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Welcome to The Mystery Hour Blog Archive! For a few years, Jeff created improvised blog posts, based on your suggestions. Here they all are. On this archive site, you can also see past articles Jeff has written, as well as some archived media.



Sit and Reach Saves the Day

March 3, 2011

I’m writing from a Starbucks in sunny southern California. I wanted to experience a real, local coffee shop, so here I am. It’s great, there is no way I could experience something so authentic anywhere else. 

For the last prompt I asked, What gym class activity were you best at?

I will use Scott’s answer:

“Easy! Calf stretches and sit and reach! Bring it on! I will still own everyone at both of those!!”

Scott, good use of five exclamation points. Your enthusiasm is clear, I believe you, stop yelling. I believe that the sit and reach was on the Presidential Fitness test. It was during these tests that I peaked at my ability to do pull ups. It has been a downhill slope ever since. Man, in elementary school, these seemed like important tests. I wonder if they’re like math, where you never know when you might need it?

I wonder what a real life Presidential Fitness scenario might be…

Here are the activities:

  • Curl-ups (or partial curl-ups)
  • Shuttle run
  • Endurance run/walk
  • Pull-ups (or right angle push-ups or flexed-arm hang)
  • V-sit reach (or sit and reach)

In a dark office a phone rings. A man in a military uniform answers the phone through puffs of a cigar.

General McHowser: Howser

President: General Howser, this is the President

McHowser: Yes sir

President: Howser, we have discovered an immediate threat to the security of the United States. Terrorists have taken over the halls of Congress and have planted a bomb, set to explode in 18 minutes.

McHowser: How is that a problem?

President: Good one, but seriously.

McHowser: Then, we need the full force of our military to encounters these bastards.

President: No, we can’t risk this thing going off. They can’t know we’ve come. I have another route.

McHowser: Yes?

President: This office hasn’t been requiring the Presidential Physical Fitness for countless year for no reason at all. We’ve been doing it to find the most physically fit person in the United States for times such as these. We…need…to call…Scott Kirchner.

McHowser: How do we get him here in time?

President: We already alerted him. He is already endurance walking his way here from Missouri.

McHowser: Sir, with all due respect, there’s no way he can get here…

McHowser’s office door is thrown open

Scott: I’m here!

McHowser: You don’t even seem winded.

Scott: I’m wearing New Balance.

McHowser: Let’s get to work. I’ll explain everything in the car.

The two arrive at the  Capitol building

McHowser: Okay, the bomb is under the speaker’s podium. You’ll need to go in through the secret page entrance that hasn’t been used for years. We’ve put a wire on you so can speak to me on the outside the entire time. And son…

Scott: Yeah?!

McHowser: Our country is depending on you.

Scott (calmly): Well then it’s a good thing I’m physically fit.

Scott walks toward the entrance

McHowser (mumbling): I’m not sure he’s coming out alive

Scott (still walking): I can still hear you.

Scott opens door slowly revealing an unlit hallway. He reaches the end of the hallway and is unable to open another door.

Scott: Sir, I can’t get this door open!

McHowser: There is a secret lock. You need to wedge your toes under the door to trip one part. Then, there is a button that hangs two feet from the door, and two feet off the ground, but it won’t work if you use your finger. Son, you’re going to have to use your forehead someway.

Scott: I got it! I’ll wedge my toes, then do curl ups, hitting my forehead on the button.

McHowser: What is a curl up?

Scott: The same as a sit up.

McHowser: I don’t mean to alarm you, but you’ve got to hit that button 90 times in 60 seconds for it to open.

Scott: No problem!

Scott gets down and manages to open the door through his prolific ability to do curl ups.

Scott: I’m through!

McHowser: Good. You’re almost there. Run, son, run! You’ve got to make it to the next door in under eleven seconds!

Scott: I’m off, like a shuttle!

Scott makes it through the door just in time.

Scott: Oh no, they’ve spotted me! They’re shooting at my feet down the hallway.

McHowser: You’ve got to get high!

