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Friday, May 30, 2014

How to Make Your Own Game Show by Jo Firestone

RadioLoveFest starts this coming Wednesday, and features some of our favorite trivia shows on the air: Ask Me Another, and Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me. As fans of game shows of all kinds, we were eager to learn more about what goes into making one, and reached out to Brooklyn-based comedian Jo Firestone. She is the creator and host of several game show events, including Friends of Single People, Bullsh*t History, The Incredible Game Show Showcase, and PUNDERDOME 3000 (which she runs with her dad).

So you want to make a game show? I don’t blame you! For generations people have been gathering together, playing games to display their knowledge and strange, otherwise un-marketable skills to the people around them. Today with ever-expanding forms of media, you can experience game shows not only through television and radio, but also through podcasts, internet videos, mobile phone apps, and even zing zongs and waddledoodles! What a perfect American past-time that continues to transform with the 21st century!

But you may be wondering, “What do you know about making a game show? Your name isn’t Alex Trebeck or Drew Carey!” Of course, I understand your trepidations. I grew up in a household where my father made us play Table Talk (his own game show) at the dinner table, Daddy Dollars (his own game show) for allowance, and Least Trusted People (his own game show) whenever we went into the garage. Truthfully, I know very little about actual televised game shows, but if my upbringing left me with anything (besides knowing which people to really “least-trust”), I know how to make home-made game shows.

I’ve narrowed down all my game show creating knowledge into an easy-to-use step-by-step guide to teach you how to create your very own game show. Go on, read it. It’s very helpful.

1. Concept. Think of something only you and five of your friends can do really well. It’s likely a few others can do this thing well, too. This can be anything. Human pyramids, song identification, fitting a bunch of stuff into a tote bag and walking around all day and complaining about it. One game show I’ve made is called “How Much Soup Can You Eat While a Person Tells a Story about a Time That They Had Diarrhea.” At The Incredible Game Show Showcase (a show I run at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre) my collaborator Cory Palmer invented a game show called “Where Did Those Crumbs Come From?” where someone tries crumbs of things and guesses where they came from. AND ONE OF THE CRUMBS WAS ICE. AND HE CLAIMED THEY WERE CRUMBS FROM WATER. Let me reinstate: IT CAN BE ANYTHING.

Betty White on Password

2. Rules. Now you can make as wacky a game show as you want, but I will warn you, you gotta make some real, concrete rules to go along with it. Trust me: I’m saying this as someone who learned the hard way. The people will go along with your idea to have an Insect Costume Contest/Spelling Bee (called The Best Bee! Or Bee The Best! Or You Can’t Bee’ts Me!), but they’ll want some realistic rules like “no real bees” and “this is a ridiculous show, please don’t take the winning and losing seriously” to make them feel comfortable enough to know what to do and when. Keeping the rules simple and straightforward is one of the easiest ways to foster a consistent and eager-to-play audience. For real.

The Newlywed Game

3. Decorations. Now, I’m not going to try and explain to you how to decorate for a game show, as I fear it could come off as patronizing. You know what to do: bright colors everywhere, shiny set, stressful lights, fog if you have it, and if possible, a floor that can light up. Easy-peasy!

A prize on The Price is Right

4. Prizes. Lots of creativity to be had in this department! Might I recommend: a washer/dryer, a trip to Hawaii, an iPad, a beautiful dress, a lifetime supply of chocolate, a giant check, an edible fruit arrangement, a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, pottery classes, a copy of To Kill A Mockingbird signed by the reclusive Harper Lee, a Google Glass, a chance to re-do high school, or the guarantee they’ll never run into an ex. If those are unfeasible, drink tickets will suffice.


5. Getting People To Watch It. I suppose this step really depends on how you’ve done on steps 1-4. But at this point, you’ve made a game show. Now all that’s left to do is get a million followers on YouTube, market it to a television network, then sit back and relax! Or you could do it my way: do it live in the back of some bar and make your living working in an ice cream truck. Either way, you made a game show. And that’s something you can proudly tell your grandchildren, or at least your stupid Facebook friends.

For more information on Jo's upcoming events, visit, follow @kingfirestorm, and like  

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