, who's one of our producers here. Let's play a few rounds of pun-slinger, I guess the game is called, okay?

Mr. HALLOCK: The pun-slingers contest is where we put two contestants up on stage together, throw them a topic at random. Each contestant in turn then has five seconds to start to deliver a pun, and then it goes back and forth until somebody gets gonged out.

CANNON: So we're going to give this a whirl. Round one, we'll start with our guest. The topic is farms.

Mr. HALLOCK: I fell in love with the farmer's daughter, but I couldn't a tractor.

(Soundbite of bell)

SIMON: I'm just sheepish about this game.

(Soundbite of bell)

Mr. HALLOCK: I did like to plow the field with herbicide me.

(Soundbite of bell)

SIMON: Oh, it's a bovine way to spend the afternoon.

(Soundbite of bell)

Mr. HALLOCK: Ooh, nice. My preacher at my church invited me to get barn again.

(Soundbite of bell)

SIMON: These puns are certainly separating the weak from the chaff.

(Soundbite of bell)

CANNON: Excellent.

Mr. HALLOCK: Hey we're having a good time.

SIMON: Did you win?

CANNON: That's the end of the round - no, no, I would say that - I would give that round a tie. Okay, this is a newsier round. We're going to go with politics, and we're going to start with you, Scott.


(Soundbite of Laughter)

SIMON: And I'm about to be counted out.

(Soundbite of buzzer)

Mr. HALLOCK: I think Scott is in a delicate condition here.

(Soundbite of bell)

SIMON: Uh - it's hard under the circumstances.

(Soundbite of buzzer)

CANNON: You did so well with farms.

SIMON: I did so well with farms.

Mr. HALLOCK: I'm not going to go for Barack on you.

(Soundbite of bell)

Mr. HALLOCK: I heard Hillary just took another state, the state of denial.

(Soundbite of bell)

(Soundbite of Laughter)

SIMON: You're on a roll, Gary.

(Soundbite of bell)

CANNON: Well, I have to call that round - that was sort of a lightning round - again for our guest.

SIMON: I think so.

Mr. HALLOCK: Inasmuch as Scott was dumbstruck, I suppose.

SIMON: Just dumb. Gary?

Mr. HALLOCK: Yeah.

SIMON: It's been a pleasure punning with you. Thanks very much.

Mr. HALLOCK: And I've certainly appreciated talking to you, Scott.

SIMON: Gary Hallock of the 31st Annual O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships held today at the O. Henry Museum in Austin, Texas. This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
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