One of the longest enduring comedy troupes, Duck's Breath Mystery Theatre has inspired laughter for more than a quarter of a century. From their early performances (for free beer) before fellow University of Iowa students, the five humorists have gone on to become a staple of National Public Radio's daily news show, All Things Considered. Their skit, Ask Dr. Science, spawned NPR's first weekly nationally aired quiz show, Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, hosted by Dan "Dr. Science" Coffey. The subject of an early-'90s PBS special, Dead Pan Alley, Duck's Breath Mystery Theatre's feature film, Zadar! Cow from Hell, was nominated for an Iowa Film award as "best film of the century" in 1991.
Building an initial following with anything-goes performances at Gabe 'n' Walker's Saloon in Iowa City in 1975, Duck's Breath Mystery Theatre found its first success after moving to San Francisco the following year. Rising quickly from impromptu performances at Fisherman's Wharf to headlining at the Boarding House and Great American Music Hall, they toured nationally in 1980.
Although they performed 20th anniversary shows in San Francisco and Los Angeles in 1995, the members of Duck's Breath Mystery Theatre have focused on individual projects. The winner of a Bay Area Cable ACE award as director of a children's special and comedy short, Pitchmaster 2000, Bill Allard teaches drama and media production at the University of San Francisco. Merle "Ian Shoales" Kessler has continued to find a variety of outlets for his writing. In addition to writing a syndicated newspaper column and providing semi-regular commentaries on ABC-TV's World News Now, Ian Shoales has worked as a story consultant for director Joel Schumacher on such films as Batman Forever and Falling Down. Actor, director, and playwright Leon Martell has continued to work in theater, as has Jim "Randee of the Redwoods" Turner, who appeared in the HBO series Arliss, a short-lived CBS-TV show If Not for You, and the film Joe's Apartment.