Scott grabs a water pipe and pulls himself up.

Scott: Oh know! They’re alternating between shooting high and shooting low

McHowser: You are going to need to pull yourself up and down opposite of what they’re doing. A standard machine gun clip will run out of bullets after 10-12 rounds. So you’ll have to do 10-12 pull ups.

Scott: On it!

Scott accomplishes the harrowing feat and charges after the terrorist. He pulls out a square scooter and slides between the terrorist’s legs. The terrorist falls over and is knocked unconscious. Scott approaches the next terrorist.

Scott: This is something I learned in kickball! Kick. Ball.

The terrorist doubles over in pain.

Scott: I believe I have subdued the terrorists!

McHowser: Kid, according to our infrared sensors, there’s one left in the balcony with a sniper rifle. Quick, get to the bomb before he sees you.

Scott slides behind the podium.

Scott: I can’t reach it sir. I just can’t reach it. I’m going to have to lay down to reach it.

McHowser: No! Kid! If you lay down, the sniper will see your legs and shoot you.

Scott (giving up): I don’t know what to do…

McHowser: Kid, I don’t either…

They sit in silence

Scott: Wait!

McHowser: Yeah?

Scott: I need to sit…

McHowser: Go on…

Scott: And reach 

McHowser: Yes! Get it son.

As America the Beautiful plays in the background, Scott extends his legs and reaches forward with this hands. His hands keep moving forward further and further, impossibly far, well past his toes. He reaches the bomb with 30 seconds left on the timer.

Scott: Got it! How do I know which wire to cut?

McHowser: The red one, cut the red one!

Scott: I can’t tell colors apart!

McHowswer: Are  you color blind?

Scott: No! They cut funding for art in my school district and I’ve never had an art class. I don’t know the difference!

McHowser: Damn! You’ve got to cut one! Just cut one!

Scott cuts one at random


Next prompt: What is the last thing you said to somebody?

Sights from a Roadtrip

February 24, 2011

Alright, I’m back and feeling bloggery. It’s a good thing. I’m now in the Pacific Time Zone as I made my cross country trip across the country on a trip. I’ve done it twice before. Once, with my parents and my brother when my dad, after many years, finally decided that he was done flying. There’s a certain romance to hitting the open road, and then there’s also a certain reality. 

Here are my observations from the road:

-I only know about 30% of the words to every song I sing along to

-Oklahoma City actually does exist. Someone owes me $5.

-Do not, under any circumstances stay in room 237 of the Travelodge motel in Amarillo, TX. No reason. Stop asking.

-Motel remotes are always 45% the size of a regular remote.

-It is a necessity in a motel room to spend at least 15 minutes unceremoniously naked.

-Keep gummy bears out of the sun in your car. They become gummy Pangea.

-Arizona looks like the inside of an unkempt terrarium

-No matter how far you’re going, you will hear a new rattle in your car about 3/4 of the way through the drive.

-Do not, under any circumstances stay in room 118 in the Howard Johnson’s in Flagstaff, AZ. No reason. Stop asking.

-When someone passes you on the interstate, why does the person in the passenger seat have to look you in the eye? What are they expecting to see?

Next prompt: What gym class activity were you best at?

Media About My Big Move

So there has been some cool coverage of my departure from Springfield in the various media. Here they are:

Blood Master Exits Missouri State Standard Newspaper

The Last Mystery Hour at Skinny Improv KSMU Radio Story. Text or audio available

Jeff Houghton on Community Close Up This is posted on Facebook. Also, I look extra pale.

The Final Mystery Hour 417 Magazine

The Standard Text

Most of campus knows him in some way or another.Some students call him the “Blood Drive Guy,” while others call him the “Skinny Improv Guy,” and sometimes he’s just “That Guy.” His real name is Jeff Houghton and you can definitely label him as a jack-of-all-trades.

Teri Schadler, a nurse from Community Blood Center of the Ozarks, said she feels like she’s known him forever.

