Loudmouth (1988)

23 May

1989. I had only lived in Ohio for a few years at this point, so I was still new to the whole concept of cable television. We didn’t have it back in Indiana, so I grew up with just a small subset of local channels, and WGN. But once we got cable, a whole new world opened up. MTV showed me music I couldn’t hear on local radio, ESPN showed me Australian Rules Football (Go Magpies!) and many other unusual sports, and WWOR 9 out of Seacaucus New Jersey showed me what pure, unadulterated insanity looked like.

There were three shows that WWOR made in studio that really stick in my memory, even today. The first was the Richard Bey Show. The Richard Bey show was pure, glorious daytime trash. He claimed everybody from Jerry Springer to Sally Jesse Raphael to Geraldo stole his shtick, when in fact he stole a lot of his shtick from the guy I’ll talk about in a few minutes. Some of his sketches even became the basis for reality shows, for better or worse. Still, for daytime hours, this show was as entertaining as it got. Here’s a “Best of” compilation.

Next was Steampipe Alley. Steampipe Alley was a show “made for kids”. The show was hosted by the extra-hyper Mario Cantone. It was almost a variety show in format. There were comedy sketches (including Dating Game parodies, you know…for kids), games (find Sammy Davis Jr’s glass eye in a pie…you know, because kids in the late 80s knew who Sammy Davis Jr. was), and old Max Fleisher and Looney Tunes cartoons (because kids loved Popeye!). The end game was an obstacle course a la Double Dare… the show was just insanity. And I loved it, even though I didn’t understand 85% of it. The clip below is of the final “Double Dare” style game.

Finally, though, is the reason the game I’m talking about even exists. The Morton Downey Jr. show only ran for about 2 years, but what a crazy 2 years it was. Downey’s show was loud, it was rude, it was crass, and it was so much fun to watch when I was 13 years old. As I look back on it now as a slightly wiser 39 year-old, I realize now that Downey is pretty much responsible for everything horrible that has happened to human discourse for the past 20 years. But it was fun at the time. Below is a clip of him “debating” Ron Paul. Skip to a couple minutes in to get to the start of the debate, stay for Mort telling Ron he’d puke on him (about 5:30 in).

So logically, when you have a show made for adults – on late night tv, you get a company known for making mass market family games to create the board game, right? Well, that’s what happened. Loudmouth was made by Cardinal Industries – a company still around, making nice quality classic games, and media tie-in games such as the Big Bang Theory and Duck Dynasty Trivia Games and Hello Kitty Uno. So how does a company known for making such family friendly fare make a game based on the Morton Downey Jr. Show? By not really making the game about the show at all.

IMG_2048In the box are a couple hundred debate topics, and about 40 “Loudmouth” cards. This sounds all well and good, except that you only have debates on the non-gray squares on the board. There are 36 squares on the board, only 10 of them are non-gray, and 1 of those is the winning square. In fact, for the entire first quarter of the game, there are no debates!! Also, it’s not that hard to jump over the others, meaning it’s possible (but not likely) to play an entire game without ever delving into one Downey-esque donnybrook!

So, with so much of the game reliant on these “Loudmouth” cards, what are they? Some of them are just quick actions that move you ahead a space or two, some of them are cards you can hold onto and use them on later turns, and the rest are “stunt” cards. They may ask you to do an impression of Mort, spouting one of his catchphrases…or worse.


Once you finally get to a debate space, then the game really kicks in. Each player has a hand of debate cards, and based on the spot on the board, a given player chooses the topic for the debate. Now, as this is a debate game…you need two teams of equal sides. You also need a non-playing moderator. Now, that player does get to wear the Mort mask…so that’s something.

IMG_2050They also get to butt in on debates that might be stalling by reading a statement from the back of a debate card to help stir the pot. Let’s take a look at an example debate card:

IMG_2053So, the red team has to argue why a black candidate could win, the blue team argues against it…regardless of the political persuasion of the people involved (which could be a fair bit of fun, I suppose). As the debate rages on, the moderator is keeping track of how the teams are doing on the Mort card.

IMG_2065Lesson to learn: telling funny jokes really loudly is a better debating technique than making salient points.

As I said before, if a debate begins to stall out, rather than ending it (the game suggests a debate time of 10 MINUTES) Mort can egg it along by interjecting a point that can help fire things back up… here are the suggested talking points from the black president card.

IMG_2055Once a debate finally ends, the moderator determines which teams win each of the seven points, and they each move up that many spaces. The team that won the majority of points goes next. First team to the Home Base space wins.

As a debate game, it’s fine. I suppose the topics could have been edgy at the time, but are largely laughable or quaint these days. I think there should be more debate spaces on the board, but the debate time should be about half as long…perhaps 5 minutes at most. I don’t mind there being some mindless actions to break up the debates, but this game seems to take the reverse tactic, and it’s not as interesting. I could also see some folks taking the game a little too seriously, and getting quite upset…especially if there is a topic that they are actually passionate about.

As a game about the Morton Downey Jr. Show? It’s nowhere near as chaotic or as bombastic. I like that they do give the moderator ways to interject, but I’d almost like to see if there were a way to take it one step further. For example, in a 4-player game. One player plays Mort, one plays “For”, one plays “Con” and the fourth is the judge of the round. They give points on how well the two sides argue their points, and how well the Mort player antagonizes everyone involved. Only then do I think this game could reach the pure levels of insanity found on the Morton Downey Jr. Show.

This game doesn’t do much for me as a game, but as a nostalgia machine, this is one of the best games I’ve seen recently.

I would like to thank my friend Tom for allowing me to use his copy of the game for this post.


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