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Chicago, Ep. 6

June 7, 2011 — In a stand-up-and-cheer finale for the ages at The HideoutIan Belknap was clutch when it mattered, slam-dunking a picture of Max Brod to win a dramatic, basketball-style game of Down with Book Burners!, outsniping co-finalist Samantha Irby 5-4 to win the Literary Death Match crown. 

But before the first book burner was vanquished into a crumpled ball, the night kicked off with editor/director/scribe/genius Johanna Stein (creator of Sorority Sluts 3: Spring Break! (The Outtakes)), up against Irby (of bitches gotta eat fame). Stein was masterful as the opener, reading her version of a high school commencement speech about, ultimately, not being an asshole. Then Irby followed, the crowd wildly roaring from her first word, with an eye-opening tale of her trying to fellate a "midget." 

The mic was then passed to the trio of all-star judges: Claire Zulkey (author of An Off Year), Schadenfreude co-creator and otherwise brilliant humorist Kate James, and man/myth interneteer Steve Gadlin (founder of Blewt! productions). The trio loved Stein's acrobatic flexibility (she laid on her back and folded herself in half during her performance), and all praised Irby's unending boldness. After a long deliberation, the judges finally came to a consensus, announcing that Irby would go on as the night's first finalist. 

Then co-host Dennis DiClaudio introduced Round 2, welcoming up author/editor/host Amy Guth (author of Three Fallen Women) who led off against comedic do-it-all Ian Belknap (Wide Open Beaver Shot of My Heart: A Comedy With a Body Count). Guth fantastically performed the tale of her botched meeting of Morrissey. Then up stepped Belknap, who read his letter to Nell Newman (Paul's) daughter, asking for money from his foundation to support sponsored performance art pieces. 

The mic was again handed to the judges, who loved everything about Guth — from story to shoes — and gloriously praised Belknap's hilarity (and that he had written a story about a man writing a letter in Kinkos that was actually just him), and after another impossible decision decided to advance Belknap as the night's second finalist. 

For the finale, LDM creator Todd Zuniga invited Belknap and Irby to center stage, where they were each handed five photographs of book burnings, along with a photograph of Max Brod (the man who wouldn't burn Kafka's work once he died). Each finalist was asked to crumple the book burners and fire them through the Literary Death Match-backboarded basketball hoop, with the first one to five then asked to slam dunk the picture of non-book burner Brod through the hoop to declare victory. Belknap was hot early, scoring two early buckets, but then Irby turned on the jets tying it at three. With the competition at four buckets a piece, Belknap snapped off a rim-riding shot that sunk, after which he immediately grabbed Brod's photo, smashed it up and slammed it through the hoop for literature's ultimate victory. Belknap was crowned the winner of Chicago sixth-ever Literary Death Match, and literary immortality was all his. 

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