Tricked Out

Well, motherfakers!  It’s been a while.  After getting back from Puerto Rico, I drove cross country with my nephew’s Flat Stanley riding shotgun.  I suffered smoke inhalation while driving through the Oklahoma wildfires.  We had some wild times, me and Stanley.


Yep, we did the whole Route 66 experience, this time without my usual stop at the Big Texan Steak Ranch, home of the 72 ounce steak.   No siree!  Usually, I stop at the Big Texan and have a big juicy ribeye with a baked potato and an evening’s worth of hard liquor and stay the night on my way cross country.

I like to stop by their shooting gallery and do some target practice and enjoy the evening in a beautifully kitschy Texas-themed room, complete with saloon doors on the bathrooms, cowhide bedspreads and a flag of Texas shower curtain.

Ya see, I was in a rush to get across country to rev up the stuff at the ole St. Louis Improv Trick.  I had no idea that I was in no rush to get to Oklahoma.  The winds were whipping my lil’ 98 Escort ZX2 around the highway and I was frightened by the intensity of the winds.  Traffic came to a standstill as a truck overturned and swept the hillside with flames and thick smoke.

Danger Danger2

I pulled into a Love’s gas station in Oklahoma, and people inside were talking about the fire and the winds as I ordered a BMT from the Subway inside.  I looked outside to the structure over the gas tanks and saw that the brick columns were swaying along with the rooftop in the heavy winds.  A guy ran in and asked, very concerned if they had shut the tanks off yet.

“I sure hope that don’t hit my trailer,” the woman making my sandwich muttered.

“Better stay here ’till this blows over,” I supposed.

“I wouldn’t stick around here if I was you,” she warned.  Holy God, this woman was risking her life for a job at a Subway.

It was virtually impossible to get back on the highway, but I knew I had better high tail it outta there.  The sub could wait.  Around now, I wished I had pulled over in Texas.  It was an ego thing.  I was trying to prove to myself that I could get back to St. Louis in just two days.

Now I was smack dab in the middle of a natural disaster as the fire scorched across the dry Oklahoma prairie brush.




I didn’t know that fires were already spreading across the state, I just knew I didn’t like what I was seeing.  I forged on, hoping to pass what I thought was just an isolated incident.  Diesel fumes and smoke had me choking for a bit when I passed a small brush fire on the side of the road.  I called 911 while driving toward what I thought was safety.  They informed me that I was headed into worse smoke that I had just come from.

I had been smelling the smoke for quite a while, but finally I was overwhelmed and started hacking.  I reached for the nearest kind of filter I could find.  The best solution was a canvas Trader Joe’s bag!  I held it over my mouth and continued to cough more and more. Smoke was stinging my eyes.  I had no idea whether to pull over, reverse course or drive into what could have been my doom.  I decided to push on.

Luckily, I passed the dangerous area before I lost all oxygen.  But I had inhaled enough to put me out of commission for the first week or so that I was home.  When the Oklahoma countryside was finished burning, it looked like this…



Which most Texans tell me is a vast improvement.  OK, OK. So I arrived in one piece, raspy voiced, short of breath in St. Louis in time for Easter.  And the holiday was great.  I had the chance to spend time with my family and I was very thankful to spend some time with my Aunt Mary and Uncle Ralph (my godparents) and their kids and grandkids.  This is my second cousin, Alex.


She’s a big fan of Wizards of Waverly Place, and was excited to meet me.  I think she looks kinda like a younger Selena Gomez.  I still need to get an autograph for her from Selena saying, “From Alex….To Alex.”  That’s her character’s name on the show.

So, i recuperated and started in right away with classes and shows with Improv Trick.  After a week, we headed out to Lost Valley Lake and Resort.  It’s a yearly gig and we had a lot of fun.  We should have taken more pictures, but here are a few.

Doug, none too happy to be caught coming out of the shower.
Doug, none too happy to be caught coming out of the shower

George tells me all about his recent workshop with Keith Johnstone
George tells me all about his recent workshop with Keith Johnstone

Marc woke up last....George tumbled downhill walking back to his condo.
Marc woke up last....George tumbled downhill walking back to his condo.

