Duo + 1: the expanding comedic universe of Gingers on Ice 

Jacob Godbey's cropped strawberry blond hair makes his Windex-blue eyes appear even bluer as he peers through the glass into the kitchen at the rear of Break Espresso, where tasty confections are being whipped up on a recent Saturday morning. He's explaining how his comedy duo, Gingers on Ice, has become a trio with the addition of "intern" Seth Rockenbach, whose curly shoulder-length tresses are most decidedly blond.

"Humor can transcend hair color," says Godbey, a newly minted graduate of UM's Media Arts program. "Eventually it just becomes a name with little meaning to it. We're kind of stuck with it."

"It's more of a complexion thing," adds Rockenbach, a Folsom, California, native who cut his comedy teeth in clubs in Sacramento. "I fit the ginger complexion, the only thing I don't have is the hair."

With fellow carrot-top Alex Tait, Godbey formed Gingers on Ice as an outgrowth of the fertile comedy breeding ground of the Stensrud improv group, where they met in 2015. Godbey spent his high school years in Lewistown writing and performing sketch comedy, while Tait, from Jackson, Wyoming, was drawn to stand-up. At the Stensrud shows, both found they were adept at improv.

"So what it became was just one big mess of all three of those with a little bit of music thrown in once in awhile," Godbey says.

After a couple of successful tours and a handful of well-received shows in Missoula, the Gingers decided to bring in a third wheel, someone to expand the limits of their comedy universe. Rockenbach responded to an online application that had been sent to him by his boss, who just wanted to know if there was really a group that would call itself Gingers on Ice. He applied for the gig, interviewed with Tait and Godbey, and in February became the first non-ginger Ginger. They tossed Rockenbach right into the deep end.

"We messaged him Friday night," says Godbey: "'Seth, can you learn the script? We had an actor bow out.' Then he showed up, he did it, knew all his lines, and we kept him around."

Rockenbach's elastic face contorts into faux shock. "Coming up to our first show, I was terrified," he says. "I was like, 'Guys, I'm so nervous,' and they're like, 'Oh, yeah, me too' with a very Kristen Stewart-like response, dead face, no emotion."

The pair's chemistry is palpable, but how does the new Ginger fit in with Tait, who's off working a 12-hour shift at a local sporting goods store? Rockenbach has a pet theory.

"As a group, as one conscience, Alex is the ego, (Jacob) is the superego, and then I'm the id," he says. "I'm the complete other side from Jacob."

Godbey nods in agreement. "Alex is probably the most charismatic."

"Voices," adds Rockenbach. "The kid has some of the craziest voices that he pulls out of nowhere."

click to enlarge Gingers on Ice features, from left, Seth Rockenbach, Alex Tait and Jacob Godbey. - PHOTO BY AMY DONOVAN
  • photo by Amy Donovan
  • Gingers on Ice features, from left, Seth Rockenbach, Alex Tait and Jacob Godbey.

Godbey: "I want to put it on record that I'm tired of a lot of Alex's voices."

Rockenbach: "I want to put it on the record that they are new and fresh and hilarious."

Godbey laughs, but Tait has become conspicuous by his absence. In a duo, Godbey was the mellower of the two. Tait's creative daring frequently pushed their material into unexpected new places while Godbey gamely kept pace.

"Alex is the guy at the party in the middle of the room making everybody laugh and you want to be friends with him," Godbey says. "I think the audience feels that way. They want to be friends with Alex, they want to hang out with him."

Rockenbach has already worked with Tait enough to recognize his lightning-rod appeal, and adds that he knows he can count on Tait to have his back when things get dicey onstage.

In the live comedy world, when things do go sideways, the recovery from the stumble can say more about the performer than the mistake. What happens when a joke falls flat or the audience starts to turn on them?

"If it's not working," Godbey says, "some restructuring might be needed. There's a weird formula for jokes where you can swap two otherwise trivial words around and it will work a hundred times better. It's very strange, and it's different for every performer."

His deliberate, pragmatic approach runs counter to Rockenbach's more devil-may-care attitude.

"It's five minutes," Rockenbach says. "If that five minutes goes poorly, you still have the rest of the night to have fun. Why would you let it get you down? You're a comedian. Your job is to make everything funny. If it goes wrong, learn from it, move on and just do it again."

The Gingers' march toward world domination—or something like it continues. Godbey and Tait have completed a 23-minute pilot of their sketch show, which they'll be posting online in hopes of being picked up for a shot at a series. The goal, of course, is to one day make their living at comedy.

"The dream," Rockenbach says, "is to sit in a room of funny people, shout as much funny stuff as you can at each other, come out with something, write it, and go home and have a house that you're paying for with that. So you'd never have to work that nine-to-five job, you're just living, breathing what you do when you're not working as well. That's the dream."

Gingers on Ice perform at the Roxy Fri., June 23, at 8 PM. $8.

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