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Snakeoil in the (Wheat)grass

by Ryan Johnson, Feb 17 2009

 As promised, our guest blogger, Shawna Young filling in for me this week to give you her perspective on her part of the The Skeptologists pilot shoot. Enjoy!


Hello everyone! First, I should apologize for my lack of blog last week, the Chicken Pox as an adult are not fun, and my sense of humor was a little thrown by all the itching and whining. Also, this is the first blog I have written so I guess I should start with a bit of an introduction.  My name is Shawna Young, I have worked for New Rule Productions for about 9 years and worked as a Coordinating Producer for “The Skeptologists”.  I very much enjoyed this group of people, talent and crew alike. I learned a lot, and am looking forward to working with them all again when the show gets picked up.

So, to start, I am usually the silly one of the bunch…I’m the girl who doesn’t get the joke right away and can’t remember the real names of things so I call items “dealy bobs” and “thingy ma stuff’s”. I am organized and focused on set, but off set I can get distracted pretty easily. I am also the one that Murphy’s Law doesn’t just follow around…it stalks me.  So, I guess I’ll start off the Wheatgrass segment now that you have all that in mind. 

Ryan and I had to schedule two shoots at the same time so we decided that I would direct the wheatgrass segment. I was a little nervous and really wanted to do a good job. When I didn’t get lost and we all showed up to the right location, at the right time, with everything we needed, I was more than a little elated. Michael Shermer was the first talent to show, and because Alta Dena is his turf (and he rides his bike more miles than I drive my car a year) he was familiar with this particular health food store and it’s owner. Kirsten Sanford and Steven Novella showed up looking a little hesitant about the idea of having to actually consume the wheatgrass shot, but we were all there and ready to start the segment. I was impressed with how smoothly things were going so far. 

Matt, our camera operator, and I met outside and discussed the shot list for a few moments, and then met everyone else inside. O’ Happy Days is like most health food stores, there is the smell of yummy healthy food mixed with a bad smell that might be vitamins or weird tea, and spices that I can never identify. There are cans of super healthy beats, and turnipy looking raw food and a shelf in the back with huge jars of things like “wormwart” and “magic grass”. I introduce myself to John Hopkins, the storeowner, who was in the back preparing for the lunch crowd. Again, everything is going surprisingly well and everyone seems to be confident in my ability. I have my sunglasses on and cell phone in hand so I at least appear the director-y type…and then my throat starts to close up, and I begin to break out in hives, and I can’t stop coughing. I make quick eye contact with my PA for the day, Matthew Hoefler, and we both go outside…he runs across the street with money in hand to purchase me some anti-histamines. Matt and I decide that we should probably start with the exteriors so I can keep breathing, and we wait to go back inside until I can get my allergies under control. Great way to start my first segment.

After introductions were made and an exceptional plate of hummus was eaten, we got down to the business of learning about Wheatgrass Juice. John shared the history of wheatgrass, told us a little about the lady who decided it was a really good idea for people to ingest this green elixir, and began the process of preparing the wheatgrass shots for our talent. This entails cutting off a chunk of the grass from a small square flat, and stuffing it into a juicer, it really smells like Saturday morning at my house when my Mom finally nagged my Dad long enough to get him to cut the lawn. Like I said before, Michael seemed enthusiastic about this, and Kirsten and Steven not so much, but they were all being great sports about the whole thing, and we got all of the information we needed to complete the segment. 

Then it was time to actually drink the wheatgrass instead of just standing around talking about it.  John handed our three talents their shot, and they reacted to them like a 4 year old reacts to Brussels sprouts. They all equally expressed the “EW” emotion. But, because they said they would, they all cheered and drank. John told them to hold the drink in their mouths, swish it around for a bit and then swallow slowly. Heh, I haven’t seen pulled faces like that in bars with tequila shot rounds, it was very entertaining…I didn’t think Kirsten was going to keep hers down, Steven turned roughly the same shade as the wheatgrass, and Michael looked like he could drink a couple more…he actually liked the stuff. 

John and I sat down to do the interview and he was very knowledgeable with the information that he had obtained about wheatgrass juice and the benefits that people believe it gives the human body. I enjoyed spending time with John, he was smart…maybe a little misled, but he had at the very least, done his own kind of research. He was also kind and had the voice of a story teller, I could tell that he really cares about his customers and seems to try his best to have as much information available to them as possible, and he can make a really yummy hummus, which I find difficult to find.

