Pun-Off FAQ

Below are some basic FAQs for contestants to ponder. Submit your questions in the comments section below.

What is a Pun?

A pun is the humorous use of a word or words in such a way as to suggest different meanings or applications OR words that have the same or nearly the same sound but different meanings.

The above dictionary definition doesn’t exactly tell the whole story. If you’re at all puzzled or unclear about what punning actually is, we strongly advise you to study up a bit before diving into this competition. Many people have a very skewed vision of what types of wordplay actually constitute puns. We do tend to be generous in setting our parameters but we do have our limits. We also offer several resources for honing your skills. Please do take advantage of them.

What isn’t a pun?

While we do enjoy, encourage and embrace many types of twisted words at our event, we aspire to a higher standard than most when accepting or rewarding our contestant’s offerings in competition. A true pun usually plays on the homophonic similarities between two different words or exploits the ambiguities of meaning in words that may appear or sound exactly the same. Thus when addressing the subject of “railroads” it might seem natural to quip, “I’ve lost TRACK of my TRAIN of thought.” This, however, is merely a “PUN ATTEMPTED” because the essential meaning of the words is not significantly altered. To qualify as a true pun those same two key words could be used thus. “I need to TRAIN for the Pun-Off so please don’t dis-TRACK me.” Once you can recognize subtle differences like these, you have a “PUN INTENDED.”

Does a Pun need to be funny?

That is certainly preferable, but for our competition it isn’t required. It is generally the fusion (or confusion) of ironic elements in a phrase or an absurd juxtaposition of intent that allows a pun to become truly funny. When humor happens in our contest it is a natural side effect of contestants & audience attempting to squeeze multiple meanings from a single word, under pressure. If it’s really a pun, it will probably entertain someone! Humor may be our objective but funny can be very subjective. In the Punniest of Show, judges gore on a scale of 1 to 10, but who knows why! In Punslingers, any pun made within the 5 seconds accepted by the emcees, no matter how lame, will keep you going until your competitor chokes.

Do I need to practice?

Obviously it helps! Punning comes naturally and compulsively to many people. However, we have been taken by surprise by the rare contestant who has little or no experience in competitive wordplay. Even those who have never before stood in front of a microphone have been known to do well in this competition. That being said, our contest follows some very specific rules and you are far more likely to do well if you have a chance to get your feat wit first.  At the very least you should read the rules carefully and take time to watch some video clips on YouTube. See video pages under the History Menu.

Why are there 2 different contests?

While they both require and celebrate punning, these two contests tend to attract totally different types of word players. Yes, of course many people are skilled at both, but there are some of us who know our limitations and like to play to our strengths.

Punniest of Show is usually a collection of prepared and rehearsed material incorporating strings of puns and wordplay on a theme (the audience can get) performed within 90 seconds. Often it will feature costumes, props, music, and even multiple punsters. Our judge panel is “trained” to appreciate and reward true puns, but they tend to be more tolerant of fringe wordplay and mere double entendre in this event, especially with favorable audience groans.

The Punslingers competition is conducted as a tournament and requires improvised quips on a randomly selected topic. While it is possible to practice and rehearse for this event, it involves a tremendous amount of thinking on one’s feet and a very quick tongue. Not every pun perpetrator is able to summon up disgrace under fire.

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