Gettin' Gamey

At Hilarities 4th Street, the password is Bonk.

Bonk Hilarities 4th Street Theatre, 2035 East 4th Street Mondays at 7 p.m. $5; call 216-736-4242.
Contestants Bonkin' each other crazy at - Hilarities.
Contestants Bonkin' each other crazy at Hilarities.

Historically speaking, game shows aren't very funny. They want to be, but they're not.

Bonk is funny. Then again, funny is Bonk's sole purpose.

"It's a parody," says Kerry Pollock, the fast-talking, red-blazer-wearing host and the brains behind Bonk. "My plan is to have this be a comedy show, with the game show [element] as the vehicle."

Each Monday, Hilarities 4th Street Theatre presents the home-grown quiz show -- complete with its own set, wacky emcee, absurdly simple questions, a Bonk babe, and prizes. The result is a mix of stand-up and situation comedy, delivered in convenient game-show form. Local funnymen Marc Jaffe (a former Seinfeld scribe) and Pat Sullivan supply the jokes and questions, as well as the commercial parodies that are sprinkled between segments.

Bonk works like this: Three contestants are pulled from the audience and armed with foam mallets and helmets that are wired to a scoreboard hanging above the stage. Instead of buzzing in with answers, competitors hit each other ("bonk," in game parlance), or themselves, on the head with the mallet. Three matches are played per night, and the winners of each game face off against one another in a fourth match that determines the overall champion. (Bonus Bonks -- questions posed to audience members -- also pop up throughout the night.) Prizes range from dinner and theater tickets to hats, T-shirts, and gag gifts. The top prize -- a trip for two to Las Vegas -- will be awarded at the end of Bonk's 30-week run.

Since Bonk is more comedy show than game show, the trivia-type questions -- always delivered with a wink and a smile -- are deliberately simple (What food, taken every day, keeps the doctor away? What month has 28 days?). Rounding up contestants isn't difficult, though getting them onstage does require a little arm-twisting, Pollock admits. "There's a little hesitation, because [people] think that it's going to be tough," he says. "They don't want to look stupid. But the questions are easy."

In its opening weeks, Bonk has been a hit with the comedy-club crowd, as well as with those just moseying around the carnival-like confines of Pickwick & Frolic, where Hilarities is housed.

"The audience [reaction] has been better than expected," says Pollock, who hopes to break new ground with Bonk in the coming weeks: Look out for theme nights, like Celebrity Bonk (with local stars), Company Bonk (which pits businesses against each other), Couples Bonk (with rolling pins and frying pans in place of mallets), and Charity Bonk (with proceeds going to local organizations).

Eventually, Pollock hopes to take his game on the road, to casinos and cruise ships -- maybe even to television someday. As long as the bonking doesn't involve Charles Nelson Reilly, we promise not to object.

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