“I guess you could call him a well-rounded guy,” she said with a laugh. “He’s very personable and friendly, very laid back. He’s going to be missed dearly.”

Houghton will be missed because last week was his last blood drive with Missouri State. Today is his last day at work for CBCO, and this is his last week in Springfield.

At age 32, Houghton is a comedian for Skinny Improv, a freelance writer for 417 Magazine, an actor in various commercials and a manager of more than 200 accounts for CBCO including Missouri State.

He has been a part of Skinny Improv and CBCO since 2004, and he has managed MSU’s blood drives for about five or six years now. This week, he is going to move and leave it all behind.

“I am going to Los Angeles to try to make it in Hollywood,” Houghton says, “which is equal parts terrifying and exhilarating.”

Houghton sits perfectly at ease in the waiting area while the blood drive busily continues behind him. He has a grin on his face the whole time.

“I’ve always had the idea of doing it, but I never pulled the trigger, you know,” he says. “Then my wife talked about having kids, and I thought, ‘Oh my God! I have to do this first.'”

He shrugs when asked what he wants to do there: writer, actor, comedian. He said he hopes to do stand-up comedy, get an agent and ultimately make it onto a TV show.

“The first week I’ll try to get sun just so I’ll look normal. I won’t even try to be tan,” he says with a smirk. “My biggest goal of this thing – become less pale.”

The first few weeks in L.A. he plans to just try to survive, Houghton said. This will be the first time he tries to establish his comedy career before finding a job that includes helping people.

“I’ve always wanted to do something that helps people and always wanted to do comedy,” Houghton says. “It’s been a great fit for me to be able to do both things here (in Springfield).”His favorite blood drive by far is the one he manages for MSU every semester, he said. MSU’s public affairs mission lends itself to making the blood drive a big deal.

“It’s a pretty remarkable thing,” he says. “Like, if 100 students donate, it saves 300 lives, and they only get a T-shirt from it. It shows they’re really here to help others.”

MSU’s blood drives have really grown over the years to something big, he said.

When he started they were lucky to have 300 donations per semester. Last semester the blood drive collected almost 2,000 donations. He says he’s hoping to collect 1,300 donations this blood drive to make it 3,000 so he can go out with a bang.

“I’ll miss the community,” Houghton says. “I feel really connected to Springfield and the community. I’ll miss MSU’s students. Can I miss 20,000 people when I don’t even know most of them? It sounds really cheesy.”

He says he’s not sure what pushes him to try to do all these different things. He has always had all kinds of ideas that run through his head.

“A few years ago I figured out that, if I have an idea, I can do it,” Houghton says. “I used to have lots of ideas but never did them. Now if I think it, I just go do it.”

Now, he’s ready to try this idea and “just go do it” in Hollywood. He has been training his replacement for CBCO, and his days in Springfield are coming to a close.

“Crystal here is my replacement as the new ‘blood drive guy,'” Houghton says with a chuckle as he motions to a woman sitting quietly across from him. “She’s going through the hormone therapy now. She’ll get there eventually.” He winks.

He leans back in his chair with his arm over the back and doesn’t seem to notice the hectic nurses running around him. He also doesn’t flinch when a man comes up behind him to sign a paper.

He says it’s easy for him to deal with all the chaos that comes with blood drives and improvisational comedy.

“There are a lot of improv principles, like being in the moment and handling what’s given to you, that I incorporate into my life,” he says. “My mind is chaotic, so it fits me.”

That may be why he is handling the uncertain road ahead of him so well. Houghton gives a nervous smile and says he doesn’t really feel like he is talking about himself right now.

“Nothing has hit me yet about moving,” he says. “Training my replacement, next Tuesday being my last day at work, moving; I feel like on the drive there (L.A.) is when it’ll hit me, and I’ll start weeping.”

Houghton stands up and after a handshake, he blends into the chaotic scene with Crystal trailing behind him.


“Mystery Jeff” Houghton performed his last Mystery Hour improvised talk show at the Skinny Improv last Friday Feb.4. KSMU’s Randy Stewart was one of Jeff’s final guests on the show.

