High Lies & Low Puns
The Great World Pun-Off Competition
Screenplay by Alan Nafzger
A small-town Texas girl finds herself in the World Pun Off Competition.
A small-town Texas girl in search of a better life discovers an untapped skill for puns that might just take her farther than she ever expected. This is a contemporary romantic comedy. Rose grew up the daughter of a cantankerous farmer. Upon turning 18, Rose looks at the life laid out before her, and longs for something more. Throwing caution to the wind, she ventures to Austin, and applies for a secretarial job at a low-profile publishing company run by Louis. Fumbling her way through the interview, Rose fails to impress her potential new boss until she reveals herself to be an incredible punster. Impressed, Louis declares that the job is hers, but only if she can take the top prize at an upcoming pun-off competition. Determined to succeed, Rose begins training with Louis as her coach. In no time she’s punning faster than ever before, but once love enters the picture Rose realizes there is much more at stake than a simple job. Meanwhile, as the national and international contests approach, sheltered Rose finds that romance and competition don’t always make the friendliest bedfellows.
Sour-seeming Louis should come off as less than engaging, that’s due more to my conception of the character. He is a failed writer turned publisher. Rose falls for him long before he reciprocates, which leaves him feeling oddly withdrawn and recessive. Is it because he’s become obsessed with being the girl’s coach at the expense of all else, or does he harbor some problematic secret that makes him commitment-phobic? Actually it’s more the latter, a secret that involves his best friends, an successful New York born writer married to a Texas girl whom Louis has known since childhood.
This script has a delay of as long as possible before the big romantic breakthrough, all the way, in fact, to the point where Rose is in a packed London auditorium facing the loose-lipped international competators and a British man who’s already won the world championship twice, as word fanatics around the world listen in.
In the end, though, the pun off contest can’t undermine its emotional finale, which serves up the expected pay-offs for devotees of romantic-comedies and writer movies alike.
RULES FOR THE CONTEST
For the purpose of the pun off competition and judging, a two-fold definition of a proper pun has been adopted by our fictional contest. The first and most common form presented is wordplay using homonyms that deliberately exploits ambiguity between similar-sounding words for humorous or rhetorical effect. The second accepted type of pun is a lesser used form of euphemism or double entendre, where an alternate meaning is suggested for a word for comedic effect.
The High-Lies & Low Puns competition consists of no more than four rounds of single-elimination heats. For each preliminary round, two contestants at a time will be called onto the stage (a pairing), at which point they will be given a topic drawn at random. The contestant with the lowest entry number will have five seconds to deliver a pun on this topic. The other contestant then has five seconds to respond with another pun on the same topic.
Puns may not be made on the same word within the same context during a topic. A contestant who violates this rule will receive a “strike” and will be given another five seconds to come up with a valid pun that has not been used during the pairing. Punsters who deliver puns that are determined invalid by the judging panel (i.e. non-puns) are also given a strike and another five seconds to conjure a valid pun.
In the pun off competition, contestants continue trading puns until a contestant is eliminated, either by exceeding the allotted five seconds or after three strikes. The survivor of each pairing advances to the next round.
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