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2010 40 Under 40: Jeff Houghton

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Jeff Houghton was born to make people laugh, but he’s serious about his career.

The field representative for Community Blood Center of the Ozarks moonlights as an actor with The Skinny Improv comedy troupe. He’s also Skinny Improv’s community relations director, hosts a monthly talk show and writes freelance for 417 Magazine.

“I have fearlessly gone after my goals,” Houghton says of his aspirations to act, write and help others. “Improv is all about making others look good on stage, and I take that seriously.”

Those philosophies spill over into his day job, where he manages 185 blood donor accounts and manages up to 40 blood drives a month. Among the hundreds of drives Houghton coordinates with businesses, churches and community organizations is an effort at Missouri State University that generates more than 2,000 donors a year – up from 800 donors when he first took it on.

“That drive now ranks up there with the better university blood drives in the nation,” he says. “Blood donation is a funny thing. It takes someone leading others to donate, because 95 percent of people just don’t donate.”

At Skinny Improv, Houghton created an improvisational talk show in 2006, called “The Mystery Hour,” that he hosts in the same vein as late-night shows with a monologue, interviews and musical acts.

Houghton, a former talent department intern for “The Late Show with David Letterman,” says he approaches his show’s guest list – which includes Springfield Mayor Jim O’Neal, entrepreneurs Shawn Askinosie and Paul Sundy, Aaron Buerge of “The Bachelor” fame, and fellow comedian Yakov Smirnoff – the same way he goes after blood donors.

“I have gotten every guest on the show that I’ve hoped for by simply calling them up and asking,” he says.

He doesn’t miss a beat, performing up to 200 improvisational comedy shows a year, some on a national level for audiences of up to 10,000 people, and teaching a weekly improv class.

Houghton considers Skinny Improv a community tool, particularly for the arts.

“We have brought creativity, ideas and follow-through that is unique to Springfield,” he says, adding that the group sometimes performs free shows for charities and community organizations.

Personally, Houghton is an Artsfest planning committee member, a Leadership Springfield graduate and was a member of Rotaract before he aged out of the group at 30.

“I know, it’s so old,” he jokes.

He also speaks at district meetings of the Sertoma and Lion’s clubs about applying improv principles in teamwork and volunteers for Young Life, a former employer, as a mentor for high-school students.[[In-content Ad]]

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