“You Want a Little Bit of Chaos”: Old School Game Show is Anything But

old school game showPhoto by Ben Gebo

“It’s like ‘The Price is Right’ got drunk and danced on a table.”

“You can just start swearing like a sailor, and you’ve got a good chance of getting it right!”

“People were wild—I got hit with a beer can!”

“…and it ended in a Shake Weight showdown.”

Taken out of context, it’s pretty nearly impossible to discern what the crazy geniuses behind Old School Game Show are talking about. In fact, it might not make a whole lot more sense once you know what it is they’re describing: a scripted, interactive variety show involving live music, dancing, comedy, video shorts and more. It’s an experience that’s part TV series, part performance art, part game show (of course) and fully original, and it’s coming to Oberon to kick off its third season on October 18.

“There’s really nothing like it in New England,” says head writer and co-producer Kaitlin Buckley. “I came from the improv and standup community, and I’ve never seen a show like this—with a live band, with dancers, with the audience playing such a big part of it—that’s funny. It really covers all the bases.”

The show is the brainchild of host and executive producer Mike D’Angelo, a self-described game fanatic and pop culture nerd who came up with the concept a few years ago when his girlfriend asked him to throw her a game show-themed birthday party. “I got kind of crazy with it, as I tend to do,” he laughs. “I put on a fake mustache, we all had name tags, we all had ringy-dingy bells.” It was such a success that he recreated the party for his birthday a few months later and eventually, working with a team of talented artists and musicians, brought the concept to the Milky Way in Jamaica Plain.

Initially, D’Angelo was doing everything himself—writing the scripts for each episode, brainstorming new games, coordinating with musicians, directing the cast. But with more and more people attending and an increasing number of fans interested in getting involved, the show snowballed quickly. He found help in Buckley and executive producer Ginny Nightshade, both of whom had acted in episodes of Old School Game Show before taking on a bigger role. (“I roller skated on, and Katilin held a fan on me,” says Nightshade of the first scene the two shared. “I was the awkward teenage sister,” recalls Buckley. “I was wearing a beautiful cat sweater, and my job was to carry a fan and make sure that Ginny didn’t fall down.”) Together, the power trio was able to take the show to Davis Square Theater, where they held their second season, and to popups at events like the Starlab Studios Starlab Fest.

old school game show

Photo by Roger Gordy, poster design by Michael D’Angelo

Old School Game Show is, at its core, actually a game show. At the beginning of each performance, audience members can throw their names in a fishbowl in hopes of being selected to participate and win prizes. But that’s about where the similarities between this experience and “Hollywood Squares” or “Wheel of Fortune” begin and end. Take, for example, a game like Baby Mama Drama Trauma, which is built around the premise that D’Angelo has taken a girlfriend’s fictional children to see a movie that’s not, shall we say, thematically appropriate. Childlike interpretations of flicks like Kill Bill (drawn with care by D’Angelo) are shown on a projector, and the game show participants have to guess which movie it is that’s disturbed the “children.”

The production is more than just games—in fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a show in the area that’s a better cross-section of Greater Boston’s artist community. The staff and cast are comprised of comedians, dancers, musicians and artists from different backgrounds who would rarely have a chance to collaborate otherwise. Nightshade explains what it’s like to look through photos from an Old School Game Show evening after the fact: “In one picture there’s dancers, in the next picture there’s a special guest, then in the next there’s audience members onstage screaming—and there’s confetti,” she says. “People are like, ‘What is this?'” Much like an episodic TV series, each edition of the show introduces new themes, tropes, storylines, dance routines and original songs. No two shows are the same, though games like Baby Mama Drama Trauma might make a repeat appearance.

old school game show

Photo by Roger Gordy

“Every episode is an adventure,” Nightshade laughs. “And everyone falls in love with Mike … Mike onstage is like a tornado.”

“That is what you were born to do—to be a game show host,” Buckley affirms.

Now in its third season, Old School Game Show has really hit its stride. The staff has pitch meetings and rehearsals these days—”What a concept,” jokes Buckley—though the trio says that even with the additional planning, the process of putting together the show is still pretty wild. “Which is good!” says D’Angelo. “You want a little bit of chaos.” Luckily, performing for a live audience guarantees a certain level of insanity—in one unscripted, hilarious and totally bizarre moment from the June show, everyone in the audience belted out “My Girl” together.

“What’s cool about the show is that there’s really just something for everybody,” says Buckley. “If you like music, there’s music. If you like comedy, there’s comedy.” It even appeals to people of all ages—Nightshade’s parents attend every one.

To learn more about Old School Game Show, read up on their upcoming “Freaky Deaky, Creepy Crawly, Halloween Hellraiser in 3D!” on Facebook and snag tickets here