(“Magical Mystery Tour” plays in theatre)
RANDY: For the past several years, Jeff Houghton of the Skinny Improv has hosted a local talk show… never seen it on any local TV or cable channels, or on the radio? That’s because it wasn’t ON TV or radio—it was performed live once a month, the first Friday of each month, at the Skinny Improv Comedy Theatre on Park Central East in downtown Springfield. Last Friday February 4th, as the snow piled up outside, “Mystery Jeff” Houghton performed his final Mystery Hour show at the Skinny Improv. And I was there… in fact I was one of the guests on the show.
ANNOUNCER: “Welcome to the LAST Mystery Hour… tonight’s guests are Randy Stewart… Wes Pratt… now here’s your host, MYSTERY JEFF HOUGHTONNNNN!” (cheers & applause)
RANDY: Jeff called the Mystery Hour an “improvised talk show”: not quite a “real” talk show (well, it was real to Jeff!) and not quite a spoof of the talk show genre… but sort of all of the above.
JEFF HOUGHTON to audience: How’s it going?
JEFF: Good. Hey, how many of you guys have been to The Mystery Hour before?
AUDIENCE cheers…
JEFF: How many of you have never been?
(some audience cheers)
JEFF: Well, it’s the last one… don’t get too attached!
RANDY: It was the last Mystery Hour. Jeff and his wife are leaving Springfield for Los Angeles this month, so Jeff can try his hand at acting out there. After working as an intern at David Letterman’s Late Show in New York after college, Jeff credits his years in improv here in Springfield has helping him develop the acting and comedy chops he believes he’l l need in L.A.
The Mystery Hour set featured a desk and a couch as you would expect any late-night talk show to have, complete with fancy condenser mike on the desk. Jeff would open each show with a monologue improvised from audience suggestions. There were pre-written comedy bits with his wife and other Skinny Improv players, either performed live or pre-taped and shown on the big video screen, as well as spoof commercials. And Jeff would interview local guests each month. Early on in the run of The Mystery Hour run he had KSMU’s Missy Shelton on as a guest… last Friday it was my turn, on Jeff’s final Mystery Hour.
JEFF: Actually, what happened is, I was supposed to do something else and I forgot and went right to you, so…
RANDY: Yeah, that’s right—the first commercial.
JEFF: Shhhh! (audience laughs)
RANDY: Hey, it’s a FAKE SHOW, people, don’t worry about it! It’s a FAKE COMMERCIAL! There’s no money involved!
JEFF: Randy Stewart’s just speakin’ the truth!
RANDY: I have a bad tendency to do that, actually.
JEFF: Yes, so tell us, ‘cause it seems like you must be there at all hours.
RANDY: I hear that all the time… I’m there 24/7.
JEFF: Are you?
RANDY: Not really. You hear 8 hours’ worth of breaks with my voice? I do them between 8 and 9:30 in the morning.
JEFF: So you’re telling me that you work an hour and a half a day, 5 days a week?
RANDY: No, no… well, okay, yeah. (Audience laughs)
RANDY: JUST KIDDING, MSU administration!!
Before it was over Jeff had me telling stories… which I’m not very good at, but I was able to put in some good words for KSMU, and we had a good time, I think. They had a capacity crowd of about 260, even with the snow, and they were quite enthusiastic—even though I got the feeling many of them had NO idea who I was! The experience reinforced something I already knew about myself: I much prefer interviewing other people to being interviewed myself! So as Jeff leaves for the West Coast soon, I want to wish him best of luck, and leave him with these words from Bugs Bunny:
BUGS BUNNY: Westward, westward, Hiawatha sailed into the fiery sunset. Fare thee well, Hiawatha… fare thee well, oh mighty warrior. (chuckles)

Updates & So There I Was is Saturday. My Last Appearance Onstage in Spfd

February 11, 2011

So, I’m going to continue updating this blog even though the Mystery Hour is on hiatus, be forewarned. I probably won’t for the next week, but look for it. Also, I think I’m going to start a non comedy related blog about my experience trying to make it in Hollywood. So look for that.

