Benjamin Ziek is good at coming up with puns quickly. Very quickly. In his rookie Pun Off in 2009, he came in 2nd in Punslingers. Then he won in 2010.
He defended his title in 2011.
This is our second interview with Ben. We first interviewed him a year ago, after his 2010 Punslingers win.
Brian: Anything new in the personal life? Have you managed to sell a TV game show yet?
Ben: My friends and I have officially created Ineligible Productions to create and produce game shows. This coming Memorial Day weekend, we are attending a gaming convention, where we are going to tape two of our original ideas. We are going to shop these around with the hopes of selling one or both. We’ve also started Home Game Enterprizes, which produces game show parties for home, corporations, organizations, etc. We have our first gig in June. I am still working at the Marriott hotel, but hopefully one of these new ventures will take off, allowing me the freedom to leave that job.
Brian: You were 2nd in Punslingers in 2009, and 1st in 2010. Are you disappointed that you didn’t improve in 2011?
Ben: Not at all. In fact I believe I did improve this year. I mean, first is first, but the caliber of contenders this year was so much higher than last, it made it more difficult to claim the win. Plus, I was in two, 3-way rounds. You need to be really alert during those, as there is an increased chance of repeating a pun. There is always an element of luck in Punslingers, as far as which category is selected. One of the categories that I did not get this year was “space travel.” I believe if I had gotten that, I wouldn’t have lasted long.
Brian: Did you do anything different when preparing for the competition this year?
Ben: Not really. I asked some of the winners, “Does it ever turn off for you,” referring to the urge to make puns all the time. They all said verbally yes, but mentally, no. That’s how I feel as well. We see things differently than people who don’t pun. So the training is always occurring.
Brian: Were their any puns you wish you had included this year, but didn’t think of at the time (or in time)?
Ben: This year, the skill level of the contestants was so high that I was forced to use what I could think of then and there. Now, when I’m on the stage and I hear the topic, I try to immediately come up with two puns. One that I can use instantly, and another which I can save for later if necessary. The only round in which I still had that backup was on the subject of “death.” I was prepared to say, “This is tough. Maybe we should dirge this topic.” Not a great pun, but still available if I had needed it.
Brian: If I’m doing the math correctly, you were fourth in Punniest of Show, making you one of the few that did well in both. Why do you think you’re able to do well in both competitions?
Ben: I was supremely surprised that I did as well as I did in Punniest of Show. I’ve tried it for the last two years, and my highest score was 29/40. To tell the truth, I wasn’t even very confident of my routine this year, even though my friends said it was my best so far. Doing well in both competitions isn’t easy. Punsters have a mental rolodex from which they can pull the puns, but some people are great writers, and some are better in the moment. I am the latter. For me, in Punniest of Show, I write puns on a topic that I know well. However, the difficult part is finding a story to connect and work in those puns.
Brian: Do you prefer one over the other?
Ben: Although I love the challenge of writing for Punniest of Show, the Punslingers competition is what first drew my eye to the Pun-Off. To me, it increases the excitement and energy, and also the creativity of the puns. It forces you to think on your feet. Punslingers is almost like a game show to me, and as a game show fan, it’s the top!