As you can imagine, there are two ways a pun-off battle can go, either horribly wrong or wrong.
Fortunately, the whole thing involves some stellar comedians and experienced performers and improvisers, so it all goes only wrong. Which is great, because it is the late show at Understudy [the Bats Out-of-Site cabaret lounge space by the bar], where everyone knows everyone and the whole thing plays out like a rather sophisticated, well-organised drinking game.
As we all drink, the puns get worse and conversely, more funny.
Comedians Jonny Potts, Gerard Paapu, Tito and Sam Smith are all given ample time to prepare jokes between rounds of wildly furious instant punning, as all performers from the Improv Festival are quickly eliminated. The three finalists are Rik Brown, Matt Powell and Jimmy Donovan.
I am saddened that the women go out almost immediately. Are we not as good at punning on the spot, or is it to do with the first round being Schwarznegger-themed and we're just not as well-versed in Arnie films?
The ‘professionals' then take to the stage for a prepared round of ‘nice yo mama jokes', in honour of Women's Suffrage Day of course. “Your mama's so angelic she calls Los Angeles the city of me.” “Your mama's so tech savvy she sends you letters through TCP so she knows that you got them.”
Partially judged for quantity, points can also be awarded for quality if audience members let off a party popper during the set. Jennifer O'Sullivan, playing the charming Thea Saurus in a dragon costume, tallies the pops.
While the four comedians frantically scribble notes for their next turn, the instant death battles between all improvisers carry on, with Wellingtonians seeming to stay in the longest. Perhaps it's something about playing on your home turf, in front of all your friends.
A highlight for me is a series of “99 miniature cows walk into a bar …” jokes, purely for the absurdity and cuteness of the imagery.
Incidental music is provided by Robbie Ellis as Stevie Punder on keyboard and trombone (what?), whose sense of musical comedic timing and delivery is impeccable. And if you ever want someone to facilitate ANY kind of high-end drinking game in the bar ever again, Hilaire Carmody's Madame Pandemonium comes highly recommended, and I will be there.
At 11pm, I don't want to think too hard: drunken puns are just fine.
Following its success in the NZ Improv Festival, Pundemonium returns to a packed house of delighted pun-fanatics. Hostesses, Madame Pundemonium (Hilaire Carmody) and Thea Saurus (Jen O'Sullivan), gather the enthused 10.30pm crowd and lay out the rules.
There are two interwoven competitions: one for The Improvisors and one for the Comedians. One of each group will be crowned Pun King / Pun Queen. Carmody and O'Sullivan hand out party poppers to audience members for when a “spectacular pun” may leave one a tad over-excited. Any release of poppers grants the comedian /improviser bonus points.
The audience are given permission to come onstage to get any puns they've been stowing away, off their chest. Those shared largely aren't actually puns but we all cheer them regardless.
Competing for the Comedians' crown tonight are Jonny Potts, Dan Shenton (who admits that he doesn't know what a pun is), Sanjay Parbhu, Gerard Paapu and Neil Sinclair (who claims to have won a silver medal for puns in London).
The Improvisors provide about 15 members of their group to battle in “sudden death” style rounds. Their first challenge is to finish the joke “a (blank) walked into a bar”. They're at a loss as to why a panda would walk into a bar and bearly a third are left on stage.
The comedians are tasked to deliver as many “Yo' Daddy” jokes as possible around their given theme. The first party popper of the night bursts at Sanjay Parbhu's “Your daddy's so literate he doesn't urinate – he onomatopoeias.” Sanjay's taken a risk in delivering his puns with a faux-American accent, channelling Mr T. I pity the fool as it overpowers his diction and we miss some of his puns.
The audience's most loved pun is Gerard Paapu's “Your daddy's so strong he doesn't have triceps – it's do or do not, there is no tri.” After adding up the scores we say goodbye to Sanjay and Dan who are rewarded gold star stickers for their efforts.
For their next assignment, The Improvisers channel CSI's Caruso (sunglasses provided) and deliver murder-victim puns. A waitress who “got served” is met with a groan but the crowd eats up Greg Ellis's “Menu (Men knew) her – one of them killed her.”
In the ingeniously titled ‘Poppadum Preach', the remaining comedians pen restaurant names using puns related to pop-culture. Gerard Paapu is first to take the plate and leaves the crowd hungry for more with “You Can Go Your Own Huevos Rancheros.”
Neil gets cooking with “Game Meats of Thrones” but his “Chris-Pizza-Rea” doesn't quite cut the mustard for tonight's audience. Jonny Potts serves up Vegetarian, “You Can't Curry Lamb” and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Mangoes”.
The Improvisers are whittled down to Ian Harcourt, Greg Ellis, Olly Probert and Hayley Webster who compete in “Punderdrone”, jousting puns until they are buzzed. After the buzzers are maxed, finalists Greg Ellis and Olly Probert shape puns into pickup lines. Greg Ellis forfeits, relenting “I've been married for ten years – I've got nothing.”
In the Comedians' final round, punning for the crown are Gerard Paapu and Jonny Potts who must work in as many themed puns into a speech as possible. Gerard's “dog breed” puns come up short-haired to Jonny Potts' “Girl's names” who Winnies the crown 22-12.
Pundemonium is not only great fun but also a punderful opportunity to see our local comic talent share the stage.