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SF, Ep. 29

May 14, 2010 — The tension was palpable and the competition fierce at the Elbo Room in San Francisco. Some say writers are mathematically challenged. Not poet Randall Mann, who narrowly beat Matthew Zapruder in a thrilling Showcase Showdown, á la The Price Is Right.

Co-hosts Elissa Bassist and Tracy Clark-Flory (, armed with squirt guns and sass, warned contestants (and any audience member who didn't laugh at their jokes) that they wouldn't leave the stage dry that night. No one was safe . . . except maybe literary merit judge Andrew Leland (the Believer), whose extemporaneous pseudo-erotic flash fiction earned him immunity).

Co-hosts Elissa Bassist and Tracy Clark-Flory, armed. Click to see more partying shots.

Mayhem broke out immediately in round one, with a brutal smattering of words from the brawny Jeremy Hatch (, who told an excerpted tale of Mediterranean intrigue and octopus pot pie. It was obvious to all that Hatch had come for glory and honor. He was met by the mighty Randall Mann (Breakfast with Thom Gunn), who read poems about love affairs between 10-year-olds, cockroaches in Orlando, and Anne Sexton action figures. Judges Leland, Emily Heller, and Bucky Sinister (Get Up: 12 Step Recovery for Misfits, Freaks, and Weirdos) voted for cockroaches. 

While the judges deliberated in round one, the Death Match turned into a love match when two audience members were picked to have a date onstage; little did they know they'd be the focus of the final round. Will they get married? No one can be sure. But everyone can hope.  

In the second round Braden Marks came out swinging with a one-act play, replete with actors and narration, on the nature of ignorance and bigotry and the joys of the prostate in the modern age. Marks, a burgeoning playwright, faced legendary poet Matthew Zapruder (American Linden, The Pajamaist, and Come On All You Ghosts), who took the stage like some kind of mad poetry scientist. Zapruder delivered the knock-out punch with a series of poetic gems aimed directly at the heart. In her remarks on Marks's play, judge Emily Heller lamented the amount of time "wasted on dialogue that had nothing to do with butt sex"; as for Zapruder she offered only the zen koan, "my parents ate my placenta." But the true wisdom of the evening came from Bucky Sinister, who pointed out that "all chaps are assless." And thus round two ended with Matthew Zapruder popping a metaphorical cap in Braden Marks's metaphorical prostate. 

Actors perform Braden Mark's one-act play. Click to see more partying shots.
In the final round, complete with The Price Is Right theme song, Mann and Zapruder tallied the total cost of all the items onstage date (wine = $5.97; flowers = $7.99; Breast Cancer awareness-themed teddy bear = $4.99; cost of live show = pricey). The contestant closest to the price (who went a little over) was Mann. Producer Ms. Bassist channeled Bob Barker to remind us all to have our pets spayed and neutered. 

With Randall Mann standing over his vanquished foes and the twitterpated hearts of the audience finally at peace, the evening came to its inevitable end--with drunk literature enthusiasts spilling merrily into the cold San Francisco streets.


Written with the help of Shimmy Boyle.

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