McCurdy’s encourages attendees not to hold back at Cards Against Humanity tournament.
The options aren’t great: Natalie Portman. A pyramid of severed heads. A falcon with a box on its head — to name the few that can be printed in a family paper.
Team “Who the (insert expletive here) is Patti Mayonnaise” sits hunched over a pile of white cards bearing utterly ridiculous phrases, trying to decide which is the funniest. Jody Gillman stares intently at her crisply organized piles of nonsense. Audible groaning escapes from the backs of many team members’ throats. Michael Shelton grumbles about how they were dealt much better hands last month.
They go with Natalie Portman, and when the card isn’t a winner, a teammate tries to remind everyone that they are just in it to have fun.
“It’s about winning,” Shelton responds in a faux-serious tone. “Everything is about winning.”
A couple months ago, Kevin Krasko of McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre and Humor Institute, decided it would be fun to host a "Cards Against McCurdy's" tournament at the club. The group it has since attracted is a very particular breed.
“They say it’s a horrible game for horrible people, and I’m a pretty horrible person,” says Krasko, the media specialist for the club. “I just love the dark sense of humor.”
Here’s how it works: Players form teams of four to six members, then pool their cards together and pick the white card they deem the funniest response to the black card in play. One minor detail: The cards contain some of the most outrageous, obscene and/or unsettling phrases to ever be mass-printed for public purchase. Typically, the most appalling response wins.
Each black card is drawn by that evening’s “czar,” who judges the funniest response for each round. Les McCurdy was czar in June. His wife, Pam, judged July’s round. The two teams that win the most rounds each evening will advance to the championship in October.
Krasko says he’s always been a fan of the game — which is basically an R-rated version of Apples to Apples — and he thought it would work well in a setting like McCurdy’s, a venue that already features off-the-wall events like burlesque shows and drag queen bingo.
“It is definitely not for everybody, but I think there’s some value to it,” Krasko says. “I think dark humor really showcases a lot of problems in our society.”
In making his case for dark humor, Krasko referenced a joke he once heard a comedian make on the McCurdy’s stage: “Dark humor is like food and water; not everybody gets it.”
McCurdy agrees. He says the game is particularly fun because it gives people a chance to cross social boundaries.
“Because it’s so extremely politically incorrect, you’re saying things that you would normally never allow, even in a comedy club, where you have the broadest leeway to say anything,” he says.
Bob and Carrie Leach, two attendees in matching team “McDurdy’z” T-shirts, call it a “sick” game that offers a good laugh with people who share their rare sense of humor.
“It’s all the inappropriate stuff we all think but don’t want to say out loud,” Bob Leach says.
Referencing a recent documentary about political correctness called “Can We Take a Joke?,” McCurdy says it’s important to understand the difference between hateful speech and downright outrageousness — the latter of which is the type of goofiness in which Cards Against Humanity is rooted.
He tells his comedy students that if they’re going to make fun of a group, they need to phrase their jokes in a way that they would feel comfortable delivering that joke to members of said group, and that they must do so in a way that appears non-threatening to everyone else in the room.
“I think it’s such a neat game in that, as a society, we’re trying to figure out those boundaries on political correctness,” he says. “A game like Cards Against Humanity really opens that up. It shows that you can say the most vile, ridiculous things that are just horrible, but when it’s done in a spirit that it’s just outrageous to be outrageous, I think it’s healthy.”
Based on the wide-set grins of winning team “Business Time” upon hearing the final rankings, they seem to agree.