5 Life Lessons from Bubble Boys' Sven and Henry

Last year, I spoke with the creators of Bubble Boys, an improvised old-timey radio show podcast following the misadventures of two best friends and inventors, all about the inspiration behind the show's first season.

Earlier this year, the Bubble Boys returned to the airwaves for a second series, ten years after their release from prison, as World War II rages on. Sven and Henry's myriad real world experiences has afforded them tons of wisdom, which they have been kind enough to share with Steamroller readers. 

You can (and should!) subscribe to the podcast here, it's very funny and features many familiar voices from the Chicago sketch & improv scenes!

Sven Ingaborg: I am Sven Ingaborg. A gods-fearing pagan of Norwegian stock, raised in dairy country Wisconsin. After meeting my partner Henry Mossmouth in 1924 we subsequently invented a "voice-changing" gum which captivated the curiosity of America's youth, traveled the country, spent a decade in prison, and then traversed the world in uniform.

We've learned much upon our journeys, we've peeked behind the thin veil of humanity and got a glimpse of the bearded puppetmaster who has spun the fates of us all. For you, dear reader, we share our wisdom.

Henry Mossmouth: My name is Henry Mossmouth. I met Sven as a boy and was immediately captivated by his winning demeanor and also immediately held captive by him in his arms while he kneed me in the gut. I loved all the attention and soon we were inseparable.

Sven and I worked tirelessly to bring to life a gum that would help anybody throw or change his voice. After Sven explained to me that ventriloquist dummies weren't really speaking I cried with relief and also understood what a boon our invention would be for those not blessed with the skills to imitate other voices.

When our gum didn't work it was Sven who had the brilliant idea of selling it anyway so we could still make money. When that got us arrested it was Sven who had the inspiration to jump bail so that we could still be free from prison. I'm not as wise as Sven, but I've learned to nod based on the tone of his voice.


Sven: Don't plan, act. As animals we acted on instinct, we were predators. When perpetrating an activity deemed "criminal" by the spineless overlords in "government" do not plan what you will do, spontaneity is the key to fluid crime. Be the wind, the flying arrow, the fox on the hunt.

Architecture of your delinquent behavior will only create more opportunities for it to fail and for you to be caught and incarcerated on a floating island hell from which there is no escape. If you do not even know what you are doing while you are doing it you can genuinely plead innocence and your villainous behavior becomes almost artistic. A pure portrayal of rebellion in an insane world.

Henry: A crime is a type of lie where instead of saying the lie, you do the lie. Just like lies there are good kinds and bad kinds. When someone asks you how they look and the answer is they look like someone stole the suit off a corpse and stuffed a thin pig into it, it's better to say, "You look nice."

Similarly, if someone just wants to believe that you aren't deceiving him entirely to get his money, the kinder thing is to let him believe that and take the money. Ultimately, it's your own soul that's being irreparably stained, so that guy is getting the better deal!


Sven: Women are complex creatures. I do not understand them.


A woman is basically a flower that can walk and talk.

They're beautiful

They drink water

And a third thing


It's called poetry and women can't get enough of the stuff.


Sven: The first thing you need to realize is that you are never alone. Ever. There are always, at least, three ghosts in a room with you at any given time. To get a ghost to show itself you must fill a saucer with milk and soak a piece of bread in it. Only when the bread is good and soggy will the ghost appear. They can't chew, they're like old people.

If you want to exorcise them you simply have to say a nursery rhyme in reverse. If you want to use them in order to glean information you must strike a pact with them, usually involving possession and/or dancing.

Henry: I had never believed in ghosts until I heard something that forever changed my mind: it was Sven telling me to believe in ghosts. So I did.


Sven: Henry and I spent ten years in Alcatraz. The exclusive company of men was, at times, challenging. There was much chest beating, instigating, aggression, peacocking, and physical confrontations.

I found it somewhat distasteful preferring to rely on the power of the elder gods, calling upon the dark strength of the Allfather to smite those men seeking to steal my peach cobbler at the mess. The ravens Thought and Memory never failed to answer my pleas, plucking the eyes from the heads of those inmates intent on bespotting my time.

Henry: The decade I spent in Alcatraz with Sven were some of the most pleasurable years of my life. A lifetime of practicing obedience and an animal-like approach to unreflectively eating and sleeping could finally come into play.

I also took a lot of time to just look out the window of our cell which had a view of a wall and the window of a supply closet. Sometimes I wondered what kind of adventures the mop in the closet must go on each day and what it must feel like to have your hair put in grimy water and slid along a floor. Made my own troubles seem pretty small!


Sven: If you say something one hundred times to your best friend it comes to pass. Henry and I have been doing this for years. It never fails.

Henry: The hard part is counting right. If you go over by even a few hundred repetitions it won't come true.

-Andrew Tisher and Steve Nelson