Crammed onto a small, wooden stage with eight comedians, Alex Grubard paid homage to his favorite holiday on April 20 by hosting a marijuana-themed game show at the Helium Comedy Club.
“Watching people just be funny on stage without having written anything beforehand, just being super genuine, is really great,” said Grubard, a 2015 English alumnus. “That’s one of my favorite aspects of hosting game shows.”
In 2015, Grubard created his game show “Weeding Out The Stoned,” where audience members pick out the single sober person from a line-up of high contestants. This year marks the show’s seventh anniversary, and they’re celebrating by touring at nine venues across the country, with a special stop at Philadelphia’s Helium Comedy Club, located on 20th and Sansom Street, last Wednesday to honor the city where the show began.
The eight comedians competing in Wednesday’s show included Jules Posner, Mariasha Makarova and Sidney Gantt.
The show featured nine rounds of sobriety tests, like reciting the alphabet backwards and explaining concepts, like how the United States Senate works. Contestants’ answers were timed and, at the end of each round, audience members shouted out whether they thought each individual contestant was “stoned” or “sober.”
Whoever received the most “boo’s” from the audience stepped off stage, while the others stayed for the next round.
Before the first round — “30-second explanations” — began, Grubard designated audience member Jamie Lynn Roberts to judge the crowd’s responses and select the round’s loser.
Roberts, a stay-at-home mom, came to the show with her husband to celebrate their 10-year wedding anniversary. She was both shocked and nervous when Grubard picked her to be the judge because she has bad stage fright and doesn’t like being the center of attention. However, she stepped up to the task because she could do it from her seat, she said.
While the tests typically remain the same for each show, Grubard included a special addition on Wednesday night — a test where contestants had to suck the helium out of green balloons on the stage and do an improvisational stand-up bit.
Grubard enjoys interacting with both the audience and contestants because it is a unique and genuine in-the-moment experience.
“I felt like everybody got their laughs on stage, everyone had their moments to shine,” Grubard said.
Grubard selects contestants from local comedy clubs in each city he tours in. He does this to enhance the experience for the audience.
“It’s fun to have new blood on the show and fresh faces, people that are being genuine because they haven’t done the show 10 times,” Grubard said.
Makarova made it to the final few rounds of the game on Wednesday night. She had previously competed in the show when it was held at Good Good Comedy Theater on 11th Street near Spring, and was especially excited for Wednesday night’s edition because she wanted to try the helium balloon test. Up until that point, she’d always been afraid of breathing in helium.
“I conquered a fear of mine,” Makarova said.
There were 16 contestants the last time Makarova participated in the show, and she felt she had a better chance of winning on Wednesday because there were fewer competitors. She enjoyed her time on stage and felt the show was a great way to engage with the audience and celebrate the 4/20 holiday.
Posner, a Temple University student in the sports business master’s program, made it to the final round of the show, where he won after reciting the alphabet backwards.
Posner met Grubard nearly eight years ago in his hometown, San Francisco, at a show they were on together. The two have kept in touch since and, because he’s a local comedian, Grubard asked him to compete on Wednesday.
As a stand-up comedian, Posner felt the show was a nice distraction from his usual gig because it allowed him to be more creative and interactive with the audience. He was excited to participate and even more excited to win.
“It’s nice to not do your material, and just to be doing something different, something that’s a really different kind of shared experience, because people are actively participating in the show,” Posner said.
Grubard enjoys hosting each show and hopes it leaves both the contestants and audience members with a new perspective.
“I hope everybody had fun, and maybe somebody in the audience will have a second thought when their kids show up high,” Grubard said.