Come on down to Retro Game Show Night

click to enlarge Come on down to Retro Game Show Night
(Jim Yager/Contributor)
The cast of the October 2022 episode of “Retro Game Show Night,” from left, executive assistant Swish Manley, celebrity guest Brittany, celebrity guest Fulta Burstyn, producer David Hoffman, host Chatty Kathee and DJ Paul.

Retro Game Show Night will celebrate an odd-numbered anniversary, because of course it does.

“What I’d like to definitely announce is that, starting in 2023, we are going back to monthly shows,” said David Hoffman, producer of the wildly popular “Retro Game Show Night” at Hotel Congress.

This news will stir jubilation among the show’s avid fans, and they are legion. On Saturday, Dec. 17, they will have filled the show’s venues to capacity and beyond for 11 years, not counting the early months of COVID-19 lockdown.

In honor of the occasion, Hoffman and the “Retro Game Show Night” ensemble will present a celebrity version of “The Mismatch Game.”

“It’s one of our audience’s favorite games,” Hoffman said. He always speaks of the show in the manner of a carnival barker, and it just feels right.

“We will be making game show history by featuring five celebrity guests on the panel — drag delight Fulta Burstyn, backwoods boytoy Bubba, vacant vet student Brittany, local legend David Fitzsimmons and RGSN’s own executive assistant, Swish Manley.

“The game will be hosted by the fabulous Chatty Kathee (Missy Paschke-Wood) with DJ Paul in the booth and myself on the bell.”

Behind the bar will be Perpetual Best of Tucson-winning bartender Barb Trujillo, also considered part of the RGSN family.

“Over the past year, as we all emerged from COVID isolation, we just (played) every other month, not knowing what kind of response we were going to get,” Hoffman said. “As Missy would attest, the audiences have been insane and huge.”

Paschke-Wood concurred. “I usually say at the beginning, ‘Who’s here for the first time?’ And more than half of the audience at our last show were brand new. It was wild!”

Hoffman created the “Retro Game Show Night” around 2010 with prominent local drag queen Tempest du Jour (UA costume design professor Patrick Holt). Their idea was to create over-the-top parodies of popular mid-century game shows hosted by a drag queen character.

They launched the concept at Colors Restaurant, then on Speedway in Midtown and a popular spot with the gay community. When Colors closed about a year later, they moved the show to Club Congress.

Hoffman, who was employed with Arizona Theater Company, was aware of the club’s theatrical possibilities because of work he’d done there with a local indie theater company.

“In October of 2012, we ended up at Congress for the first time over Pride Weekend, and it was a huge hit!” Hoffman said. “Now we are Tucson’s longest-running monthly show. It just kind of caught on fire.”

Now primarily a graphic designer and promoter, Hoffman met and worked closely with Paschke-Wood at Arizona Theater Company. Paschke-Wood regarded him as a mentor. With his help and encouragement she created her Chatty Kathee character and began guesting, and occasionally hosting, “Retro Game Show Night.” Eventually she succeeded Holt and Tempest Du Jour as regular host.

Hoffman said of her, “She’s very ensemble-based in her approach. She has a background in improv and that whole ‘yes and’ philosophy.

“Once the show starts, any semblance of control I might have had over is out the window because this group is nuts. They respond to whatever the audience gives them. It’s almost like pulling a rip cord on an old lawnmower. I just pull it. Then I order a drink and I ring the bell all night.”

Paschke-Wood emphasized that Hoffman’s contribution to the audience experience is nevertheless considerable. The cast performs within a stage picture that’s impeccably designed, built and painted to both imitate and parody the set of the original show. The set’s visual and mechanical effects propel the show’s energy over the top.

“The stage picture always looks incredible,” she said, “But that’s part of David’s design background. So, you know, the fonts are all good.” Then she laughed about having rendered such exalted praise of typefaces.

Hoffman is that kind of detail guy. He also helps members tweak the quirks in their characters for maximum comic effect. “In the beginning when you’re making a character, you have a lot of little details that you think are important,” he said. “Eventually the details just become part of your inner backstory and you just are the person.

“Chatty Kathee was in Up with People for 20 years and was very competitive when she played the games.” That background makes her convincingly bossy about “the rules.”

Further illustrating his collaboration, Hoffman cited another ensemble member whose character defines everything they do. “Oasis Kimmelman is a 17-year-old miserable goth girl,” he said. “The only reason she is on the game show is to fulfill community service requirements from Pima County Juvenile Court.”

