Match Game NYC Holiday [Blank]tacular!

Tiffany Leigh and Chris Calogero explain Match Game NYC to contestants John Rosenberger and Tim Platt

By Andrew Andrews

Match Game is one of those classic television game shows that keeps coming back to life. First aired in 1962, it was most recently revived this year for ABC’s Sunday Fun & Games block. Although it’s been years since we’ve watched it, we remember it being funny in a “dad joke” kinda way. When we found out that local comedians Chris Calogero and Tiffany Leigh have taken the basic premise and made the show a lot more fun and interactive, we headed down to Sidewalk Cafe in Alphabet City to check out Match Game NYC.

Comedian Albert Kirchner warmed up the crowd extolling cheese, but the funniest thing about his set was his misunderstanding that the show is some sort of dating game. When Calogero finally whispered a correction, Kirchner appeared dumbfounded—almost intentionally so. Maybe it was all just a gag, but either way, the audience really enjoyed it.

Leigh and Calogero took to the stage with an announcement that we were in for a special treat: in addition to the usual game, prizes and special guests, tonight’s show was actually their first-ever HOLIDAY [BLANK]TACULAR: an extra-long event with a Yankee Swap (better known to us as a White Elephant Exchange), more variety and special categories! Hooray for us, choosing the best night in their 14-episode run to catch the show!

Before the start of the game, our hosts called upon comedians Ahri Findling and Carmen Lagala for the first segment in the Weird Al parody slam, in which participants must each improvise a humorous version of a popular song, featuring a theme selected by audience suggestions. Findling chose to cover Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, but with lyrics about a raccoon. Lagala selected All I Want For Christmas Is You, but was assigned the topic “puberty.” Off they disappeared to the basement, to work on their masterpieces during the game.

Contestants John Rosenberger and Tim Platt replaced the aspiring songwriters on the set, and the game was explained to the audience: As on the TV show, the host would read a sentence containing a “blank,” which must be filled in secretly by a contestant and everyone in the audience. After a short time, the crowd’s answers are collected and then compared to the answers on stage. The contestant receiving the most total matches at the end of the show is the winner, but so is the person or team in the audience that matches the most answers by the contestants!

Leigh started the game with the first fill-in-the-blank: “When Buddy the Elf was sent to prison, he protected himself with a sharpened _____.” Rosenberger’s answer “candy cane” matched almost everybody in the audience (including us!), giving him a tremendous lead at the start of the show. Platt won a few matches to “I think Dracula is re-gifting this holiday because he just gave me a box of _____,” with his answer “wooden stakes.”

Following each question, the team with the best winning match was invited to the front of the room to choose a wrapped gift and open it for all to see. The most coveted prize was revealed early: a Star Wars Smugglers Bounty Pack. According to the rules of a Yankee Swap, anyone who opens a subsequent gift can inflict a “trade” upon an earlier winner, and the bounty pack was swapped immediately by a team that opened a package of toilet paper. They didn’t get to keep it for long, however—although eventually people realized that it was better-to keep a so-so gift (such as a Mad Magazine board game) than upgrade to a prize that is likely to be stolen away again.

After a few more rounds, the game paused for special guest Emily Winter, performing as Feminist Donald Trump—complete with orange hair, red tie and ripped baggy jeans. Those in-the-know will recall that Emily co-hosts BackFat, one of our favorite monthly variety shows in Brooklyn. Feminist Trump tried to clear the air by explaining all of the times he’s been misquoted by the media, and invited audience participation for a few “my dick is so bigly” jokes. “How bigly is it?” we asked. “My dick is so bigly, it literally puts women on a pedestal!” Follow the character’s tweets for more witty remarks from this alternative-reality president-elect.

The game continued with a handful of additional questions—many of which were noticeably focused on Frosty the Snowman. Where’s the worst place to take Frosty on a date? Burning Man! What do you find in your girlfriend’s purse to prove she’s been sleeping with Frosty? A condom full of water!

Mixing things up a bit, some rounds were designated “all play,” meaning that the hosts and both contestants each provide an answer, and the audience responses can match any of them. For one round, everyone was tasked with drawing Freddie Krueger’s ugly holiday sweater. And the final question twisted the Twelve Days of Christmas by included two blanks : “ten _____s-a-_____ing.” The same word was supposed to be provided for each blank, but most people (on- and off-stage) provided a pair to make the phrase flow more smoothly.

Remember earlier in the show, when Ahri Findling and Carmen Lagala were sent away to write twisted versions of holiday classics? At the end of the night they were called back to the stage, where Findling performed his song about a cheating raccoon lover. It wasn’t bad, considering he wrote it in less than two hours! But the show ended on its highest note when Lagala delivered her All I Want For Christmas Is Pubes!, with the kind of stage presence and lyrical genius that, quite frankly, puts the Mariah Carey version to shame! If anyone deserved a prize this evening, it was Carmen Lagala!

As you can (hopefully) tell from this review, Match Game NYC provides a lot of bang for the buck, making it one of the best values you can experience in New York City. How much does it cost, you ask? When you look at the amount of effort that goes into producing this show, you might think it would command a pretty penny at the door. But the fact is, you can attend for free, as long as you’re willing to purchase at least one drink or food item from the bar or kitchen (we recommend the french fries, grilled halloumi, and fried cauliflower). A tip bucket is passed around at the end of the night, and if you enjoy the show as much as we did, you’ll give generously to make this event worth the effort that goes into its production! Great job, Tiffany & Chris!

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Andrew Andrews attended Match Game NYC Holiday [Blank]tacular! at Sidewalk in New York on Thursday, December 1, 2016 @ 8:00pm to write this review.

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