So, my last Skinny Improv Mainstage show is Saturday night at 8 pm. You should come. The Mystery Hour has been awesome for me, but really I’ve done about 10 to 1 improv to Mystery Hour shows. Come out to it

After the Mainstage show is the Mystery Hour spinoff show, “So There I Was…Storytelling Series” at Q Enoteca Wine Bar on Commercial Street. The show starts at 10 pm. If you haven’t come to it, you should. It will be my last official show in Springfield. The theme of the night is LOVE, for Valentine’s Day. Michelle and I will be sharing our story.

Here’s the info:

We’ve got some great stories this month, all on the theme of LOVE. In honor of Valentine’s Day we’ll be sharing a variety of stories all around the same worthy theme.So sit tight and fall in love with love all over again.

This month’s storytellers:

-Nate Black and Lauren Wilbur
-Jeff and Michelle Houghton
-Peter Meidlinger and Hue-Ping Chin, professors at Drury
-Mark Geiss and Joanna Small, director of Drury Security & KSPR reporter

-Plus the music of Evan Austin

Our ancestors did it in caves.
Our grandparents did it around card tables.
And we want to do it on Commercial Street… tell good stories.

No rehearsed lines. No special effects. Just people telling true stories that are funny or moving—and probably both. Because stories are what connect us. They remind us who we are. They give us something to do on first dates.

We’ve modeled the event after the wonderful storytelling series The Moth. Here is a link:

Q Enoteca wine bar is the perfect venue for this little experiment in storytelling. So There I Was is still FREE.
Save your cash for Q-bar’s wine and beer selection.

Free. $0.00. Zero dollars.

I’m Moving to Los Angeles. Seriously, I am.

January 25, 2011

Well, I have an announcement…

The next Mystery Hour may be the last Mystery Hour…


In a few weeks I am picking up and moving…

To Los Angeles…


To give it a shot at in acting.

I usually joke around on this blog, but this time I’m serious, and fairly scared to death. I’ve always thought about the idea of trying  it, and this summer I started to get serious about exploring the idea. I figured I needed to do it before Michelle I started having kids. We were talking about kids and I realized, “Oh my gosh, I have to try this first.” So, we decided I needed to go for a week this fall to see what I thought. As I said, I’ve always liked the idea of it, as an idea, but I needed to see if I would like the reality of it. I met with friends of friends and contacts and really could see myself liking it (even though I got a $500 red light camera ticket).

Through my time at the Skinny Improv I’ve been able to see that writing, acting, improvising, and hosting are what I really really love to do. If it was possible to pursue this as a career in Springfield, I would do it, but, unfortunately, it has to be tried elsewhere. I don’t think this move would have seemed to be a possible thing for me if I wasn’t able to cultivate my talents, friendships, and ideas at The Skinny Improv. Had I moved to L.A. eight years ago instead of moving to Springfield I wouldn’t have been able to do a fraction of the things I’ve done. All of my ideas would just be ideas rattling around in my head. Instead, my ideas have rattled around on stage, and people have come to watch. I feel so lucky that I happened to meet a girl who was from Springfield.

Someone said to me the other day that my decision is brave. I told her that if I would have known how frightened I would be right now, I never would have made the decision. A little funny and a little truth and hardly brave.  The truth is I’ve been dreading writing this because The Mystery Hour and The Skinny Improv are so precious to me. I’m sure people will read this and say, ‘What’s the deal buddy? It’s just a once a month late night talk show, that I’ve come to just a couple of times. It’s not even televised.” To which I would say, “Hey, you’re right, but why did you have to bring up the not being televised part?” Actually, it does take a lot of time each month, and it’s partly the creative process that I love. More than that, it’s been an exercise in self actualization. I have never felt more in my element than when I’m on stage with a full house interviewing people or doing some strange and random sketch, or performing an improv show with my friends. I will certainly be going through withdrawals from The Skinny. It’s been a twice a weekend deal for me for 6+ years, and most of my best friends have come as a result of it.

