Literary Death Match’s 5th Birthday

1. Jacob Bromberg of Opium Europe, a derivative of Opium Magazine, and author and art critic Will Heinrich, a past PEN Robert Bingham Fellow. 2. Andre Perry and fans.

Literary Death Match celebrated its fifth birthday last night with a riotously funny episode in the reverb-y back room of Williamsburg’s Cameo bar. LDM creator and Opium Magazine founding editor Todd Zuniga shipped in a DJ from London for the occasion who should be given due credit for making a nerdy lit fest feel part birthday party at Tenjune.

1. Ellen Wenecke, a first-time LDM voyeur, and Sasha Khmelnik, who partook once before in Baltimore. 2. Hilarity.

Electric Dish is no stranger to LDM and hopefully you aren’t either, but if you don’t know the premise, or you do and you can’t get enough (right there with you), check out recent New York City episode recaps here and here.

The last LDM:NYC event took place during a snowstorm, and last night it was raining (in light of the tragedy in the eastern hemisphere, weather-related hyperbole on The Outlet is suspended), but Cameo filled up with guests and their umbrellas all the same. By the time the action started, the seats were filled and a decent standing crowd stretched to the bar.

1. Jane Bussmann tries for the win. 2. Hannibal Buress!

Todd Zuniga and co-host Ann Heatherington welcomed, introduced the night’s trio of smoking hot judges, and promised us there would be cupcakes later, since this was a birthday party after all. Headlining the judging panel was 30 Rock writer and comedian Hannibal Buress, weighing in on literary merit: a phrase he feigned ignorance of, I suspect so that this very smart, very funny, and very good looking man could weigh in on whatever he wanted, which, in the course of the night, included Plaxico Burress, black-out drunkenness, and ‘titties.’ Oh yes y’all, we’re just getting started.

1. Peter Burr, who braved the rain to see friend Kevin Townley judge, and Mikey Barringer, who has hosted LDM before and looks an awful lot like Todd Zuniga in person. 2. Most people can’t rock a nose bandage, but Ian Wolff of the Brooklyn Mint Library of Unpublished Works can. The nose of Violaine Husiman, curator of literary events for BAM, was less adorned.

Bambï lead singer and too many other things (actor, writer, improv artist, it goes on and on) Kevin Townley was on stage to judge performance, and press-darling comedian Sara Benincasa as judge of intangibles Judge rounded out the threesome. Their combined hilarity cannot be overstated.
In the first round, Iowa’s best-dressed resident author (sure, subjective, but this is Dish, not the AP) Andre Perry went up against The Daily Show alum and Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear producer Jimmy Donn. Andre read from a stack of rapidly turned pages about following the band The Yeah Yeah Yeahs on the road and getting too drunk to not throw up on your best friend. Jimmy read from a shiny iPad about the history of masturbation from Sex: Our Bodies, Our Junk, a veritable encyclopedia both giggle and cringe-inducing.

1. Todd Zuniga and Kevin Townley looking very fly. 2. Soon to be Barnard grad and New Yorker intern Natalie Holt with friend and fellow New Yorker-er Vanna Le.

Hannibal Buress opened up first round judging. “So this is Literary Death Match,” he said. “I thought this would be more like a nerdy 8 Mile.” More jokes followed, but they were drowned out by marathon laughter. Kevin Townley was simultaneously funny and genuine, which — if last night is an accurate standard — seems generally to be his M.O. Sara Benincasa stayed true to her ‘intangibles’ category, commenting that Donn’s reading “tasted like peaches and vanilla.” After a huddle, iPad lost to paper pad (hey Apple: would iPad 2 have suffered the same fate?) and Andre Perry advanced to the final.

1. Todd Zuniga intros the judges & 2. explains the finale. No one understands

The second round was a hotly contested girl-on-girl showdown between author Alison Espach and author/comedian/perfomer Jane Bussmann. Espach read from her novel The Adults, written both about and from the perspective of high school girls, so more giggling, more cringing, more vagina-talk than in Jimmy Donn’s reading. Jane Bussmann read a scene from her memoir The Worst Date Ever or How it Took a Comedy Writer to Expose Africa’s Secret War, in which she tries to report her laptop stolen to the Ugandan police force — we laughed to keep from crying at her account of being propositioned by both prisoners and officers in the process. Hannibal Buress pegged the book as maybe the only to ever be set in both Uganda and L.A. Kevin Townley called Alison Espach “incredibly wry and charming … the whole package,” but Bussmann has one killer British accent, and prevailed.

1. Todd Zuniga wearing bowtie and Ann Heatherinton wearing birthday hat. 2. Alison Espach.

The finale included the promised cupcakes, but the only one eating them was a paper likeness of past LDM-winner Tony DuShane, held aloft by two innocent bystanders volunteers from the audience. I’m pretty sure one of them was poet M.G. Martin, but a couple of plastic wrestling masks prevent certainty. Perry and Bussmann used a variety of faulty Party City weapons to try and frost DuShane’s printed mouth and frosting went everywhere but on the target. Only Perry finally landed one shot on the paper and was thus crowned the winner of LDM’s fifth birthday spectacle. When asked how he did it, Perry — true to his Iowa home — said he took a deep breath and imagined it was just a regular ole’ game of cornhole.

Happy birthday, Literary Death Match — may you get ever older and weirder.

–Kai Twanmoh is a regular contributor to Electric Dish.

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