With Punch, Tablets Get Their Own Humor Magazine

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Have you ever wanted a chance to dress Rick Santorum? What about listening to a playlist of your favorite dictators tackling your favorite musical standards? Now you can, thanks to a new iPad app called Punch.

Punch Media co-founder and CEO David Bennahum says the goal was to create “culturally relevant content that could only exist on a tablet” — not on a website or a printed magazine. The format is something called “The Culture Shelf,” where you can tap on different icons leading to Punch’s features. Most of those features are like pop culture games, or are at least interactive in some way.

Bennahum describes the format as an updated version of the variety show, where users are exposed to a range of sketches that are (hopefully) funny without being preachy — he cites Spy Magazine and “The Daily Show” as two influences. The company was co-founded by Maer Roshan, who previously founded Radar Magazine.

I had a chance to play with an early version of the app with, yes, the Rick Santorum and “Despots on the Record” features. Other items included a general pop culture quiz and a chance to sort out whether different names represented hedge funds or organic farms. (The joke? It’s almost impossible to tell the difference.) One sign that it was a pretty engaging experience — I had some friends over, and pretty soon they were all gathered around the iPad, trying to take a turn ranking the box office success of Farrelly Bros. movies or dressing a Santorum figurine in bunny slippers.

One of the challenges, Bennahum admits, is figuring how users can share their favorite Punch content with their friends — each feature will include social sharing options, but since these are interactive features, what gets shared is just “a snapshot of the experience, not the thing itself.”

The app is free. Bennahum says the goal for now is to just get the content into the hands of as many users as possible and see how they engage with it. In the future, the company could make money by adding advertising, offering premium upgrades, and also licensing the publishing technology to other companies. Punch might also expand to Android tablets when they get “more critical mass,” Bennahum says, and maybe smartphones too.

Punch Media has raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding from Betaworks, David Tisch, Jason Calacanis, and New Enterprise Associates.

You can download the iPad app here, and get a flavor of the sense of humor in the intro video below.