This was our second year at Lost Valley Lake and the show went great.  It was a great time as a retreat and an opportunity to grow together outside of our usual digs.  We stayed up late, made a video that David Imler would probably rather not have seen on YouTube.  So, for now it stays buried in the Improv Trick Vaults in the Comedy Underground. Damn Bureaucrats!

Anyway, in my book the less evidence the better.

Tomorrow night will be the first official Stagematech at Improv Trick.  I can’t wait.  Here’s the idea behind this show:

St. Louis’s top comedy improvisers match wits in The Stagematch, a no-holds-barred, knock-down, drag out head to head bout.  Audience suggestions are spun into pure comedy gold in this evening of competitive improv.

Imagine if Wrestling at the Chase broke out at a Whose Line Is It Anyway improv show!  Cheer your heros, boo your villains, and you’ll laugh till you’re down for the count.

At The Stable (St. Louis’s hottest new brewhouse and distillery) to play games and share new games.  Teams of 2 players set comedy records, bring home the gag trophy and bash wits for your comedy enjoyment. Opening night benefit June 3rd.  If you’re in St. Louis, you should come out and see it.

Photo and Artwork by Peat Wollaeger
Photo and Artwork by Peat Wollaeger

I judged the Improv Finals at Lindenwood University today and had a great time.  It was the best college improv I’ve seen in St. Louis.  Larry Quiggins is doing a helluva job over there with his students.  Wish my college finals were that fun!  Tonight was our first public Harold/Longform Jam at The Improv Trick with our house team, Ugly Coyote.  It was a great show in our little Comedy Underground Basement.

We did an Armando with local St. Louis networker and independent film producer Donny Blake.  An Armando is a longform improv based on and inspired by true monologues.  When you hear Donny tell one of his stories, you’d swear it can’t be true.  Once again, stop by next Tuesday for more fun of that ilk.

Afterward, we headed to the Stable…the future sight of the Stagematch and our local watering hole.  We were all reminded that St. Louis celebrity bartender Johnny Vegas had a benefit at The Shanti.  That was a great time and a lot of great music.  From there, we all walked en masse to Beale on Broadway. Kim Massie, a St. Louis blues and gospel legend was holding court and we had a drink or two there as well.

Since the Eat rite diner was just a bit more of a walk, we stopped there for Slingers.  Slingers are a St. Louis breakfast/late night sensation composed of hash browns, sausage, chili, onions and cheese!  Some folks call it a Nightmare, I call it a Slinger…mmm, hmmm.


Okay, I just had a great time with my St. Louis improv community last night.  Now I need some head rest.  If you’d like to check out what’s going on at Improv Trick, click on our CALENDAR.

Published by billchott

Bill Chott is currently appearing in Marshall's Miracle, a family film about a courageous dog who survived hardships to triumph as a therapy dog. For five years he was on the Emmy-Winning Disney's Wizards of Waverly Place. Originally from St. Louis Missouri, he is a member of his high school's Hall of Fame, a Broadway Award winner for his work in I Love Lucy Live on on Stage, and the winner of the INNY awards for Best Improv Coach. He attended Central Methodist University and trained in Improvisation at The Second City. There he worked with such comedy powerhouses as Tina Fey, Steve Carrel, Stephen Colbert among many others. Bill starred on The Dana Carvey Show, does cartoon voices on PBS, Saturday Night Live and in film, he appeared in Galaxy Quest, Dude Where's My Car, and he was a lead role as Thomas, the Special Olympian who brings home the bronze in the Farrelly Bros. film The Ringer.

3 thoughts on “Tricked Out

  1. 1. There are reasons we Okies have signs posted that say, “Do not drive into smoke.” Glad you’re alright.

    2. If I’m not mistaken, the Armando was created by working with a group of improvisors from across the nation at the KC Improv Festival, then known as Spontaneous Combustion, in 1996 or 1997. I was a part of that group, but was on pain pills at the time. I was told I was funny.

  2. 1. I forgot my favorite Okie would be reading this. As a Chi Delta, it’s hard for me to avoid oncoming smoke.

    2. I’m sure that was part of the nationwide success of the form, and I love to give Missouri as much credit as I can. But it started in Chicago with a group that included such improv lumiaries as Armando Diaz himself, Kevin Dorff, David Koechner, Brian Stack, Miriam Tolan, Theresa Mulligan, Pete Gardner, Pat Finn and many others almost too numerous to mention…including me.

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