Three microphones sat in the corner of a very crowded room. The words “a place for people without a place” were written on the wall behind them. All of the wooden tables were full, leaving no room to sit. I stood against the wall looking for a seat along with five or six others.
At the end of every month, Books & Brews on Mass. Ave. hosts a “Punpocolypse” event where comedians, both professional and amateur, compete to make the audience laugh with their best puns. I wasn’t expecting a large crowd at the event because of the dangerously cold temperatures, but when my boyfriend and I walked into the reception room adjacent from the bar, there was not a single place for us to sit. As soon as the first round began, I could understand why.
In the first round, those who signed up to compete picked a number from a sheet of paper, one through 46. The number revealed a category about which each participant had to make puns for 60 seconds. Some of the categories included celebrities, medicine (excluding body parts), religion, math and physics and anthropology. After the competitors’ minute was up, three judges would give them a score out of ten.
The format of each subsequent round was a variation of the first, eliminating all of the contestants but four by the end. In some rounds, the contestants would make puns according to a randomly selected a scenario and category. These rounds were my favorite, simply because the outcomes of the puns were funnier than just picking a category. An example of the scenarios included a bit called “This Just In” where the contestants would act as if they were reporting breaking news. These selected categories added an element that was lacking during the round where just categories were used to make puns. It seemed that the competitors had an easier time making puns when they would have a scenario added.
My personal favorite scenario was called “Check Please.” During the last round, when contestants faced off with the judges, an audience member volunteered to be an angry customer who wanted his check. Before each joke, the audience member had to say: “Check please, I didn’t order [insert category here] with my meal.” The audience involvement and the limitations to jokes set by the scenario added a comedic element to the competition.
Another one of my favorite parts about the competition was the audience involvement in between rounds. Audience members were given a category and encouraged to write their own best puns on a piece of paper. The judges would then choose their favorite audience-written pun, and the best won a gift card to Books & Brews.
The entire competition was fun and light-hearted, with the exception of a couple of edgier jokes. While there were many jokes that I loved, the thing I liked the most about the competition was the sense of belonging and camaraderie in the room. As silly as it sounds, I felt so comfortable being in that room surrounded by strangers who were enjoying the same thing that I was.
The entire night was just one big nostalgic episode for me. Nobody in that room felt like a stranger. Everyone in the room was engaged with the show and with each other. I didn’t see a phone in sight, it was all genuine human interaction. Even those who weren’t watching the show in the other room were still engaged in conversation.
Not to mention that the food was also excellent. I ordered the Oliver Twist, which was just a pretzel with beer cheese. My boyfriend ordered The Hatchet, a flatbread with grilled chicken, bacon and cheese and a special red sauce. The red sauce, without exaggeration, may have been the best thing that I have ever tasted. It held the perfect balance of barbeque and tomato. Because it was crowded, we had to sit at the bar, but that only added to the sense of welcoming.
The service that we received at the bar was excellent. The bartender continuously joked with my boyfriend and I about the competition and conversed with us about a wide variety of subjects. I left the bar feeling like I had made a new friend.
My first experience at Books & Brews was a remarkable one to say the least. I haven’t stopped telling my friends about my experience. I hope to make their monthly “Punpocalpyse” a tradition between my friends and I so that they can enjoy it in the same way that I did. It is a fun event for everyone.