Puns: a staple of dad jokes everywhere. When not being used by adults to annoy teenagers, they're typically looked down upon.
"Puns are often referred to as the lowest form of humor, which I don't agree with," Annica Eagle says. "It just takes a degree of playfulness which we have in abundance here in Spokane."
This mentality led Eagle to form the Punderground, the area's premier punning competition. Since October 2016, the bimonthly event draws a crowd to Boots Bakery & Lounge. Matt Dargen, known for constantly making it to the finals, enjoys the challenge of crafting puns out of thin air.
"It really pushes me to this point of wracking my brain to try to make these connections," Dargen says. "And the longer you try to come up with them, the more you find these really contrived ways of still playing by the rules."
While Dargen's puns may be good, Eagle's skills are the best in Spokane.
Growing up, Eagle says she hated the corny puns her dad would make. It wasn't until adulthood that Eagle started to realize that she actually enjoyed puns. In fact, she was quite good at them. After some encouragement from friends, Eagle decided to look for a pun competition. She found the O.Henry Pun-Off World Championships held annually in Texas.
Eagle's competed the past three years. In 2017 her pun-ridden letter to Congress about the vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act won her the title of third most-punniest person in the world. This May, her speech filled with name-based puns on accused #MeToo sexual predators got a standing ovation. Eagle was awarded Most Valuable Punster, voted on by all those who compete.
"The hallmark of a true pun is that it's very much in the moment," Eagle says, "and just really captures what's happening in that conversation."
Dargen enjoys the creativity of the Punderground competition, and how everyone is there to have fun.
"My favorite moments in the show are the ones where everyone in the room knows it was a valid pun, but it was so weird, so out there, that there's this collective groan," he says.
The Punderground has grown so popular that it has expanded to include an adults-only competition. Punderground: After Dark is held bimonthly at the Observatory.
"Every year when I come back from the Pun-Off World Championships, I'm extra inspired about our punning community here in Spokane," Eagle says, "and how much I want to see it grow."♦
The Punderground • Thu, June 7 at 7 pm • Free • All ages • Boots Bakery & Lounge • 24 W. Main • facebook.com/thepunderground
Editor's Note: The print version of this story was confusing as to Eagle's MVP win at the national championship. It's been corrected for clarity online.