PRAIRIE CITY — Since he was a little kid, Prairie City native Will Frazier was always known to put a smile on people’s faces. Now at age 36, the improv actor aims to make the whole nation smile.
“I was always able to make them laugh,” Frazier said. “I was the big, fat, loud mouth lunatic. I was on the sports page of the Des Moines Register for being a fan at a basketball game because I would wear a football helmet that had paper mache wings on the side of it and a Mustang on top of it.”
On Sept. 5, Frazier debuted his new podcast, History Made Up, launching three shows. In his podcast, the comedian invites a local celebrity to share a story about their lives. He and four local improv actors act out the scenes, creating something truly unique and hilarious.
“You are going to be able to learn different stories from different people, different areas of the country, see what their sense of humor are, see what their interests are and highlight all this great local talent.”
From the story of Sparky the Bison, the lightning-struck buffalo at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge to just some plain out embarrassing turn of events, the PCM graduate said he and his fellow improvisers were able to act out some incredible, not so well-known stories, about well known Iowans.
“I just talked to Erin Kiernan from Channel 13 the other day. This is a real thing. It is not Paul F. Tompkins playing Werner Herzog,” Frazier said. “There is a lot of jokes in there. It gets a little crazy. Don’t play it in front of your pastor.”
As a member of PCM Community School District’s 1999 graduating class, Frazier said as the self-proclaimed class clown created the silly, innocuous class sketches for homecoming. He produced a documentary of the football team.
“As a member of the thespian class, we did a thing called choral readings,” he said. “We all wear just plain black, have a black binder to hold our scripts in and we do a little play. The one we did was Julius Cesar, but with the mafia. I was playing Marc Antony, mob version ... It was a really weird thing. My drama teacher had to talk me into it, but it was a lot of fun.”
Frazier said after getting a taste of making a crowd burst into laughter, he was addicted to the stage life. He quickly jumped into acting and video production, taking an internship at American Media Incorporated in Des Moines and Mediacom, went to school at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids for video production and acquired his business degrees at Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny.
“(Mediacom) did a bunch of local sports, concerts and stuff, and they did all their own promotions for it too. After a couple years, I was like, ‘Could we make commercials for these, instead of showing highlights of last year’s football games?’” he said. “Me and another producer got to make our own commercials. That was so much fun. They were ridiculous and hilarious. That was the first time I was acting for money ... They aired all the time back then.”
After freelancing for ESPN, Fox Sports and other television production teams, Frazier moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in screen writing and acting. He then discovered stand-up, and soon after, improvisational theater. The rest was history.
Through this experience, Frazier decided he wanted to combine his love for production and improv. The Prairie City native said he loved history and the art of story telling and developed this unique idea.
“The two kind of podcasts I like are informative or stuff that you should know, like Radiolab and I like goofy, silly, comedy, bang-bang, spontaneous, like improv4humans and Hollywood Handbook,” he said. “Those are two very different things ... It was supposed to just be about Iowa History, but then, I said ‘Wait a minute. I got to look at it from the improv community. I got to look at this will benefit everyone.’”
Frazier said during a studio-recorded show, the actors hear the monologue one time, and perform improvised theater on the fly, recording it in one take. He said he does this to allow the art of improvisation to be preserved and allow for a truly authentic, unique show experience for his audience.
“It is all live and made up on the spot,” he said. “I want it to be true improv. Since I was there for the interview, that is the second time I have heard it. Some may call that cheating. So before the show, I tell the improvisers that they have to initiate all the scenes to make sure the improv is pure.”
The 36-year-old said he started interviewing several central Iowa favorites, including sports public address announcer Scott Casber, LAZER 103.3 DJ Sarah Greene and broadcaster Brent Blum. Frazier and the other improv actors recorded a live performance at Stampede Aug. 26. The show featured a story from Prairie City native, and president and COO for Wild Rose Casino & Resorts, Tom Timmons.
Frazier said he plans to travel around the United States, record stories from other celebrities of the area and gather the city’s local improv talent to do four in-studio shows and one live show.
“Right now, I am doing Iowa stories, Iowa improvisers. Next month, I already have a date in Omaha, so I am going to do Nebraska stories, Nebraska improvisers. Then, I’m going to Minneapolis — Minnesota stories, Minnesota improvisers,” he said.
Frazier is currently looking for more business and organizations to sponsor the show.
Contact Anthony Victor Reyes at email@example.com