By day, the jokes revered at Punderdome 3000 are more likely to earn a groan from the next cubicle than a standing ovation.
But for the contestants in a monthly pun competition at Littlefield, a performance space and bar in Brooklyn, forming puns is a spigot they can’t turn off. They are artists who never before had a stage. And in their everyday lives, not everyone appreciates their talent.
“It’s less like telling a joke and more like lancing a boil,” an actor and playwright calling himself Jerzy (Do Pun to Others) Gwiazdowski said of the typical response to his pun habit.
On Wednesday night at Littlefield, an audience of about 400 people shared their love of wordplay. At the beginning of each round, groups of four to six contestants were given a category and 90 seconds to conjure as many related puns as they could. They then performed them one by one, with the top finishers, as gauged by crowd response, advancing.
Jo Firestone, a Brooklyn-based comedian and producer, created the show two years ago and hosts it with her father, Fred Firestone, a Rodney Dangerfield impersonator who flies in from St. Louis for it every month. It’s one of several events she produces that involve the audience. “Most of my shows focus on highlighting different weirdos around the city,” Ms. Firestone said.
Here are a few examples of those weirdos. Fair warning: They may make you cringe.
In a round about poisonous things, Rekha (Punky Brewster) Shankar, a video editor for NBC, told this story about a man: “I noticed something was wrong with his eye. It was very black. I took him to the doctor and the doctor freaked out and was like, ‘Have you been hanging out around coal mines?’ And he was like, “Yeah, I have been.’ And then the doctor goes, ‘Eeeeee, coal eye!”
Later she added: “I am a little out of my element, but I’m doing asbestos I can.”
Tim (Forest Wittyker) Donnelly, a reporter for The New York Post, said: “I hate people who don’t have all their digits. I am lack-toes intolerant.”
On pastries, Frederic Clark, a graduate student at Princeton University, said: “My name normally is Glutton for Punishment, but given this round I might have to change it to Gluten for Punishment. Did that Celiac the deal for you?”
On internal organs, Richy Salgado of the Punder Twins said to his cousin Joe Salgado: “Do you remember back in grade school — I can’t recall, it’s in my recent mammary — but the teacher yelled at us because one of us did it. So she got the both of us and she’s like, ‘Did you or your fellow pee in the tube?’”
On babies, Mr. Gwiazdowski said: “There’s a guy in the back there. He’s not really digging my puns tonight and he’s cold as well. So he’s sitting back there like, ‘Grrrrr. Brrrrr.’ ”
On rappers, David (Puntouchable) Pepose said: “I actually went to a hip-hop themed restaurant because I’m a notorious P.I.G.”
Noah (Noah Constrictor) Klinger, in a round about the New York mayoral race, said this after making a joke about “Dinkin Donuts”: “I don’t know if we can really afford to be blasé-o about this whole thing. It’s really important. We’re searching high and Liu for candidates.”
Ms. Shankar, the night’s winner, said: “The Punderdome is a really Quinn-tessential event for Brooklyn.”
Maybe you had to be there.
The contestants struggled most with the New York mayoral campaign, and few people in the audience caught the reference to former Mayor David Dinkins. But City Room readers are, we are certain, a different breed. So we ask you: What puns can you offer on the mayoral race? Please leave them in the comments field below.