No More Funny Business!

Local sketch comedy troupe the NonProphets are in it for the laughs

Nearly crying, Estes denies that anything of the sort is going to happen.

"Well, I hope for Sheri's sake you masturbate," Wylder says perkily. "If you don't know how to work it, how well do you think you'll know how to use it?"

Estes cowers for a few beats until Wylder's "out" line:

Sometime MC Chris Jones, self-described King of the Geeks
Jennifer Silverberg
Sometime MC Chris Jones, self-described King of the Geeks
Paula Stoff provides comic relief to her patients
Jennifer Silverberg
Paula Stoff provides comic relief to her patients

"So how do you think your sister feels about her vagina?"

Setting: The Fantasy Shop, in a strip mall off Interstate 64 in Fairview Heights, Illinois. The Offspring blasts on the stereo while a sci-fi DVD plays on the television. The shop features items such as the "Make Your Own Dungeon Adventures!" kit, which promises "3-D Dungeons and a totally customizable system" for $29.99.

Time: Friday, 3:30 pm.

Dramatis Personae: *Chris Jones, 30, the self-described King of the Geeks. MC and sometime director of "The Militant Propaganda Bingo Machine," Jones is most famous onstage for his "Star Wars in Five Minutes" sketches, where he reenacts the entire trilogy using plastic light sabers, Millennium Falcon toys, Yoda dolls and wadded-up paper balls to represent asteroids.

*Cory, store manager.

*Ben Westhoff, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings illiterate.

*Assorted customers.

Chris enters in a blue smock and goatee.

Ben: How'd you get involved with the NonProphets?

Chris: I was in Bob's improv class at SIUE, a school I was at for a very long time. Let's just say I was the only student there with tenure. But the NonProphets have been a dream. I consider myself --

The phone rings.

Chris: Sorry -- hold on a second. (Answers the phone) Fantasy Shop...Oh, hi, Charlie...GURPS? Let me check.

Chris walks over to the part of the store where Generic Universal Role Playing System figurines are normally kept. There are none to be found. Chris breaks the bad news to Charlie.

Chris: (To Ben) What was I saying?

Ben, however, has himself become distracted by the bust of a black-haired, red-suited and very well-endowed female action figure.

Chris: That's Elektra from Daredevil, the character played by Jennifer Garner. She's a Greek ninja assassin. You know, all Greeks are ninja assassins by training.

Ben: (Seeming to awaken from his brief infatuation) What's your long-term goal?

Chris: The eventual plan is New York. I just got back from visiting. Some former NonProphets have made it out there; I'd like to set up a sister company to the NonProphets. Walking around, it seemed like everybody was doing improv there, but I didn't see any sketch comedy.

Ben: How long can you see working here?

Chris: I'm definitely not going to do this forever. Don't get me wrong, I love this job. I get paid to read comic books! But I have to grow up and get a real job at some point. There are no 80-year-old comic book guys. More than anything I just don't wanna be sitting in St. Louis five years from now, wondering why I didn't give it a shot in New York. That's the ironic thing about the NonProphets. If the group wasn't going so well I probably would have gone already.

Cory enters. He has long hair and a giant tuft of brown whiskers jutting out of his chin.

Cory: Do you know how much War Beasts are?

Chris: Seven bucks, but that's a total guess.

Ben notices an eight-inch jet-black scarring on Cory's right forearm. It has the curved calligraphy and dense lettering of a Tolkien dialect.

Ben: (To Cory) What's your tattoo?

Cory displays the tattoo proudly.

Cory: It means "One Ring to Rule Them All" in Black Speech, which is a corrupted form of the Sindarin dialect.

Ben: guys meet a lot of girls, then?

Chris: Oh yeah, I'm 30. I live in my grandparents' basement and work in a comic book store. How cool am I?

Cory: It's easy getting laid on Saturdays.

Chris raises his arms and looks around the store triumphantly.

Chris: (Emphatically) Who wants to have sex with me?

The store is empty.

How do you support a family -- or even a bachelor's basic needs of running water and an address to which pizza can be delivered -- on a St. Louis actor's salary?

Most NonProphets will tell you that it's impossible. Matt Kahler, despite his relative success landing parts in local shows, has relied on his girlfriend to pay his rent since June. He owes her $2000.

Wylder says she has done "every damn thing here in town" -- from the St. Louis Black Repertory Company to playing a "biker junkie slut" in a local movie called Manifest of the Heart. She still has to fall back on day jobs. Her husband Mitchell is no stranger to bizarre parts. He played "Junkie #1" in an episode of America's Most Wanted. Although the couple recognizes that their acting prospects might be brighter in bigger cities, strong family ties have caused them to stick it out in St. Louis.

Lori Peeples is a former NonProphet who moved to New York earlier this year. She now lives her dream as a sound designer for Broadway and off-Broadway plays. This is not a vocation she could have made profitable in St. Louis. Still, she says the city does offer some advantages for the aspiring thespian.

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