This week’s show starts with a great story from Leland Klassen about his recent trip to Mexico.
We were out boogie boarding on the beach and I bashed my leg on this rock. So, I’m freaking out cause it really hurt and I’m warning my wife by yelling out, “Hey there’s a rock here! Everybody be careful, there’s a rock here, and honey, I’m bleeding!”
My wife is so cold. All she said to me was, “Oh, you’ll be fine. Let’s go.” If you get sick in my house, you have maybe 15 minutes of her sympathy until she’s like, “Will you just get up or die?”
What? Where’s the soup you just promised?
So, while she’s telling me I’m fine, I start to go in because I’m in pain and blood was starting to pour down my leg. It might have looked worse than it was, but I was limping.
I was walking down the beach with my smashed up boogie board, leaving a trail of blood, and, since I’m a comedian, I tell the locals, “If you think this is bad, you should see the shark.” Here’s what I realized soon after: since they were locals and probably didn’t speak English, the only word that they probably understood was shark.
So, it cleared and we had the entire beach to ourselves. It was awesome.
I bandaged my leg up and it was starting to heal. My son wants to go boogie boarding again, so as we are heading back out my wife says to me, just to mess with my head, “Aren’t sharks attracted to blood?” I just respond with, “Haha, very funny,” but she planted a seed.
We get out there, I’m all paranoid, and see something in the waves. I hear a bump and go “What was that?” Then, and I’m not making this up, one of the waves gets up, and as it gets clearer I see either a big fish or a small shark. I’m not about to take a risk with my own life, so I walk back up to the shore and talk to my wife about it.
I tell her what happened, say there’s a shark out there and that I’m not about to risk my life. She looked at me, did a kind of weird look with her head, and asks “Ummm… but you left your son out there?”
It was probably just a big fish.
Also on the show we have the leader of the improv group Fish Sticks, Whit Shiller.
Daren Streblow: So how long has Fish Sticks comedy been around?
Whit Shiller: We’ve been doing this since 2007.
Daren: One thing I hate about you is that you don’t write a word. You don’t sit in front of a Word processor everyday, like I am, just trying to bang out something funny.
Whit: It’s not easy to write material, though. It takes a lot. They’re different skill sets, though. In stand-up you need to have your material so ingrained that you can deliver it off the cuff every time. In improv, you got to have your mind. We’re really good at that part of it; we go up there with empty heads and just react in the moment.
Daren: So, you guys are obviously clean, and I’ve noticed that in some church audiences and almost all secular audiences that they try to steer clean acts into off color stuff. Is it difficult to avoid that, especially when you’re in a hyper-interactive mode with the audience?
Whit: You have to go in with a mindset. I mean, first off we just don’t go certain places. I think you have to decide that when you are doing a show, you have to set the standards. You’re gonna have someone every now and again trying to get you to get go a little of color or into something with a little more risqué aspects. You need to respect people for where they are, but just say that’s something we’re not going to do. You got to find an easy way to get out of it with a laugh that helps people realize that there’s a way to have fun and laugh when it’s not in the gutter. Going into the gutter is just cheap laughs. The source of the laughter is mostly just from people being nervously uncomfortable, so it’s a cheat. If you’re sincere about your comedy and care about the craft, you’re just not going to go there.Daren: I will see themes that recreate themselves in improv that seem sort of planned out. Is that scripted?
Whit: We find that if we get a similar suggestion frequently, for example Jello, for whatever reason, is the world’s favorite suggestion, we try to take them off the board. It becomes stales to us, and we want to fresh all the time. I was sitting with a guy once and he was talking about this other improv group and said, “I’ve seen them five times. Don’t you get tired of doing the same thing over and over again?” I responded with, “Don’t you know what improv is?”
But, there are some people who will go to the same well every time. I guess there’s sort of a middle ground between sketch and improv, but that’s not improv. There’s something magical when you can have a scene or a game that happens organically in that moment. It happens nowhere else, at no other time in history, and is a unique, joyful, playful experience. That’s what we’re going for everytime. We can’t pull that off if it’s scripted. We are probably more insistent about that than most other groups.
Daren: You guys have recently joined forced with HIMprov, an improv group from Dallas. You’re Wisconsin based so, what brought this about?
Whit: Improv is a niche. There are only so many people doing and only so many people doing it clean. So, we wanted to be supportive of that and find some other people who are like-minded to push us and that we could also push. There a couple of guys who started Himprov in 2001, so they’re an older group than us. They came up, and it was just like family right from the beginning. There backgrounds and hearts were pretty similar to ours, so we just fell into a conversation about working together.
Improv is naturally a team sport. One-person improv really doesn’t go very far. So, we ended up feeling that we could leverage things. We have new formats that we’re putting out there, more events that we can draw from when we travel nationally, and a diverse set of backgrounds, men and women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s, that we can draw from. It’s really pretty cool. We got 19 total in our group. It’s a lot of people who can’t memorize a line.
Daren: Do you have a new name for your group?
Whit: We’re going to stick with Fish Sticks.
Daren: You have spiritual aspects to your show, along with the humor. What’s the kind of feedback you’ve been getting from your audiences about how you are hitting them emotionally and spiritually?
Whit: At the core of any good comedy, you’re dealing with some authentic truth and some shared experience. Things are funny because you can relate to them. In general, I think people really gravitate towards some truth which is part of they are experiencing. If you’re meeting them on common ground, then you can connect. With improv we can’t direct ourselves to some sort of certain message, but we try to be salt and light when we’re on stage and do comedy in a way that is accessible even if they’re not Christian or come from a rough background.
Daren: Well, congratulations on the merger. Where can we find out more Fish Sticks?
Whit: You can find us at fishstickscomedy.com.