This month was a big one for catching SLO locals on the small screen.
On July 13 the unique unicycle juggling pair Mark Wilder and Jonathan Nowaczyk made their debut on the national stage on ABC’s re-rebooted Gong Show.
And on July 20 mechanical engineer and musician Doug Groshart popped up ABC’s long running favorite Jeopardy.
With the Central Coast’s proximity to Los Angeles production studios, familiar faces have been known to pop up from time to time, usually on CBS’s daytime game shows.
This group though required a degree of specialized skills, knowledge and intrepidity. Interestingly enough this crop are all performers in their own rights.
Folks around here know where to find Groshart, who has a local day job to go along with his role in the local Rock band quartet the “JD Project,” but Wilder and Nowaczyk had dropped out of the Central Coast limelight for a while to pursue performance as a fulltime business on the road.
Formerly a fixture at the San Luis Obispo Downtown Farmer’s Market, their act “Something Ridiculous” has been on the fair circuit and booking days between larger venues.
Regarding their recent appearance on the Gong Show, Wilder let a little tradecraft slip. That’s to say, when it was safe, well after the show’s airing and their impromptu viewing party at Woodstock’s Pizza in SLO.
“We didn’t actually audition, they got ahold of us,” he said, and while they wowed the shows celebrity judges – Ed Helms, Alison Brie and Will Arnett – a novelty check was not presented.
“You don’t go on something like that to win because it’s not abut who wins, it’s about the fun,” Wilder added.
During the filming in May, the pair cut down their act from a six-minute halftime performance geared towards basketball half time shows to about a “minute- 30.”
The pair has always kept their show family friendly at the SLO Farmers Market and at birthday parties where Wilder got his performing start, but there was a PG-13 element for the show’s primetime slot as he gave a little “twerk” in response to Brie’s compliment of their athletic abilities.
Austin Powers star Mike Meyers heavily made up as a fictional British comedian, playing host on the show for reasons unknown, also made a quip about seeing “Thing Three” after the pair played “Thing One and Thing Two.”
As to the most famous comment to emerge from the airing, Ed Helms’ suggestion that of they change the name of their act to “Something Badass,” Wilder told the SLO City News, “I think we’ll stay ‘Ridiculous.’”
There’s good reason behind that. The guys may actually be badass, but the performance is a time for fun.
“You know summer is usually when we’re on the road,” he said. “This month has been great because we actually slept at home.”
The May jaunt down to L.A. wasn’t that far for the performers. After the Gong Show filming they performed on a Disney Cruise to the Bahamas, geared up for the California’s County Fair circuit, did a tour of SLO County’s Libraries and are now playing three times a day at the Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles through July 30.
As for why they went on national television in basketball shorts when most of their performances are in tights or mock superhero garb, it’s a business decision.
“We want to do more half-time shows. We did Cal Poly and Allen Hancock and they were great,” said Wilder. “People don’t see that small business side. We’re always doing marketing, or on email and the phone. It’s juggling.”
Although he notes, his favorite part is juggling.
If readers are unable to make it up over the grade while the Fair is on, the juggling unicyclists will still be in town. Part of giving back, and staying in touch with the SLO community, is teaching a unicycle workshop on Tuesdays in the Santa Rosa Park.
“The circus arts came late in life to both of us too. I was 21 when I started the unicycle. I wasn’t juggling until 29,” said Wilder. “I tell people it takes about ten hours to learn, but people get discouraged after five minutes. It’s just like riding a bike though.”
-By Camas Frank