DOING IT LIVE
At the taping, the bit that Houghton and his writers agonized over—it doesn’t go well. Of course, it’s all fixed in editing, but if you were in the audience that night, you got to see the organic machinations behind a television show—something not many people ever get to see. “There’s plenty of live shows to be seen in Springfield,” Jenkins says. “You can see a Little Theatre show at the Landers [Theatre], but you don’t want to see the mistakes. You don’t go watch the rehearsal process. For us you get to see the finished product as well as the behind-the-scenes, hidden stuff.”
You also get to see Houghton in his element as he interacts with the audience between segments. This is something he picked up while attending a taping of Craig Ferguson’s now-defunct The Late Late Show. The show was known for its laissez-faire attitude toward the form itself and its willingness to acutely acknowledge the fourth wall. On set at The Mystery Hour, Houghton is energized and loose during a taping. He seems casual and relaxed. It’s kind of a wonder to see his switch flip when the cameras are on: His guest is the most important person in the room, and, as those around him will attest, that focused interest is all genuine.
“The coolest part for me is watching him interact when the guests are on the show and the segment is over, when he sits and just really connects with [the guests]—it is super-inspiring,” Black says. “You can tell that he truly cares about these people and their stories. Unless you go to the live show, you wouldn’t get to see how much joy [Houghton] has doing that part. To me it’s those moments that you can see this is why he does this. If there’s anything that’s super-special about the show, it’s those moments.”
It’s always been Houghton’s goal to take The Mystery Hour national and to do so in Springfield. The Mystery Hour is built to last. It’s produced through mechanical processes honed through trial and error and years of practice, and the show is still growing—expanding to a place like Charlotte isn’t something that happens on accident. Neither is selling out a theatre that books national touring acts on a monthly basis. “I can’t tell you how many times, Jeff, me, or whoever else, when we’re backstage before a show starts, [thinks] ‘This is so stupid that we’re doing this right now,’” Black says. “This is just a bunch of people that just want to do exactly what we’re doing but don’t really have a way to do it. So we just do it in Springfield.”