It was 2004 when The MisMatch Game performed for the first time onstage at the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Renberg Theatre. Over the course of 16 years, creator and host Dennis Hensley and a rotating company of 48 lunatic celebrity impersonators have done 82 shows and raised more than $164,000 for the Center.
And, not even the COVID-19 pandemic can stop them.
On September 25 and 26, the outrageous parody of the ‘70s TV game show The Match Game will once again take place but, for the first time, online. The cost to tune in from home is $15 — the same ticket price since that first year.
“My hope is that it’s so funny that it literally crashes Zoom,” Hensley tells LGBT News Now. ”My real hope is just that it’s a fun time and gives everybody some much-needed laughs and diversion. The audience is such a crucial part of the live show so doing it on Zoom will definitely be different. My hope is that some of that same lunacy will come through in the virtual version, and I’m confident that it will because the casts are just so brilliant.”
The virtual MisMatch Game will be played basically the same as the live stage version. When people buy their tickets to watch the show, they can indicate if they’re willing to be a contestant. From those willing attendees, contestants will be chosen at random.
The September 25th cast include Tom Lenk as either Zooey Deschanel or Tilda Swinton, Julie Brown (Melania Trump), Danny Casillas (Reba Areba), Maile Flanagan (Danny Bonaduce), Chris Pudlo (Pee-wee Herman), and Marc Samuel (Morgan Freeman).
The September 26th line-up will be Jackie Beat (as Bea Arthur), Danté (Jack Nicholson), Danielle Gaither (Wendy Williams), Nadya Ginsburg (Cher), Rebekah Kochan (Pamela Anderson), and Felix Pire (Ricardo Montalbán).
Ginsberg, who once got standing ovation for her recitation of Cher’s monologue from the film Mask, says the event has sentimental value to her because she watched the original Match Game on TV as a kid.
“Add to that: getting to play with some of the most talented comedians in L.A.—most of whom are close friends—all coming together to help homeless LGBTQ youth. You get a night that’s warmer and fuzzier than Bear Week in Provincetown!” she quipped.
Nothing else in the Lily Tomlin/Jane Wagner Cultural Arts Center’s 22-year history can match the extraordinary longevity of MisMatch, originally created by Hensley as a birthday party game.
“There’s something about that show that feels a little underground even though we’ve been doing it for 16 years,” he says. “It’s like everyone there—the cast, the audience, the Center crew—is part of this secret club. All you need for membership is fifteen bucks and a sick sense of humor.”
The MisMatch Game usually sells out the 200-seat Renberg Theatre during its two-night runs, according to Jon Imparato, the Center’s Director of Cultural Arts & Education.
“I have so many friends from all over the place who would love to see MisMatch,” Imparato says. “We are hoping the virtual version catches on with people watching it from all over the world. It’s wildly entertaining and incredibly funny—you never know what the celebrities are going to say. They are so quick and smart. Who will top who?”
The virtual edition will include an interactive chat room to allow viewers to react to the comics’ answers. But, contrary to the live stage productions,audience members will not be able to bid on any of the outrageous answers written on cards.
“We aren’t doing the card auctions this time,” Hensley lamented. “The most we’ve sold for a single card is probably around $300, which is amazing. I love that these silly cards are displayed on these refrigerators all over Southern California. The audiences are the best. There are some faces that I’ve been seeing in the crowd for 16 years.”
Hensley insists he’s not even close to being tired of MisMatch.
“It’s the most fun, special thing in my life,” he says. “When you see people in the audience helpless with laughter, it’s just so gratifying that we’re able to bring that to people and raise money for the Center. We’ll keep doing it as long as they let us. You can have my MisMatch Gamemicrophone when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.”
Tickets are $15 and may be obtained online at
lalgbtcenter.org/theatre. The Zoom link will be provided after ticket purchase.