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KOFY TV’s Dance Party

Want a quick and easy way to entertain the family while also learning about the town you’re visiting? Try cable-access television shows. They offer a unique glimpse into local culture, and in some cases, you can do more than just watch them — you can actually be part of the performance. Here are some fan favorites across the United States that have opened up their tapings to the public:

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Fuzzy Gerdes
In the San Francisco Bay Area, KOFY TV’s Dance Party (www.kofytv.com) follows the popular reality show format and invites anyone with moves like Madonna or Michael Jackson to participate (though space is limited). This year’s theme is the 1980s: The more it looks like you’re still living in that decade — think stirrup pants, shoulder pads and teased hair — the better your chances of screen time.

A sort of American Bandstand for all walks, Chicago’s Chic-a-Go-Go (www.roctober.com/chicagogo) features its own hand-puppet host — a talking rat — as well as live musical acts ranging from the Plain White T’s to Japanese punk-pop band Shonen Knife. Expect to see solo seniors and entire families grooving, as well as costumed dancers such as life-size bananas and Sailor Moons.

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Austin Variety Show
In Texas, the Austin Variety Show (www.austinvarietyshow.com), filmed monthly, engages studio audiences with participation games like the Mating Game (a modified version of the ’60s classic), as part of a larger lineup that includes stand-up comics and burlesque troupes.

And in the Boston area, The Steve Katsos Show (www.stevekatsos.com) gives Leno and Letterman a run for their money. Styled like a late-night talk show, it even has its own house band.