Game show

Game show at Hooker-Dunham ‘obsessed with fun’ | arts and culture

BRATTLEBORO — During the time Shannon Ward refers to as “the deep pandemic,” she and a few friends are said to be playing “Jeopardy” together on Zoom. They started to get creative, writing their own clues.

“It got a little silly and abstract,” Ward said.

She pitched the idea of ​​bringing the game to the Hooker-Dunham Theater & Gallery, a venue she co-manages with Cameron Cobane. Then Ben Stockman suggested they write their own game show.

Now, “Thorn In My Side” as it’s called, is heading into its second season at the Hooker-Dunham with the premiere show tonight at 8 p.m. Ward hosts and writes it with Stockman, James Gelter and Jesse Tidd.

Each month, three contestants compete in “bizarre challenges that fit the theme of the month,” according to a press release. Themes are only announced on the evening of the show. Previous themes have included birds, books, toys, outer space, hats, medieval times, breakfast, the great outdoors, and Hollywood.

Brattleboro Community Television, which airs the shows, named “Thorn In My Side” the series of the year at its awards show. Past episodes can be seen at brattleborotv.org/thorn-my-side.

Stockman said he wanted the band to do “a one-off Hooker-Dunham game show to start establishing a regular following”.

“I think for the first one we had no idea what we wanted the show to be,” he said.

“Over time, we’ve sort of established a recurring tone, style, and formats of games. We also continue to come up with and create entirely new games for each show.

After having so much fun participating as a contestant on the first show, Gelter asked to be part of the upcoming effort, and the writers told him they planned to ask him anyway. For influences, he said successful comedy games can be just as useful as unsuccessful ones.

Gelter watched the British game shows “Taskmaster” and “House of Games” extensively. They’re not competitive like American game shows are, he said.

“We’re not obsessed with people winning,” he said of the creators of “Thorn In My Side.” “We’re obsessed with people having fun.”

Stockman cited “Bunk” and “At Midnight”, two game shows from Comedy Central in the United States, as other inspirations. He also underlined the desire to make the show as fun as possible for the participants and the public.

One of Gelter’s favorite plays for “Thorn In My Side” was “Is that a hat?” The contestants have seen the silhouette of an image and must decide their response. One image had two monkeys sitting inside a snake.

The first episode featured a game where contestants had to guess if a bird’s name was real. For real and invented birds, pictures were shown.

“After that first game, I was like, OK, we’re good,” said Ward, who was very nervous heading into the inaugural show.

Shows always have a game involving physical activity. In one case, contestants had to wear plastic baby hands on ankles and perform what Stockman called “adult duties,” such as making a cocktail and writing to a state official.

Gelter said the most complicated game required contestants to choose their own adventure on a self-destructing space station.

Once, the crew rented cameras from BCTV to film at the Bonnyvale Environmental Education Center in West Brattleboro. Competitors had to complete outdoor challenges, with clips played during the show at Hooker-Dunham.

Immersed themselves in the local theater, the writers invite friends from the scene to participate in the show. They also have a show sign-up sheet.

Tidd, who ended up performing in three shows and in the championship tournament, said he immediately fell in love with the concept. When another writer moved to Los Angeles, he jumped at the chance to join the team.

“The unpolished nature of the show is part of the appeal,” he said.

Stockman said the writers took on other roles such as prop preparation, design work, and technical details. When the writer assigned to be the scorekeeper in every game left, they asked Tidd to take over. Stockman noted that Tidd is funny.

Spectators are invited to complete a survey at each show. Their answers are then turned into a game that night.

“I think the vibe of the show and what we’ve cultivated with the audience is that we’re all in it together,” Ward said.

Gelter said he “never worked on a project that was so much work for something so dumb, but I use dumb in a very positive and comedic sense”.

“It’s purely silly,” Ward said. “We put a lot of effort into making it as stupid as possible.”

Stockman added, “As silly and accessible as it gets.”

“I’m really proud to be able to do a show that’s a comedy show that’s not about any kind of punch or comedy that might be taken in a way that hurts some people’s feelings,” Stockman said. “It’s basically wholesome, guilt-free comedy. It’s also absurd. It’s not universal but at the very least it’s friendly in its tone.

The children were invited to participate in games. Ward said she will alert parents when they come in that the shows aren’t written with kids in mind, and she can’t guarantee what the contestants will say.

“They’re improvising and seeing this for the first time,” she said.

Gelter said the writers do not rely on current events or knowledge of major pop culture to create games. However, Ward noted that one game had contestants guessing whether the words were the name of a medieval torture device or a metal band. (Iron Maiden?)

The Hooker-Dunham hosts “Thorn In My Side” on the third Thursday of each month. COVID and other events may cause schedule changes, so hookerdunham.org is kept up to date with event information.

Participants are asked to pay what they can or a suggested donation of $10. The Hooker-Dunham Theater requires proof of COVID vaccination or a negative test for admission. The public must be masked.