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LA, Ep. 40

January 21, 2016 — Literary Death Match kicked off our 2016 at Largo at the Coronet on an exceptionally high note in what will go down as an instant classic. The wild, pitch-perfect night finished with Shihan Van Clief outdueling  Carmiel Banasky in a wily Literary Charades finale to win Van Clief the LDM LA, Ep. 40 crown.

But before the finale was even a thought, the brilliant night kicked off with Aline Ohanesian, award-nominated author of Orhan's Inheritance, an Amazon Top 20 book of 2015, who went off-novel to tell the tale of a giant and giantess. Next up was Carmiel Banasky, author of The Suicide of Claire Bishop, who followed suite by going off-novel, as she read a short piece about a woman's interaction with the body of a dead pelican that she found on the beach .

Then the mic was turned over to the gob-smackingly bright and hilarious trio of all-star judges: Alex Borstein, Emmy-nominated actress of Family Guy's Lois Griffin; co-star of Getting On; Danny Pudi, comedian and actor (Abed Nadir on the NBC/Yahoo!'s Community); and Ron Funches, comedian (The Funches of Us), actor (NBC's Undateable), 14x @midnight winner. The three heaped praise and witticisms upon each author before huddling up and making the night's first impossible decision, naming Banasky the night's first finalist.

Then came Round 2, led off by Fred Stoller, actor (Gerard on Everybody Loves Raymond amongst so many other) and comedian, who had the crowd in throes as he read a dazzling excerpt from his hilarious memoir Maybe We'll Have You Back. Finally, Shihan Van Clief, poet (featured on Def Poetry Jam) and host of Da Poetry Lounge's weekly open mic, energetically delivered a pair of staggering poems, the last of which dealt with police harassment from different points of view.

Again the mic was handed off to the judges, with each lauding both writers in all ways while also delivering loads of wisecracks before huddling up, then making the night's second impossible decision, announcing Van Clief as the night's second finalist.

Then up stepped LDM creator Adrian Todd Zuniga who announced the night's finale: Literary Charades, bringing up LDM LA producer Hannah Settle  to lead the LDM Players — a three-person charades team who acted out the titles from Oscar-nominated adapted screenplays while Banasky and Van Clief guessed the answers, with help from the audience. After Banasky leapt to an early lead, Van Clief stormed back. And with everything to play for, Van Clief sung out the final answer, winning him the Literary Death Match LA, Ep. 40 crown, and literary immortality to go with it.