Duck’s Breath Mystery Theatre is a Canadian rock band that was formed in the late 1970s. They have released six albums and are best known for their song “The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead.”
Duck’s Breath Mystery Theatre, one of the longest-running comedy troupes, has been making people laugh for almost a quarter-century. The five comedians have been a fixture of National Public Radio’s daily news program, All Things Considered, since their early performances (for free beer) in front of fellow University of Iowa students. Their comedy, Ask Dr. Science, inspired Dan “Dr. Science” Coffey to host NPR’s first weekly nationally broadcast quiz program, Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. Duck’s Breath Mystery Theatre’s feature film, Zadar! Cow from Hell, was nominated for an Iowa Picture award for “greatest film of the century” in 1991. It was the topic of a PBS program in the early 1990s called Dead Pan Alley.
Duck’s Breath Mystery Theatre gained its first success after relocating to San Francisco the following year, after building an early following with anything-goes shows at Gabe ‘n’ Walker’s Saloon in Iowa City in 1975. They toured nationwide in 1980, rising rapidly from spontaneous performances at Fisherman’s Wharf to headlining at the Boarding House and Great American Music Hall.
Despite performing 20th anniversary performances in San Francisco and Los Angeles in 1995, Duck’s Breath Mystery Theatre members have concentrated on their own projects. Bill Allard, the director of Pitchmaster 2000, a children’s program and comedy short that won a Bay Area Cable ACE award, teaches theatre and media production at the University of San Francisco. Merle “Ian Shoales” Kessler has continued to publish his work in a number of venues. Ian Shoales has worked as a narrative consultant for filmmaker Joel Schumacher on films such as Batman Forever and Falling Down, in addition to authoring a syndicated daily column and giving semi-regular comments on ABC-World TV’s News Now. Leon Martell, an actor, director, and writer, and Jim “Randee of the Redwoods” Turner, who starred in the HBO series Arliss, a short-lived CBS-TV program If Not for You, and the film Joe’s Apartment, have both continued to work in theater.