Seattle filmmaker puts new spin on old game show classics

A Seattle filmmaker and her best friend have turned their love for game shows into the real thing. What began as house-party-slash-game-night in their Seattle living room is now a real-life on stage show. (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE - A Seattle filmmaker and her best friend have turned their love for game shows into the real thing.

What began as house-party-slash-game-night in their Seattle living room is now on stage, with two recent sellout performances on Capitol Hill.

"The Future is 0" is filmed in front of a live audience and is the brainchild of Claire Buss and Kat O'Hara.

Contestants are pitted against each other, sometimes in silly situations.

It's all a hat tip to game shows from decades past, using Americana to create a time capsule-like environment for both contestants and audience members.

"It was kind of half party, half art experiments, half show, and as we kept doing it, we did one, and realized there's 1,000 ways we could do it better," Buss says.

Alongside Buss, O'Hara helps breathe life into the show as Executive Producer.

"Basically taking the confines of reality, and time, and money, and figuring out how to make Claire's dreams come true," said O'Hara.

Buss and O'Hara take a hands-on approach to every element of the show. They and their team of friends brainstorm, build, perform, coordinate, and even edit the show themselves.

They're blurring the boundaries of reality and television, and breaking stereotypes in genre and gender.

It's where comedy and commentary collide on stage.

Last Friday, Claire as her alter ego Clay Buff introduced the first game, "Dystopian delusion or our awful reality?"

Her stage name, Clay Buff came to her in the mail. Junk mail butchered her name and Buss embraced it. Her alter ego was born.

Three contestants: Two in the music industry; the other a graphic designer listened to various scenarios -- some made up, some from movies, while others are real.

Contestants have to decipher the difference.

"The president mistakes the country he just bombed moments after carefully describing a piece of chocolate cake."

Contestant 'Michael' answered before Buff could finish, "Fact, that's fact. The audience roared.

"That is correct!"

Contestants stand behind gold podiums with a buzzer at the ready. One podium is actually a cabinet on its side.

Contestants spin a giant wheel, where it lands, decides what game is up next.

On this night, they competed in seven games, ordered three pizzas and one contestant phoned a friend for a jingle challenge.

Next up: 'You're Doing it Wrong.'

Here contestants win points for trashing trash correctly; is it trash? Compost? Recycle? Or hazardous?

In this round, trash included dead batteries in a pillowcase, a spray painted bag of Dick's Burgers, dead bees in a plastic bag and more.

"There is really nothing like it," said O'Hara.

Claire said the show is connected to her obsession with television and her affinity for game show reruns.

"The Gong Show is a classic," said Buss, while watching a rerun of Chuck Barris on YouTube.

He stops in the middle of a bit to bring on a fan favorite character, 'Gene, Gene the Dancing Machine.'

The audience loves it as the man dances his way across the stage.

Buss knows them all, and loves them all.

In some ways, her alter ego Clay Buff is a little Chuck Barris of "The Gong Show' and Price is Right's nice-guy Bob Barker, with a dash of that irreverent guy in the center square of Hollywood Squares.

"I love watching old stuff like's all fantastic and grotesque in certain way," she said.

The creative duo insists 'The Future is 0' is like old TV game shows, only weirder.

"If you take the tone really seriously, but it is completely asinine, you kind of get this really sweet spot," said Buss.

It's that sweet spot that landed them a spot onstage last fall at the Northwest Film Forum.

In the first of two performances last week, the contests were intentionally interrupted for 'Phone Time'. The audience is encouraged to pull out their phones.

The bit has its own theme song and begins with this announcement, "It's phone time, 'cause you know you want to."

A group of crew members take over the stage, lost in their own phone-worlds, some dance while they check their email, social media and take selfies. The audience followed their lead.

"It's making you think while you think you're not thinking because you are just having a goofy fun time," said Courtney Sheehan, Executive Director.

Just a few months prior to their Northwest Film Forum debut, 'The Future is 0's' stage was the duo's tiny living room. An off the cuff idea, to jazz up their house party game night evolved into 'The future is 0.'

More than a dozen of their pals work on the show - all unpaid.

They met in the writer's room, a tiny upstairs workroom at the Film Forum. It's in part where they brainstorm games, write trivia, design sets, and create the graphics.

They even come up with their own music.

"It's a product of a bunch of artist friends getting together and making something weird and fun," said Buss.

They've gone from fabric store red felt nailed to their living room walls, to a real stage and a real live audience.

"It's not just us who gets to feel like kids, it's also this audience who is entering into this world, which is immersive, fun and playful," said O'Hara.

They already have a loyal following.

"By highlighting everything that is awful about the world they somehow made us feel better," said Sean O'Hara, Kat's brother and fan of the show.

"I loved it. I love game shows, I watch Jeopardy every day, but I missed it to come to this," said L Fried, a fan who caught one of the show's first Northwest Film Forum-staged performance's last September, and came back for more last weekend.

The latest two game shows sold out.

"It's exhausting, but rewarding," said Kat.

'The Future is 0', but for the show and this group, it's anything but.

"It's a great opportunity for us and I like saying yes to everything. I feel like I'm at a time in my life where I want to say yes to anything that happens." said Buss.

'The Future is 0' performs quarterly at the Northwest Film Forum.

The next performance is expected sometime in the fall.

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