Brian Dunning and I went back by the odd spices and jars of “witches brew”, and discussed the information that we had acquired and decided that we didn’t need anything additionally. Matt Fore got some more B-Roll shots and we all thanked John and gave him his store back. All in all, it was a great shoot. Michael, Kirsten, and Steven were great sports, and even though I heard it made Steven a little ill…and I was still struggling for breath when I left there, I thought it made a great segment. Much thanks to all who participated, especially John, next time I’m in Alta Dena I will definitely stop in for the soup of the day, and some more hummus of course.

14 Responses to “Snakeoil in the (Wheat)grass”

  1. Paul says:

    Take an anti-histamine before you go…

  2. Max says:

    hummus + wheatgrass = vomit

  3. MadScientist says:

    Nice imagery – snake oil/wheat grass. I’d imagine squished wheat grass would just taste slightly nutty like the piths of many types of grass – unless of course you put in too much of the green stuff. Palm piths are also yummy – throughout much of Asia people eat the piths of coconut palms and a few other types of palms whose names I can never remember; it’ll never catch on like the wheatgrass fad though since the palms just don’t grow as fast as wheat and it takes a few years to get a decent sized pith.

    I always thought the secret to a good hummus is to use fresh chick peas – which seem incredibly hard to find if you don’t grow your own. If the peas are picked before they’ve fully matured that’s even better. Somehow the dried ones or tinned ones aren’t quite the same. Of course you need to use freshly squeezed lemon (or lime) juice, not the stuff in plastic botles, and fresh garlic, not the awful oily sludge that comes in bottles and definitely not the powdered stuff.

  4. I have plenty of grass in my yard. Granted it isn’t wheatgrass, I’m certain that you’d still reap the same rewards. I’m happy for anyone to come by and chew on it. It will save me from cutting it every month.

  5. Greg says:

    So, does it do anything? Is a shot of wheatgrass going to give me a monster energy boost or make me some kind of superman? Is it a scam, well what is it?

    The only information I got from this eight paragraph bl-article was that this John guy was probably fun at a party, Ryan has allergies, and the crew had mixed feeling on how wheatgrass tasted. Information for sure, but not terribly informative on the subject. Not even a link to the actual wheatgrass segment.

    Please try again.

  6. Greg says:

    Pardon me, Shawna has allergies.

  7. as7k says:


    They are still trying to sell the show to a network, putting whole segments (video or text recap) would be more then a little counter productive.

  8. Leroy says:

    Greg – This story is about the shoot… not about the efficacy of wheatgrass. Lighten up.

  9. shawna says:

    the blog is about the happenings of the day…if you want the results on the benefits of wheatgrass, wait for the show to air:)

  10. shawna says:

    and you didn’t JUST learn that I have allergies…you also learned that i LOVE a well made plate of hummus…:)

  11. Max says:

    Greg, while you wait for the show to air, see the Skeptoid episode on the topic.

  12. John says:

    For more information on wheatgrass juice from a skeptical source, try
    Skeptoid Episode #6 Wheatgrass Juice.

  13. Greg says:

    Expectations lead to disappointment… and I guess I was expecting something different because of the title of the article. The title is witty, but it implies that it has something to do with wheatgrass, rather than about the experience of shooting a segment on it. If the title had said something along the lines of “… and my experiences directing a shoot” I would have been less disappointed in the content, or to be more honest, I would have likely skipped it altogether. In any case this is not really your fault Shawna, but as I said, my expectations.

    Thank you as well for the links to the other article, which I found to be entertaining, but not terribly informative either. I hope this upcoming segment has something more to add.


    PS. I also make a pretty good Hummus, or at least thats what my friends say. My “secret” is good olive oil and the proper ratio of Tahini to chick peas, as well as the fresh ingredients mentioned by MadScientist.

  14. bill babishoff says:

    you have to be a special person to be able to eat hummus. I think humus tastes better! I’ve tried wheatgrass, it gave me a boost of energy, bad breath and an upset stomach but the cute little hippy chick with the hairy armpits who served it to me made it all worthwhile.