Puns: You love them or hate them. Not much middle ground there. But the folks who love the art of the pun love it quite a bit, so much so that there are actually pun competitions all over the world. In fact, Brooklyn’s home to Punderdome 3000, whose September installment happens tonight at Littlefield at 7:30 p.m. We spoke to Punderdome 3000 creator and co-host Jo Firestone about what makes a good pun and got her uncut opinions on some of the best/worst puns in music history.
What was the genesis of Punderdome?
We started a little over two years ago. I produce a lot of comedy game shows around Brooklyn and at the time I was doing this procedure, which I wouldn’t recommend, where I would book a venue and then figure out what to do with it because at the time I was so excited to get space in New York City. The people at Southpaw said I could use their basement, and my boss at the time had spent sometime in Austin at the O Henry Pun-Off. I realized we could do a pun competition here in Brooklyn and it would probably be great because Brooklyn is filled with wordy people and nerdy people. We’ve done it just about every month and this is going to be our 29th Punderdome.
Why do you think it’s found such an audience?
I think there’s something engrained in us where we hate puns but secretly we love them a little bit. I know a lot of people outwardly hate puns, but if you heard one you might giggle a little bit. It’s like making fun of the words we use everyday and it celebrates this nerdiness and dad humor that everyone at their worst or their best has inside them. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t said a pun, and when you say it, you’re really proud of it. I feel like what’s great about Punderdome is that it forms this community for one night a month because people take it seriously. They cheer for people they really like and won’t for people they don’t. My dad [co-host Fred Firestone] calls it a spectator sport. I feel it really is the least ironic thing I’ve ever done. It’s such a silly event and people get so into it. I don’t see a lot of places where a majority of Brooklynites get super into something, and they’re screaming about puns. I think it’s in large part to my Dad co-hosting it because there’s a person who looks like a Dad making “Dad Jokes” that says “oh, this is for real.”
And you also have the music of DJ Mikey.
He comes every month, he used to be my roommate and plays only oldies according to my Dad’s requests. For some reason, we keep getting listed with New York’s Top DJed Parties or Biggest Nightlife Parties. We’re clearly not a party. There is original music, my Dad created this techno beat and announcer to kind of do what they do at the WWE before every show. It’s six minutes long and an original track, so you can check that out at Punderdome if you’re looking for cool new music.
What makes for a good pun?
The element of surprise and I think if you can get really bold with it and make it work, that’s a really exciting pun. And it has to make sense. At Punderdome, you can do these things and it doesn’t have to make sense, so long as you’re confident and saying it, people will love you for it.
On the next page, we asked Jo for her opinions on some of music’s most notorious puns and whether or not they would be Punderdome-worthy.
REO Speedwagon – You Can Tune a Piano, But You Can’t Tuna Fish
I give it a medium. I guess because, there’s that element of surprise, but it doesn’t make sense to me as a sentence.
Salt N Pepa – A Salt With a Deadly Pepa
I would put that one below [REO Speedwagon]. I like them using the words again, but I don’t know what a “deadly Pepa” is. I bet you could get away with saying “Pepon.” Maybe not.
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californication
Californication is the pun? That’s so funny. I guess I’ve heard that word so many times since the album it doesn’t really sound like a pun anymore. But, I guess it is a pun. Yeah, I give it points for making it in pop culture as a regular word. Points for being sneaky.
See also: The Six Coolest Members of Otherwise Uncool Bands
Blink 182 – Take Off Your Pants and Jacket
Oh, that’s a good one. That’s a pretty good pun because it works both ways. That’s what really knocks them out of the park, that’s amazing.
It can fly completely under the radar, and as someone who went to a private Catholic grade school, it allows for plausible deniability when an adult finds the record.
Perfect. That’s the best use of a pun – plausible deniability.
Will Smith – Willenium
Yeah? Alright. That’s a little self-serving, but I’ll give it. Why not take advantage of being named Will?
Big Pun – Capital Punishment
That’s great. That’s just great. Amen. It works, he set himself up and knocked it out of the park.