Thurston on Literary Death Match

baratundeIf you’re the kind who appreciates playful, intelligent humor and literature and an audience that’s just as much part of a performance as the performer, then whip out those dusty boxing gloves and head to the Middle East on Friday, March 8 for the Literary Death Match.

It’s on, folks.

The event is an internationally revered literary competition that provides four up-and-coming writers with the opportunity to perform their most eclectic pieces of writing in seven minutes or less in front of a panel. Judges base rankings on quality of the literature, performance and any other random factors that may come into play during the performance. Writers Mat Johnson, Amelia Grey, ZZ packer and Andre Dubus III are slotted for March.

The Death Match is a creative event not only because it merges the performing and literary arts, but also because it shakes up the distinction between performer, judge and participants. “The audience members care more than the finalist,” muses host and Death Match creator, Adrian Zuniga. He says that “the “most fascinating part of this experience is not necessarily the literary performance, but the reaction and participation of the audience.”

Zuniga’s words are evident in the experience of comedian, activist and author of NY times best seller How To Be Black, Baratunde Thurston, who swept the last Boston-based match this past September at Club Oberon.

Thurston says he was initially inspired to compete in the match because of the “baller theatre.” “Also, we got a free drink,” he jokes. Below, Thurston discusses his experience winning the match and offers some solid advice for upcoming competitors. Yes, the pen is mightier than the sword:

What was most memorable about your experience doing Literary Death Match back in September?

“The fact that the final round came down to my ability to do math and probabilities. That’s quite unexpected in an event run by English majors.”

How did the audience respond to your performance?
“Persistent standing ovation and the launching of undergarments toward the stage for over 20 continuous minutes. It made things quite difficult for the other contestants.”

You beat out Carissa Halston in the last Boston Literary Death Match. What, in your opinion, gave you the edge over her?
“I read faster and louder. Speed and volume are key in contests of literary prowess.”

Anything else significant you want to add?“I haven’t removed my medal since that night. A slight mold has begun to form on the band and I’ve got a bit of a rash on my chest. My doctor says I should remove it, but I told her, ‘No. I won this in a contest of literacy before inebriated citizens of Boston. I’ll never take it off. Ever.’” – Micaela Kimball

Literary Death Match returns 8 p.m. Friday, March 8 at The Middle East, 472 Massachusetts Ave.