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Texas Prepares for Puns

SCOTT SIMON, host:

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?

JUSTINE CANNON(ph): I am.

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.

SIMON: Oh…

(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.