Photo by Travis Baer

‘The Future Is 0’—A Live Game Show for Nihilists

The absurdist Seattle-produced show features challenges like ‘High-Rise Condo or New Age Band?’

During a rough winter two years ago, Claire Buss couldn’t stop watching game-show reruns.

The artist and filmmaker found herself inexplicably drawn to their shiny, surreal aesthetic—and began to dream about hosting a game show of her own. “The desire to create a world is really appealing to me,” she says.

Thus Buss began an experimental art project called The Future Is 0 from the living room of her Phinney Ridge home, putting out calls for a “live studio audience” on Facebook and enlisting local bands to compete. For the show, she affects an emcee alter ego, “Clay Buff”—a pseudonym she coined after a name mixup. Buss describes Buff as a “charming nihilist” and “overcaffeinated egomaniac,” partially inspired by the “buttoned-up” parade of “corny white dudes” who ruled the genre in the ’60s and ’70s. She slips into character with the aid of a ritual: “I put on this gold dress and I drink a lot of cold-brew coffee and smoke some weed and listen to Rihanna … it’s just me feeling really whacked-out and kind of smartass.”

Last fall, Buss teamed with Northwest Film Forum executive director Courtney Sheehan to bring The Future Is 0 to the stage for the first time for the opening night of the Local Sightings Film Festival. On Saturday, the show will return to the theater, featuring artist Derek Erdman, Hollow Earth Radio co-founder Amber Kai Morgan, and musician Ceci Gomez of the band Crater as contestants.

A dark, satirical sense of humor lies at the heart of The Future Is 0, billed as “equal parts Double Dare 2000, nihilist performance art, and sarcastic TV experiment” and channeling the absurdist bent of ’90s Nickelodeon and public-access television. A typical episode might find participants vying to correctly attribute a quote to either Oprah or Jesus.

Other games provide social commentary on the rising costs and gentrification of Seattle. In “Play to Park,” players watch clips from movies made in Seattle and guess how much it costs to park for an hour in the filming location on a weekday. And in the self-explanatory “High-Rise Condo or New Age Band,” competitors must correctly distinguish between the two. Buss says, “All the games we do are trying to point out something that’s either happening in Seattle or nationally that is both depressing and hilarious, or just absurd, and blowing it up,” Buss says. “I think many things in life are simultaneously depressing and hilarious, and I think that forms a lot of my worldview.”

And in a show that once challenged contestants to consume mashed vegetarian meat substitute from a dog bowl and guess what meat it is attempting to imitate (in the game “Double-Dog Dare You”), that worldview is sure to make for a side-splittingly weird time. Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave., 329-2629, nwfilmforum.org. $13. All ages. 7 p.m. Sat., Jan. 7.

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