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
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.
“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?
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)