Cards with humanity | Comedy | Chicago Reader

Cards with humanity 

Two comedians want their new game to get people talking.

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Sarah Elizabeth Larson

“Which cereal mascot would be the best kisser?” It’s a question that either elicits a gut-reaction response (for me it’s Count Chocula, no question) or can be the gateway to a long, healthy debate of the merits of Tony the Tiger vs Toucan Sam, or maybe a discussion about gender parity in the cereal mascot industry (women can be captains, too, Mr. Crunch). No matter what path you go down, it’s a question meant to help us sharpen a skill that may have significantly dulled over the last year: conversation.

The game No Wrong Answers, created by comedians Paula Skaggs and Josh Linden, is a deck of 73 cards, some with straightforward (but not oft asked) questions, others with multiple choice, and the rest with “Mount Rushmore” prompts, asking you to pick your top four in categories like “child stars” or “bread-based foods.” The pair originally created the game as an antidote to monotonous, often depressing small talk over Zoom, and are now hoping in a post-vaccinated world that the prompts will help folks ease back into connecting in person at things like dinner parties, first dates, and family gatherings.

“This originally came out right after the election, so that was on everybody’s mind,” Skaggs says. “We were like, nothing about the pandemic, nothing about politics. So these are theoretically safe to talk about with your aunt and uncle at Thanksgiving when you’re like, I don't know what else to say.”

Before creating the game, Skaggs and Linden gained a reputation of being particularly optimistic thanks to their podcast Being Earnest, on which they discuss a different topic they love each week with complete sincerity, countering the detached irony that’s infiltrated the comedy scene in recent years. That same authenticity and joy is brought to the card game, complete with a humanitarian mission—a portion of the sales of each game goes to the Chicago Food Depository.

Even the look of the cards themselves, designed by artist Taher Motiwalla, sparks happiness, not only because of their pastel pink and blue palette and starry background, but also the recurring image of a tin can telephone. That symbol printed on a tactile card is a much-needed reminder of a nondigital existence.

“Even though it was created for Zoom, it also just felt so nice to make something that you can actually hold in your hands,” Skaggs says. “Right now we're living in this weird, surreal Zoom world, but eventually we're going to be out in normal. And I don't know about you, but I kind of don't want to touch my phone or computer.”

The feel-good nature of the game also makes it geared to a wider audience, including kids. The pair says many teachers have used the game as an icebreaker or incorporated into a lesson. Because there are, as the name suggests, no wrong answers and no hard and fast rules, the game can be whatever you want it to be.

“We wrote all of these with an eye toward, what would spark a conversation that then, if you only use one card, how does even that turn into an entire night of conversation?” Linden says. “To win is to have a conversation.”   v

No Wrong Answers can be purchased at Foursided locations across the city or nowronganswersgame.com.

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