Gracie Deegan won Punniest of Show at the 2011 O. Henry Pun Off. Not bad for a first attempt! Her skit punned the Middle East.
Gracie was born and raised in Abilene, Texas the “big” city in the “Big Country” out in West Texas. She says it was a pretty mundane town, so word games were a good way to pass time. Her mother, an English teacher, instilled a love of words and reading at an early age.
Brian: What do you do when you’re not winning Pun-Off competitions?
Gracie: When I’m not partaking in pun-offery, I work at Whole Foods Market as a Concierge (personal shopper) and Cashier. I do a lot of reading, puzzles, sewing, and hanging around with my main man and my noisy cat. I love, love, love to cook, and sometimes I pretend that I clean the house, but mostly I just do the other stuff I already mentioned.
Brian: When did you first become interested in puns?
Gracie: My dad is the king of “Dad Humor,” so I more than likely got the pun bug from him. He is always making these wild puns that no one else in the world would ever imagine. We also played a lot of Scattegories, Taboo, Boggle, Scrabble — lots of word-centric games that make your mind stretch in a linguistic way.
Brian: How did you first learn about the Pun Off?
Gracie: Years ago (I was still in high school, so probably around 2002 or 2003), I stumbled upon a mention of the Pun-Off, possibly on the City of Austin website. My father and I thought it sounded groovy, but we forgot about it or never made it to Austin or both. Last year, however, I ran across another mention in the Chronicle. It was taking place on May 22, which is the day between my and my sister’s birthdays, so my parents were planning to be in town for that. I figured that the Pun-Off would be a most excellent father-daughter expedition, so we went and saw the Punslingers battle it out last year. We missed the Punniest of Show portion of this punniest of shows, but had a great time nonetheless. So I decided then and there that I would enter in 2011, and then we drove home punslinging on American Indians and Trees. I think it’s worth noting here that my father and I are really the only two people in our family who find ourselves, and excessive punning in general, funny. That’s why it was such a sweet sight to see my mother, sister, brothers, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and many friends join us at the Pun-Off on saturday. I guess to get them all to enjoy puns I just have to get on a stage and pun into a microphone. Well, mission accomplished! I got my whole family to go to the O’Henry Pun-Off!
Brian: What inspired you to pun about the Middle East (other than the obvious, because it’s in the news constantly)?
Gracie: Originally, the Middle East was not my plan. I had worked on several Punniest of Show bits on States and Cities, Baby Names, and Downtown Austin. I wasn’t happy with any of them. Then one night I was walking to Fresh Plus when a firestorm, so to speak, of puns started going through my head. I returned home, sat down with my notebook, and wrote out most of what you heard on Saturday. A few puns got added later (the 2 Osama Bin Laden ones, for example, due to obvious current events), but the majority of it was written that night. I even got out an Atlas (very old-fashioned, I know) to make sure I was using as many places as I could. I guess the reason I think it is a good topic, besides the fact that it’s actually topical, is that there are so many facets to Middle Eastern culture and geography that can be used, and a lot of unfamiliar sounds and combinations of sounds to the English language, which makes it more fun and challenging to connect it and pun on it.
Brian: Were there any puns you wanted to include, but didn’t?
Gracie: I tried really hard to fit OPEC in, but every place I dropped it in just seemed crude. I also thought that “lebanonymous” was really funny because it is just so goofy, but where to use it remained unknown. Also, “rubbing sultan our wounds” really pained me to leave out.
Brian: How much time did you spend preparing for the competition?
Gracie: As far as preparation, besides actually writing the piece, I just memorized it (which is easy to do if it’s something you’ve written, or at least that’s how my brain works), then recited it over and over in the shower, while brushing my teeth, or while driving. I met with a comedian friend of mine so he could give me pointers on delivery, but really the only pointer he had was “good delivery, Gracie.” Still, I guess it’s nice to get the confidence boost! And as far as the Punslingers prep went, I basically just challenged myself (again, typically while showering, brushing my teeth, and driving) to come up with puns on any subject that popped into my head. Oh, and the night before the Pun-Off my brothers and I sat around until 3 in the morning drinking wine and punning. You know, a last-minute brain workout/mass brain cell homicide. A lot of wine was consumed.