Interview: Justin Golbabai

Justin is the second half of the Justin Golbabai-Kelly Dupen team. They came in second in Punniest of Show this year, after winning last year.

I asked them the same questions, although they prepared their answers separately.

Brian: My wife couldn’t make the Pun Off this year, so we watched the videos on Youtube. When watching yours, she immediately asked if I was sure you guys aren’t together. Ok, so what’s the truth?

Justin: Truth is we are good friends who share a love for puns. Kelly is one of the best punsters I know, and so the smartest thing I could do is team up with her for this competition. Given we’re a young, male-female team, the funniest thing for us to pun to is the pain and awkwardness that is relationships, dating, and finding love that will last. We find that this is a universal theme that everyone can relate to and connect with our characters. We worked really hard on developing good chemistry between the characters, so I’m flattered by the question.

Brian: Besides your denied, but obvious, love for each other, is there anything new in your lives?

Justin: Recently, I switched jobs within the City of Austin from being a Budget Analyst to working as an Urban Planner that focuses on Neighborhood Planning, and I’m still pursuing a career in City Management. Of course, after last years competition, trying to respond to the countless letters from adoring punsters has kept me up late many nights. I think that extra burden that came with last years championship distracted us from the task at hand, and the championship slipped through our fingers.

Brian: First place last year; second place this year. How to you reverse this disturbing back slide?

Justin: We’re going to have to review the film and make adjustments. Let’s just say it’s going to be an intense off-season preparing for next year. Ironically, we actually had a higher score this year than we did last year, the difference was the competition. There was a lot of great competition this year, and Gracie in particular did a great job.

Brian: Meats versus vegetables last year, and breakfast this year. Do I detect a food fetish?

Justin: What you detect is a deliberate decision to choose puns that are universal, that everyone knows what they are and can catch. Human beings are so different, but nothing unites us and brings us together quite like good food. We feel that a humorous and universal story that everyone can relate to, plus puns that are universal and easy to catch are a winning Punniest of Show formula.

Brian: Were there any puns you wanted to include, but didn’t (or couldn’t)?

Justin: It was a tough trying to balance the puns and the story. We worked really hard to try to get Eggs Benedict in there, as we were working on relating it to the Pope, but it just didn’t work. Also, I thought it would be easier to pun on some more names of cereals, but it proved a lot more difficult than we thought. It also was a bit tough, as we tried to group our puns this year (all egg puns stayed together, as did the pastry puns, coffee puns, and cereal puns) within the piece.

Brian: How did your preparation for the competition this year differ from last year?

Justin: Well there was definitely higher expectations this year. Last year we were brand new first-timers who just didn’t want to forget their lines on stage, while this year we were the reigning champs where not coming in first would be a disappointment. It was funny how we worked together because Kelly focused on the puns (if they made sense, how did they flow, etc.) while I was focused more on the story and whether the audience would connect to our characters. I feel that was a great balancing combination. We also talked a lot about how the audience would know we were doing a monologue at the end, and our friends suggested doing a Save By The Bell Zach Morris style “Time Out.” So we focused more on our body language and acting this year as a result.

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