Nightmare Gig: Jon Gann
BYT at large | Feb 18, 2015 | 1:00PM |

Jon Gann is the Programming Director and Founder of the DC Shorts Film Festival. This weekend is the DC Shorts WINS! program at the Burke Theater. There will be no green room with local celebrities pre-gaming. -ed.

Planning a film screening is relatively easy. Select films, string them in a sensible order, load into the video server, and at a designated time, turn off the lights and start the show. It runs until it’s over, usually without any hiccups. A control-freak’s dream. That training, however, never prepared me for directing a live game show, where I soon discovered that Celebrity + Alcohol + Double Entendre = Recipe for Disaster.

In the old game show, “Match Game,” that ran on and off from the 1970s through the mid 2000s, the host asked six celebrities to match a contestant’s answers to quirkily, mildly titillating fill-in-the-blank questions such as “The cave man said…,” “I just went to a very unusual wedding and…,” “A dinosaur ______ the bride.

The thrill of the “Match Game” was never in the game play itself, but in the interaction among the celebrity panel, their witticisms and off-topic banter. It was rumored that the panel was loaded before the show began taping and that rumor was confirmed by a friend of mine who had worked on the show: drinks in the green room; drink trolley during commercial breaks, and very likely, the use of some powdered pleasures.

Just the experience I wanted to bring to D.C.

“Match Game DC” ran as a fundraiser for five nights during the Capital Fringe Festival. Each night, six different celebrities — local chefs, politicians, TV personalities, cultural icons and sports figures — were prepped in the green room with a review of game play, snacks, and, of course, a full bar. Some drank to kill off stage fright, others enjoyed because it was there. By the time the Emcee called each to the stage, most were trashed.

The game started without incident, everyone wanting the appearance of professionalism. But one round in, things quickly disintegrated. A celebrity chef hit on a contestant, then her friend in the audience, and finally, on the stage manager. A politician let loose, almost to the point of political peril. A classic TV personality set off a string of obscenities that would make a sailor blush and a cultural leader rose to walk off stage (presumably to vomit) only to knock over half the set.

Alone in the control booth, I watched with equal amounts of horror and disbelief. As I was running the lights, music and sound effects, I could not leave, and sadly (smartly?) did not have the foresight to rent walkie-talkies to communicate with the stage manager. What was I thinking? But with each shocking and charged answer: “screwed,” “vibrator,” “cuckolded,” nervous chuckles from the audience soon turned into roaring laughs, fueling a frenzy that climaxed into thunderous applause.

The shows ended up a success. Money was raised for DC Shorts’ educational programming. Audiences left happy. Celebrities played off their images and excelled. Only I was left with the lasting sense of doom. For the foreseeable future, I’m sticking with the security of programmed entertainment.