Asked what new audience members can expect to see in the Dec. 17 show, Hoffman said, “The last several shows have just absolutely underscored how strong the ensemble is. The humor, everybody’s on the same page. And that includes the audience. I mean, the audience engagement is a huge factor in this.”

Hoffman said players banter with the audience throughout, and the trick for audience members to get the most attention, he says, is to drop their names into a “big, red sparkly box” and play for “stratospheric fame and questionable prizes.”

“Retro Game Show Night” All-Star 11-Year Anniversary Show, 6 p.m. doors, 7 p.m. show, Saturday, Dec. 17, Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress Street, hotelcongress.com/family/club-congress, $15, reservations online or by calling 520-622-8848. Open seats and standing room may be available the night of the show.

‘Keep Tucson Sketchy’ moves to cozier quarters

Cushy upholstered seats, first-class tech and scads of free parking can now be among the many things we love about “Keep Tucson Sketchy,” the city’s answer to “Saturday Night Live.” They will greatly improve the audience experience starting Saturday, Dec. 17.

That’s when “Keep Tucson Sketchy” moves its traditionally house-packing show to a new venue, the 100-seat Unscrewed Theater, 400 E. Speedway Boulevard.

The “KTS” gang will kick things off there with a massive ensemble of sketch writers, actors and production folks. Cast members include Kurt Lueders, Frank Powers, Sara Mirasola, Collin Chomiak, Caleb Cline, Katie Cocchi, Tom Cracovanor, Allana Erickson-Lopez, Joel Foster, Rich Gary, Nicolette Gudenkauf, Rory Monserat, Jen Blanco-Thomas, Franki Lopez and Eli WT.

The musical guest is Kate Ewing, the show’s host is Daniel Kirby, who teaches two levels of sketch at Tucson Improv movement (TIM) and performs with TIM’s premier team, “The Soapbox.”

Keep Tucson Sketchy, 9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19, Unscrewed Theater, 4500 E. Speedway Boulevard, eventbrite.com, $10 presale, $15 door


MORE COMEDY THIS WEEK

Harambe Café, 6464 E. Tanque Verde Road, 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16, Eventbrite.com, $20 includes medicated drinks and dabs, $50 VIP includes all that and samples. “A Dab of Comedy:” Phoenix comic Keeley Wolf hosts Tara Shakespeare, Roxy Merrari, Mo Kitazumi and Thomas Lee Eskin.

Laff’s Comedy Caffe, 2900 E. Broadway Boulevard, 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16, and Saturday, Dec. 17, laffstucson.com, $15, $20 preferred seating. Darryl Fellsburg is absurdly funny and very large. There could be dad jokes.

The Screening Room, 127 E. Congress Street, eventbrite.com, $15 to $40. 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15, Eventbrite.com, “Gateway Comedy Show.” Stand-up comedians tell their best jokes, then get as high as possible and tell them again. Billy Anderson hosts.

The Screening Room, 127 E. Congress Street, 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16, Eventbrite.com, $8 presale, $10 at the door, “The Downtown Comedy Show” headlined by top Tucson comedian Pauly Casillas, featuring Paul Fox and Allana Erickson-Lopez with host Chris Quinn.

Tucson Improv Movement/TIM Comedy Theatre, 414 E. 9th St. tucsonimprov.com, $7 each show, $10 for both shows, same night, free jam and open mic. Thursday, Dec. 15, 7:30 p.m. Improv 101 Showcase and “Harold Zeta;” 8:30 p.m. Open Mic. Friday, Dec. 16, 6:30 p.m. Improv Jam; 7:30 p.m., “The Soapbox” with rocket scientist and comedian Kurt Lueders; 9 p.m. Stand Up Showcase. 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17, “Your Favorite Movie Improvised” and “The Meeting;” 9 p.m. “Ugly Sweater Show.”

Unscrewed Theater, 4500 E. Speedway Boulevard, unscrewedtheatre.org, $8, live or remote, $5 kids. 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16, Family-Friendly Improv; Saturday, Dec. 17, 1 p.m., Kids Show: “Elves Gone Bad”; 6 p.m., Unscrewed Family Hour with Comic Chaos; 7:30 p.m. Family Friendly Improv; 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 18, Elves Gone Bad; Monday, Dec.19, 6:30 p.m. Improv Drop-ins, in person and online, free.

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