Match Game ’73
Too racy for the Game Show Network but fair game for the Internet, the episode asks a question so simple, the missing word is on the lips of oh so many silent players: The police commissioner said, “I think Batman and Robin are _______.”
Our contestant Sandy tries to disappear inside her royal-and-mauve tartan blouse. She grabs her brow, delighting our sponsor Excedrin. Begrudgingly, she speaks: Queer. Then applause, laughter, relief. Self-deprecation courtesy of Richard Dawson, in porn ‘stache and sideburns. Gene Rayburn passes the potato to Bobby Van, who gives Sandy a match with QUEER on his card. Van’s wife Elaine Joyce displays QUEERS. Another green triangle lights up for Sandy.
Charles Nelson Reilly of all people gets it wrong. Dawson and Brett Somers pour on the esoteric, but Nanette Fabray writes FAIRIES, which of course counts as QUEERS, as URBAN counts as BLACKS, as 57 CENTS for women counts as ONE DOLLAR for men. Before Sandy could take home a few hundred bucks, more blanks needed to be filled, entendres doubled, cigarettes relit, large-collared guffaws taped in front of a live studio audience. The era preserves itself with a recorder seemingly everywhere, a small portion of tape to be erased due to constraints of time.
What’s so amazing about this prose poem is how it repeats the words “queer” and “queers” in such a way that they are progressively and/or simultaneously embarrassing, funny, hurtful, meaningful, and not-meaningful. The turns of this poem, in other words, come so fast that you almost can’t keep up. From homophobia the poem turns to racism and sexism in a smart and savvy way, giving the reader a fill-in-the-blanks lesson that points out the obvious wrongness of the answers.
“Match Game ’73” makes an oft-heard statement about language – that language has political force – in a new and powerful way, and is funny at the same time. Such a feat brings to mind Nikki Giovanni’s marvelous poem “Seduction.” Shapiro’s poem seems light-hearted and pop-culture-referencey at first, but it turns into a bitter statement about injustice and complacency.
Jessy Randall is the Curator of Special Collections at Colorado College. Her latest book is Injecting Dreams into Cows (Red Hen, 2012). She and Daniel M. Shapiro are the authors of Interruptions: Collaborative Poems (Pecan Grove, 2011).
Daniel M. Shapiro. “Match Game ’73” from How the Potato Chip was Invented, Sunnyoutside Press, 2013. Reprinted with permission of the author.