Without ComPUNction: Doing verbal battle at the O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships.

My college application essay focused on how I used language to define my identity. On another level, it was an excuse to string together a lot of really bad puns. The best (worst?) puns are ephemeral, responding to the ongoing conversation. I had a mental filing cabinet with puns on topics like shoes, cameras, or animals. Whenever the conversation in a room approached one of those topics, I’d unleash the puns.

Screen Shot 2014-05-25 at 1.33.30 PMJust as a slam dunk in basketball earns the same number of points as a layup, this portion of the Pun-Off rewards a contestant for the quantity of her puns rather than their quality. As the moderators explained several times, in a refrain later echoed by desperate contestants defending their ripostes, “It doesn’t have to be good. It just has to be a pun.” The Punslingers event may be the only sport on Earth in which the highest level of play is the most painful to watch. –Ted Trautman, Paris Review.