If you caught Sunrise Seven Tuesday morning, you caught an... unusual live interview with Kenny Strasser, the self-proclaimed yo-yo champion from 'Zim-Zam Yo-Yo's'.
A representative for Kenny sent us a news release suggesting we invite Kenny, who they claimed was from Antigo, to "spread the word about environmental awareness the way he knows best: juggling, slapstick and most of all, using his yo-yo". A website for Zim-Zam Yo-Yo's features Strasser, and his 'Keep it Green' yo-yo tour.
We wondered how one could use a yo-yo to spread an environmental message, and we're still wondering. We interviewed Strasser live on Sunrise Seven Tuesday Morning. When we asked about his interest in yo-yo's, Strasser said he doesn't practice much, and awkwardly spoke about his family life, and how he's no longer being invited to perform in schools.
He told our crew he was dealing with a sick family member, and had to keep his cell phone on during the interview. The cell phone rang each time he was being interviewed live.
When we asked Kenny to show us his skills with a yo-yo, he twirled the yo-yo around until it smacked into the ground and nearly hit him in the head.
The interview left many of us asking... is this guy for real?
We called several other stations in the State, and Zim Zam had contacted most of them too. It turns ours wasn't the first morning show Kenny appeared on. At WFRV-TV in Green Bay, he said he brought his yo-yo's but forgot the string. He told a similar story to WISC-TV and WMTV-TV in Madison, and also made awkward appearances during their live shows, talking about his family, failures, and never actually performing any yo-yo tricks. Strasser claimed he was a local resident at each TV station he appeared on.
Those press releases came from a man named Joe Guerhke. But the phone number that was included as Guerhke's in an email to one Madison station, and also appeared on the website for Zim-Zam Yo-Yos belongs to Joe Pickett. Pickett is a comedy film-maker, who operates a website called 'The Found Footage Festival', specializing in "odd and hilarious found videos". Coincidentally (or not), The Found Footage Festival's current 'VHS find of the day' is a video of a woman performing yo-yo tricks.
It may come as no surprise that the the Zim-Zam website and Zim-Zam itself also appears to be a sham. It claims to be a non-profit company, but we could find no record that such a company actually exists. It also claims Strasser is the winner of several yo-yo tournaments and awards, including being named 'Grand Champion at the Pensacola Regionals', and being nominated for the 'Walt Greenberg Award'. However, we contacted the American Yo-Yo Association. Board member and former president Dave Schulte tells us he's never heard of those awards, Zim-Zam, or Kenny Strasser.
We contacted Guerhke, and asked him about the statements on the website and any connection to the viral video website. He says they simply used Pickett's phone number because he was helping them set up interviews, but insists Kenny's appearances are not a prank. He sent us a statement, saying, "We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience, Kenny is growing through some rough times and we wish him well in the future."
We also spoke with Kenny Wednesday. He admitted the press releases about him may have 'stretched the truth', but insists he's a yo-yo expert and his appearances were no joke. He claimed he was at his father's home in Oshkosh, but the call came from a land line number in Oakland, California.
We're still not sure who Kenny Strasser is, but we're pretty sure he's no yo-yo champion.