Everybody loves yo-yo tricks, right? That's what a guy known as Kenny "K-Strass" Strasser was banking on as he managed to get himself booked on several morning television shows in Wisconsin and, most recently, Missouri over the past month. Video from some of those appearances have started to spread online, particularly after Deadspin.com posted some Monday, and they feature an appearance on a Madison station.
The clips show K-Strass to be less a yo-yo master with a message for kids, as he bills himself, and more of an Andy Kaufman-style peformance artist.
Chris Papst, who anchors NBC-15's weekend morning show, had Strasser on about a month ago and became suspicious almost immediately.
"You never know because some people on TV are just very nervous and they say things they otherwise wouldn't say," Papst said Monday. "He said, 'It's hard for me to get gigs because I make $2,000-a-show and the schools won't pay it.' Right then, I thought something was weird."
Papst rolled with the segment, however. Strasser had sent in a press release that said he was a yo-yo champion from Stoughton who delivered an environmental message in his visits to schools.
"I asked him what he did in terms of teaching about the environment," Papst recalled. "He said, 'I teach the kids what I know, but I don't know all that much.' At that point I thought, I could make a scene out of this and go straight to commercial and then all of our viewers would know something's wrong, or I could be professional and wrap up the interview without any issues and I kind of went that way. It ended up not being very long."
Papst's counterparts in other markets, particularly Joplin, Missouri, couldn't say the same thing. The following clip is from KSN's morning show from last Friday where Kenny demonstrates his "Blue Flying Angels" trick.
Strasser has also shown up in Wausau, where WSAW staffers became suspicious and dug a little deeper.
Isthmus has covered the Found Footage Fest, which the WSAW report links to K-Strass, on its trips to Madison in 2007, 2008 and 2009. Found Footage founders Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett are both from Strasser's stated hometown of Stoughton, although K-Strass has also claimed to be from Antigo, among other places.
How did he manage to convince producers and hosts to put him on live television?
"The guy did a good job of selling himself," said Papst. "He said he was a national yo-yo champion and he was from Stoughton. Right there, you've got a guy who has achieved and he's got a local tie, so that's something we would have done anyway and the guy probably knew that. He had a pretty legitimate looking website, so he's putting time and money into this too."
As for feeling scammed, Papst shrugged it off.
"I guess if you want to say we got duped, then we got duped," he said. "If it's a scam, what is he getting out of it? He didn't make any political statement. He didn't make any money. Maybe he's trying out for Saturday Night Live, who knows."