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On November 12, 2007 — the 37th anniversary of the exploding whale — KEX 1190‘s Morning Update host and former KATU TV news reporter Paul Linnman interviewed Chris Gummert, a stand-up comic from Chicago who has put together an hour-long one-man show about Oregon’s infamous exploding whale. Linnman was the young reporter seen in the widely disseminated video from 1970 chronicling the event. Gummert first learned about the Oregon incident in late 2006 and was moved to build an act around the event.
Don’t miss the YouTube video preview of Gummert’s show at the end of the interview!
Interview by: Paul Linnman, host of “Morning Update” on 1190 KEX
Date: November 12, 2007
Transcribed by: Steve Hackstadt
Linnman interviews comic behind exploding whale one-man show
During the show’s opening…
Paul Linnman: Later in the hour, we will celebrate the 37th anniversary — the 37th anniversary! — of Oregon’s infamous exploding whale by catching up with a stand-up comic from Chicago who’s doing a one-man show on the exploding whale. [laughs] We’ll see how that’s going….
Later in the show…
The taped interview opens with an excerpt from the original exploding whale newsreel in which Linnman covered the event:
Audio replay: The sand dunes there were covered with spectators and landlubber newsmen, shortly to become land-blubber newsmen. For the blast blasted blubber beyond all believable bounds.
PL: Well, that was the young reporter you heard — uh, let me see — 37 years ago today, November 12, 1970… when on a beach in Florence, they blew up a whale with a half-ton of dynamite. I think you know the story, Oregon’s infamous exploding whale, now told in a new one-man act by stand-up comedian Chris Gummert out of Chicago. He’s been doing this at the Apollo Theater in Chicago since early October. Chris joins us this morning from Dallas where he’s traveling. And Chris, I understand you came to the subject late.
Chris Gummert: I first heard about it almost exactly a year ago. There was a story in the Seattle Times about a disposal that they were taking care of up there where they actually wanted to sink a whale off the coast of San Juan Island using three tons of railroad wheels.
CG: The first paragraph of that story was actually talking about the disposal in Florence. I had never heard of it. I don’t know why — 36 years and I had never heard of this. So I immediately went to YouTube and sought out the video, and I just thought it was the single most ridiculous thing I had ever seen in my entire life. And this is coming from a man who owns Pat Boone’s metal album. So I think that should mean something, you know?
PL: [laughing] So describe the show to us. How does the one-man show go?
CG: It’s about an hour long. It is equal parts, I think, research project and stand-up. It incorporates the original video as well as videos about dynamite and the history of dynamite. And so it’s a pretty in-depth view of those things.
PL: Now, Chris, you don’t make fun of me in this deal like Dave Barry does, do you?
CG: It’s a pretty serious piece, in the respect that I don’t really take sides… so much.
CG: In fact, I think honestly I agree with what you actually said in your book — that I don’t think there were any major errors in judgment. And that’s really the ridiculous part… is when you first hear about dynamite to dispose of a whale you think that’s kind of a “when your only tool’s a hammer, the whole world is a nail.”
CG: But the more you look into it, the more you realize that’s actually a pretty accepted method all the way around the world.
PL: So how do audiences react to what you’re doing?
CG: [chuckles] The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. Yeah, it’s been really well received. It’s been a critics pick in a couple of different publications in Chicago so I’ve been really lucky with that.
PL: Would you say that most in the room going in know about the whale or are you bringing this information to most of them for the first time?
CG: I think it’s about 50/50. I think some of them come in with having seen the whale video online several times. Others come in totally unaware. I actually had a friend who was coming to the show who heard about it and thought it was about another whale disposal that happened in Japan1 in 2004, which they had one that exploded completely on its own. It’s just the decomposition of the dead flesh…
PL: Oh, I know about it.
CG: … build up gases… yeah, yeah. So she thought it was about that one so….
PL: Well, I assume you’re having fun with it.
CG: I’m having a great time. It’s a blast.
PL: And I assume you’re making some money with it…
CG: [laughs nervously] Never enough.
PL: … because my attorneys want to speak with you, Chris.
CG: [laughs] Uh, they can take a number. They’re in line.
PL: [laughs] Chris Gummert’s a stand-up comedian from Chicago, speaking to us today from Dallas. And Chris, thanks for the visit. Glad you’re having fun with the whale.
CG: Thanks a lot. I appreciate it.
PL: If you’re going to Chicago, it’s at the Apollo Theater. The name of the one-man show: “Countdown: The Story of the Exploding Whale.”
The interview closes with the audio from the closing of his 1970 report.
Audio replay: It might be concluded that should a whale ever wash ashore in Lane County again, those in charge will not only remember what to do, they’ll certainly remember what not to do.
The incident in question occurred in Taiwan, not Japan.
Watch a preview of Gummert’s Countdown: The Story of the Exploding Whale on YouTube: