A dog I once knew loved a stuffed chicken toy. He carried that chicken toy everywhere. It was a love that had no rational foundation, and like many instances of true love, anyone outside of that relationship was at a complete loss to explain it.
But it was a pure love. Witnessing this love made me happy. Happy enough to overlook the fact that the chicken — which, I will remind you, spent all of its time being slobbered over by a dog that rarely brushed its teeth — was filthy and torn and gross, and I guess it was smelly, too, but if you looked at it you wouldn’t instantly think “I need to get closer to that chicken and then take in a good whiff of that.”
If there’s one man on this planet who can understand the love between the dog and that chicken, it’s Andy Zaltzman (co-host of The Bugle podcast). He has this same relationship with the concept of puns.
To Zaltzman, a pun is like a broken bottle in the street. The whole world regards these things as a nuisance at minimum, a hazard at worst, and wishes they’d all just disappear. Puns, we all recognize, are a menace to the public peace. Zaltzman is the crazy man who keeps scooping these things up and carefully pocketing them, after examining them with great interest and delight.
It seems like an unhealthy relationship. But only when you see him fondling a single pun. When he assembles a whole chain of them into an epic pun-run, you sense that perhaps he sees something to this jangle of crusty artery-piercers that has escaped the rational world.
And when two whole hours of his puns are cut together? Then the bizarre genius of Andy Zaltzman’s puns finally assumes a recognizable shape. He has been carrying these things to an empty lot in the desert and building a massive towering cathedral of shimmering multicolored facets. His puns are individual pieces of junk that achieve a sort of grandeur when assembled on a monumental scale.
It’s beautiful. Not just the thing itself, but also the evidence of a brain that could maintain such a commitment to such a thing over such a consistent span of years. Though I don’t condone the use of puns in the hands of the casual dabbler, when manipulated by a master who takes such raw glee in their construction and deployment, respect must be paid.
Do pray for the soul and sanity of Zaltzman’s brother-in-Bugling, John Oliver. You and I have the freedom to stop and start Andy’s puns whenever we wish. Poor John can’t…though Lord knows, he and the show’s producers do keep on trying.