“Utter Nonsense” is a card game that prompts players to say funny phrases in silly accents. The game is ideal for parties and suitable for all ages…or not. There are two versions: “Family” (which kids can play, too) and “Naughty” (which features some adult themes). “Utter Nonsense” was created to bring people together for laughter and fun.

The joy--and funniness--of the game comes from the fact that the phrases and the accents often do not match up…at all. Moreover, the phrases tend to be quite silly, to begin with, and all players are strongly encouraged to use improvising tactics to make their turns even funnier.

Both the “Family” and “Naughty” set contain 450 “Phrase Cards” and fifty “Accent Cards” which makes them repeatedly playable.

The Games were designed to be affordable (retailing at $24.99) and more about collaborating, performing and inducing giggles than straightforward win/lose type of play. Recently, inventors Shannon and Tim Swindle granted an exclusive interview.

Designing games, cards, and nonsense

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you get interested in designing games and what prompted you to create “Utter Nonsense”?

Tim Swindle (TS): My friend and I were at a bar on New Year's Day, talking about how much fun we had playing "Cards Against Humanity" the night before. At the time, we were both contemplating graduate school but decided to embrace our entrepreneurial spirits and create "Utter Nonsense" instead.

We had been playing a similar game for years with friends and family. The original game had two piles of paper, one was accents, and the other was phrases. You had to pull a piece of paper from each pile and say the phrase in the accent chosen. While we had the basic idea for a game, we still needed to iron out the rules, gameplay and come up with a name.

MM: How did you think up all the character voices and phrases for these cards?

Shannon Swindle (SS): The very first edition had a mixture of geographical accents, voices, emotions, expressions, and animals. Based on feedback from our fans, we realized that people preferred the "action" accents best like Chicken, Giving Birth, Pooping and Drunk versus the "typical" accents like Russian, French, and German.

So, when we designed the updated version of the game, we included more action accents and changed the description to say: "silly accents" instead of "stereotypical accents." For the Family Edition, we wanted a mixture of accents that would appeal to both kids and adults. So, we did some market research and asked people of all ages which accents and voices they preferred. As for the phrases, we have a talented team of writers who we work with on creating the content. With the Family Edition, we gave the writers a list of themes; they submitted their phrases, then Tim and I went through a rigorous process of selecting and editing. Some of the phrases are chosen as-is, but we spend a significant amount of time tweaking and revising.

In general, we want the phrases to be funny on their own, but even funnier when said in an accent or silly voice.

MM: You have two sets, a “Family” one and a “Naughty” one. Why did you decide to take this in two directions?

SS: Tim and his friend created “Utter Nonsense: The Inappropriate Accent Game” which we've just updated and rebranded as “Utter Nonsense: Naughty Edition.” It was funded on Kickstarter in August 2014. The original version has become a successful adult party game and is best suited for ages eighteen and up given the content on some of the cards. We heard from several people that they loved the game, but wished they could play with their kids, so Tim and I developed the Family Edition, which was released this summer (June 2017) and is sold exclusively at Target.

We like to say that you can play the Family Edition with your kids, put them to bed, then break out the Naughty Edition and some win!

MM: Have you any personal favorite characters/accents and phrases to say nonsense in?

SS: I like doing Gunter from the movie “Sing.” That's my go-to accent for Nonsense Judge's choice. We have several phrases that are meaningful to us and inside jokes that we included in the game. Those are my favorite ones. For example, Tim, our dad, and my son were all born on the same day, March 14, which is also known as Pi Day. So, we included a Pi Day card in their honor. "It's Pi Day, so I'll have 3.14159 slices of Key Lime."

Development, feedback, and the future

MM: What was the process of getting this game developed like?

TS: We paid our writers, graphic designer, and attorneys out of pocket. Then we launched on Kickstarter to help fund our first production run. Shortly after that, we were picked up by Marbles: The Brain Store. Then a publication in the UK, called Toy News, wrote a story about us. A buyer from Target saw the article and reached out to us, which set us on a different trajectory. It was a big undertaking for us as a small independent publisher, but we had great partners who helped us succeed, especially our manufacturer, Delano, in Battle Creek, MI. We decided to produce the game in the USA versus going to China, and while it may be slightly more expensive, we feel like the quality and service we get from our manufacturing partner is what's helped us be so successful.

MM: What sort of feedback have you gotten about “Utter Nonsense” thus far?

SS: The feedback we've received has been really positive. People write to us and tell us that their stomachs hurt from laughing so hard. With technology taking our everyone's lives, we think it's important to put down the phones and iPads and gather around the table with friends and family for simple, yet creative fun. It's about people connecting in a meaningful way, not just liking each other's FB posts. We both feel incredibly lucky to be in the business of creating fun.

MM: What other games have you designed, how do you envision this game evolving, and would you like to mention anything else?

TS: We're fortunate that "Utter Nonsense has introduced us to the toy and game industry.

We never thought we could make a living by trying to make people laugh. We'd love to build on our success and develop more products in the future. I just teamed up with our ten-year-old niece, Lexi, to develop “Lickety Spin” a make your candy fidget spinner kit. We successfully launched on Kickstarter and will have product available in early December. As for Utter Nonsense evolving, we currently have two editions of the game and plan to release expansion packs, starting with the Holiday Pack this season.