In the backroom of the second floor of Busby’s sports bar on Wilshire, seats saturate every space, all centered on a small stage which is home to a single mic stand. The bar in the back is working at capacity trying to keep up with the demanding crowd of alcoholics. Restless people congregate, staving off their social awkwardness with beer and curly fries. This is no drinking nor eating competition. This is no fight club and yet the room is the site of a death match. A no-holds-barred, winner-takes-all battle to the death with no rules or regulation. Just words. This is Literary Death Match.
Todd Zuniga and Megan Neurunger graciously host the event, which is comprised of one part standup comedy and two parts literary wit. They provide direction and jest wherever possible in this anarchistic formatted performance.
The judges, which rotate at every event, include Hannibal Buress (@HannibalBuress), Rachel Bloom (RachelDoesStuff.com), and Brendon Walsh (@BrendonWalsh). The three respectively assess literary merit, performance, and “intangibles”. Contributing dry and random observational humor in their decision making, the combined writing merit of the three makes up for their lack of improvised humor.
The readers, or gladiators, are selected by Todd, who in addition to being its founding father, curates LDM. Ned Vizzini, Steve Abee, Antonia Crane, and Michelle Haimoff face off in this month’s event. Chosen at random, the four readers are pitted against one another in two rounds consisting of seven minute readings from their latest published piece of literature. They range from shocking, sexy, violent, funny, crowd-pleasing, and often boring. In the end, it is the three judges who decide who will advance and who be thrown to the dogs.
In this match, LA local Antonia Crane beats out Michelle Haimoff with her seductively shocking first person “fiction”. Ned Vizzini’s adolescent oriented texts win over Steve Abee’s drug fueled introspective narrative, both of which are quite elaborate and you should be reading right now (after you finish catching up on all of the latest UVSF articles, of course). In the end, a chaotic audience participation round of literary Pictionary takes place, where team Antonia and team Ned draw the titles of the top 100 novels and everyone else shouts out the answers. Ned won with To Kill a Mockingbird in a 3/2 match from the help of yours truly; Antonia is subsequently killed.
This international event brings literary devices and author knowledge to every major city around the globe, ringing in reading and berating the books. Not without its slower and sleeper segments, the entire show is roller coaster of entertainment. A true asset to a society where most would rather watch TV than read, Literary Death Match is an event that any conscious mind can, and should, get into.