So here’s the plan. By plan I mean, a loose association of hopes. I’ll be leaving in mid-February and I’ll be staying with a friend, actually his parents’ house in West Hollywood first. I’m going to start taking improv classes so I can get to know people. I will also start getting up doing stand up often. Then, I can hopefully find someone to represent me and start doing auditions. I will also try to find a job, doing whatever. I’m fairly ignorant when it comes to the business side of things out there, so I will be seeking all kinds of advice, and connections big and small. If vampires are still cool when I arrive I will feel confident that there isn’t anyone paler than me. I actually had a woman who wanted to reprersent me, that I met on the plane in October, but that has kind of fallen through recently. Yikes.

Michelle, my wife, will stay here for the time being, she works for a school, so she has summers off. She will come out and stay for the summer and we will re-evaluate in August. We are still going to be so married and so in love, just far away. It’s going to be difficult. Very difficult. However, I must say that my wife is amazing to let me do this. I appreciate that it is rare, and I am lucky.

So, here’s the thing. I may come back in a few months, or a year, or who knows. If I’m back in a few weeks, this will all seem pretty melodramatic. That’s why I have hesitated to make a big deal out of it. But, it’s been hard not to, I get really attached to things. I’ve made so many good friends in Springfield, that I feel awful about leaving them. I may come back and do an improv show and a Mystery Hour periodically, after all my beloved wife is still here. If I move back I will most certainly be cranking The Mystery Hour back up again. If I’m not successful in my time there, I will happily come back, because more than anything I need the experience of going through this.

As you can tell, it is mostly up in the air. I’m in the realm of chasing dreams now, and I’ve never really been here before. It is exciting and it is terrifying. I’m not delusional so I recognize that the Skinny and the Mystery Hour has meant more to me than readers of this blog, and people who have come to shows over the years, but thanks for being a big part of this self actualization process for me.

This blog will continue, so keep checking in. In fact, I will probably have more time on my hands, so I will probably post more.

Frequently Asked Questions

-What are you thinking?

—–I have no idea

-Do you want contacts or connections? I have a friend who______

—–Absolutely! I will take any contact or connection out there, no matter how seemingly insignificant.

-I just got General Error 408

—-Unplug your computer, then plug it back in.

-What shows do you have before you leave?

—–February 4th will be the last Mystery Hour for the foreseeable future, and I will be doing the Mainstage Improv shows at The Skinny on Friday nights until I leave in mid February.

-Can I contribute to a fund for your move? You don’t seem like someone who has a ton of money.

—–I ain’t too proud to beg.

Latest Things I’ve Noticed

January 20, 2011

Here are the latest Things I’ve Noticed from the last show.

I’ve Noticed:

-That the laser printer is the lamest use of lasers ever

-That I like to think that sometimes when my dogs are talking to each other they complain about my hair being all over their fur.

-That the key to enjoying a glass of V-8 is to not think about ketchup while drinking it.

-That I wonder if when crazy people get together and take a group picture, that they’ll then take another one and have everyone look really “normal.”

-That if a child learning his numbers asked me what the number 8 looks like, I would sweetly tell them it looks like a decapitated snowman.

-That when I’m in the car wash with the multi-colored brushes spinning and soap flying around, I feel like I’m being attacked by rabid muppets.

-That the TV show, 2 1/2 Men is 2 1/2 times worse than any sitcom I’ve ever seen

Elvis’s Right Hand Man. 417 Mag Article

January 19, 2011

In October, Johnny Wilkinson was a guest on The Mystery Hour. Johnny was the longtime guitarist for Elvis. His story of how he became that is pretty amazing. Johnny lives in Springfield. I also interviewed him for 417 Magazine. The article is too long to put on here, so I’m just going to put a link. It really is an awesome story and worth reading.

Here is the article:

Elvis’s Right-Hand Man

I have video from his interview that I’m going to put up soon. Stay tuned.

