Q&A: Jeff Houghton, Host of The Mystery Hour

This article was originally published in our June 2021 issue. 

Jeff Houghton moved to Springfield in 2003 and has since made his mark as the best, and only, late-night talk show host in the city. He created and hosts The Mystery Hour where he interviews new faces monthly at the Gillioz Theatre in downtown Springfield. He has also created viral videos and has done two podcasts, The New Hip and Make Something Where You Are. Here, he describes his Emmy-award winning show and his experience in show biz.

Tell us about working at the Late Show with David Letterman.

I worked there for one semester at the end of college, so four months. It was an incredible experience, being able to be that close to a show that I loved. I worked in the talent department, which booked the guests and took care of them when they arrived. I got to help out with the guests a little, made a lot of copies, ran a lot of errands—you know, intern stuff.

When did you realize you had a passion for entertaining?

I think if I was honest with myself, I have always wanted to be on a stage entertaining, but I wasn’t really comfortable putting myself out there yet. Working with Letterman definitely got me close enough to a show that I learned of all the jobs in a show, performing or writing were the two I would be interested in.

How do you describe The Mystery Hour?

It’s a traditional late-night talk show with interviews, musical guests, and comedy. So it follows a traditional format, but we do it in our own unique voice and from a unique place. There aren’t a lot of shows originating from Springfield, Missouri.

Is Springfield a good place for a late-night talk show?

Springfield happens to be a fantastic place for a late-night talk show because of all the community support that we have received over the years. We couldn’t have sustained the show without all of the generous support from the community, whether that be people helping out with the show, or sponsors, or our audience.

Have you ever been starstruck by a guest?

It’s been fun to have people on who we recognize and admire. Maybe the most fun in that regard was Jim O’Heir, who played Jerry on Parks and Recreation, or Leslie David Baker, who played Stanley on The Office. Those are two shows that I loved, and those guys played such memorable characters on the shows.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of a couple. We’ve won four Mid-America Emmys, and one was for best Arts/Entertainment Program. What we do is such a collective group effort. I love that one represents the work of everybody. I’m also proud of the Webby nomination that we received, because we were finalists with The Daily Show, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, Billy on The Street, and Making It with Nick Offerman and Amy Poehler. It was really cool to see the name of our show alongside those names.

Photo // Katie Day