Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

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Funny Business

NMC alumni reunite to form comedy troupe

Patrick Sullivan - September 17th, 2012  

How many groups of friends get together, tell jokes, laugh really hard, and think, “Our lives should be a sitcom?” One bunch of friends who met years ago at Northwestern Michigan College decided to do something about it.

They’ve formed a sketch comedy troupe called Falling Down Stairs Productions and they produce short, funny videos that can be found on YouTube and Funny Or Die.

“One of the things that we’re really good at is making each other laugh at the drop of a hat,” said group member David Graves. “Whether we’re any good at making other people laugh, we’re not sure yet.”


The troupe’s nine members take turns writing scenes, and when a script is chosen to be filmed, the writer of the sketch serves as director.

On a recent evening at the Coffee Bean Café on Silver Lake Road, where the owners allowed the group to use the café after-hours for a shoot, that meant Elizabeth Klueck was directing one of her scenes.

Her sketch that evening pivoted around a poor young man trying to impress his date, who it turns out is not impressed with him because she doesn’t like the font he selected for a flyer for a friend’s band.

It was the first scene to be shot on a night when they plan to shoot six or seven.

That meant hours of work for the group that evening, and hours more later on.

Elizabeth’s husband, Jamie Klueck, is the owner of the camera used by the group, an impressive looking Canon XL1s. Jamie also edits the videos using Final Cut Pro.


The café was a typical location for the group. They select places where they hang out in real life.

“We like to try to write scenes that are easy for us to relate to,” Graves said.

That makes it easy for them to inhabit the spaces as actors. Most of their sketches take place in an apartment, on the street, at a coffee shop, or, in an innovation developed by Jamie, on a split-screen webcam, a device he came up with to overcome the fact that he lives in Frankfort and doesn’t get to Traverse City that often. It enables him and Graves to get together, if only online, and create more content.

Members of the comedy troupe are:

Graves, 28, Jamie Klueck, 30, Elizabeth Klueck, 30, Jody Kluck, 30, Craig Golden, 29, Jack Clemente, 30, Zach Kenny, 29, Ashleigh Hanchett, 28 and Esther Kluck, 26.


Josh Riddle, owner of the Coffee Bean, said he’s glad to have the group use his shop as a scene location and as a hang-out.

“They are some of our nicest customers,” Riddle said. “As for their shooting, we just get out of the way and let them do their thing.”

Riddle said he’s only watched a few of their videos because, as a new business owner, he doesn’t have a lot of free time, but he said he’s liked what he’s seen.

“I looked at a couple of them and some of them were really funny,” he said.

The group met, more or less, around 10 years ago when several of them enrolled in a play production class at NMC.

“We did a terrible rendition of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’” Graves said.

They bonded and formed friendships and would stay in touch, but it would be years before they’d decide to get together to form a sketch comedy troupe.

That happened when Graves got together with some of his old friends in June, 2011 after he moved back to Northern Michigan from Texas.

It didn’t take long before Graves remembered why he liked his old friends so much, and how much they made him laugh.

“It was one of the only times in my life when I literally rolled around on the floor laughing,” Graves said.


No one in the group has formal comedy or improv experience, but they all have theater backgrounds.

And they are all passionate about comedy. Some of them came to comedy on an indirect route.

Jamie Klueck made a movie around 10 years ago, which, although he did not set out to be funny, may have unintentionally taught him a thing or two about comedy.

“It was supposed to be a horror, but, you know, when you’re 17 and you write a horror movie around a stuffed teddy bear...” he paused, unable or unwilling to finish that sentence. “It was a really good experience, let’s leave it at that.”


The name, Falling Down Stairs Productions, also comes from NMC from an incident that happened a few years ago in the administration building on campus, when several members of the group got together. One of them, Jody, fell down a short flight of stairs.

He was not injured, but he made his friends laugh.

That was funny enough, Graves said, but Jodi started to joke about it almost before he had landed on the ground.

It made a very funny impression, and when plans arose last November or December to form the troupe, the unplanned slapstick proved to be the perfect name.

The group has modest goals, for now. Graves said he hopes they can start to make a little bit of money with their videos so they can sustain what they are doing and perhaps expand their scope. It’s possible to make some money on YouYube if you get enough hits.

They also talk about filming a sitcom pilot. But this is niche comedy, after all, and they hope to draw an audience wider than just Northern Michigan. Their videos so far have been watched in many countries, according to YouTube stats, including Canada, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam.

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