FCN: Apple Posts Record 2010 Profits Due to One Local Fanboy

January 18, 2011

Here is my latest installment for the legendary Fair City News.

Apple Posts 2010 Profits Due To One Local Fanboy | Jan 18, 2011 | Comments 0

 Apple fanboy responsible for stock increase

Springfield, MO-Apple, the maker of the popular iPhone, iPad, Macintosh computers, and countless other technological gadgets posted a profit of 16 billion dollars for the year, 2010. “We’re excited about the numbers for the past year,” said Apple CEO Steve Jobs. “It was a record year for the company and we would first and foremost like to thank Springfield, Missouri resident Lucas Edwards.” It is rare for Jobs to explain the company’s sales beyond the numbers, and certainly rarer for him to single out one consumer. “Well, let’s see, I can remember buying an iPad, Apple TV, and a new Macbook in the past year,” explains Edwards. “But, to be honest, when I’m shopping for Apple merchandise I tend to blackout and wake up in the morning drooling on my keyboard looking at a confirmation e-mail of the night’s purchases.”

Jobs expanded further saying, “We were looking at a down year, despite the launch of the iPad, but then Lucas Edwards went on a couple of spending benders, and next thing you know, profits are off the charts.” Edwards claims that this year he won’t need to shop for anything new, but admitted, “At this point, I don’t feel like I have much control over my urges. I already have an iPhone with AT&T, but with the announcement of the Verizon iPhone, I plan on keeping my contract with AT&T and purchasing the Verizon iPhone, so I can compare, and ultimately keep both of them.”

Edwards love of Apple extends beyond technology, he doesn’t allow oranges in the house and even avoids political correct speech saying, “I don’t even want my speech to be a PC.” Edwards has gotten a 2nd, 3rd, and 4th job to keep up with his addiction. This situation is fine for Edwards, and even more fine for Jobs. “As long as Lucas Edwards is continually buying Apple products, Apple will thrive for years to come, even if he doesn’t.”

News-Leader Article on STIW

Storytellers tonight share personal tales of racial awareness and confronting racism


By Cory de Vera • NEWS-LEADER • January 15, 2011

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 Martin Luther King Day is Monday, but if you are looking to get in the spirit tonight, think about going to Q Enoteca on Commercial Street.


Saturday night is the second night this month that the business is presenting “So There I Was … Story Telling Series” featuring area residents telling personal stories touching on racism, racial awareness, and diversity.

Friday night’s performances were gut-wrenching, sad, enlightening, and funny, too.


The storytelling series started in September by Skinny Improv actors Jeff Houghton and Sarah Jenkins. Houghton is the host of The Mystery Hour, a live talk interview show. He said his favorite part of the show has always been the personal stories people tell.


Jenkins and Houghton then discovered a podcast called “The Moth,” which features live storytelling events that take place in New York, and decided to start a series in Springfield. The events take place once each month, but January was the first time they decided to adopt a theme, recognizing Martin Luther King Day.


“Storytelling is a way people connect to each other,” said Jenkins. While our grandparent’s generation would naturally tell stories, life today is busier and different, and the art is becoming lost. The series, she said, is an attempt to revive the tradition.


Storytellers at the Friday event were:


• Mary Norman, a graduate assistant at Missouri State who spoke of her father’s experiences in a Japanese interment camp during World War II.


• Business owner Lyle Foster, who spoke of his friendship with Ricky Byrdsong, a coach who was murdered by a white supremacist who went on a shooting spree near Skokie, Illinois.


• Leslie Anderson, who spoke of growing up in an upper-middle class white family in Oklahoma.


• Wes Pratt, who spoke of civil rights demonstrations in Springfield when he was a college student, and his mother’s memorable ways of letting him participate although she worried about him.


Houghton said tonight’s event will likely feature the same speakers telling the same stories, but, as a live event, there may be some variation.


Q Enoteca is at 308 W. Commercial St. The event begins at 9 p.m.