You might say Tim Nyberg and Jim Berg happened upon a good idea that stuck.
Nyberg and Berg are the Duct Tape Guys, evangelists of adhesion who spread their comedic gospel through books, a website and appearances on TV, radio and stage. In Nyberg’s own words, they’re the Dumb and Dumber of the do-it-yourself set.
Next weekend, they’ll bring their shtick of stickiness to the HBA Akron Home & Flower Show, which opens Friday. The brothers-in-law from Wisconsin’s Door County are the show’s headline performers, scheduled to appear onstage on each of the show’s three days.
Their dedication to duct tape started on Christmas Eve 1993, when a power outage darkened the family’s holiday celebration. Berg, already a duct tape devotee, suggested he could probably use the stuff to fix the outage if he knew where it was. Then, at his wife’s prompting, he started rattling off some of his rip-and-repair projects — feats that Nyberg said have included such questionable undertakings as patching his boat, mending torn upholstery and holding a TV antenna to the side of his house with a wad of tape that “looks like a wasp’s nest.”
Marketing wizard that he is, Nyberg saw the makings of a book.
The Duct Tape Book came out in 1994 and has since been followed by five more titles on the subject, along with one on the tape’s adhesion opposite, WD-40. “The yin and yang of your toolbox,” Nyberg called them in a recent phone interview.
(Coincidentally, one of the myriad uses of WD-40 is removing duct tape residue, he noted.)
Berg and Nyberg developed their stage personas as a way to market the duct tape books. It wasn’t exactly a stretch for Nyberg, who has a background in stand-up comedy, magic and radio drive-time humor.
Then someone saw their prop-based humor on TV and asked them to consider taking their act to home shows.
“It’s just been kind of developing and growing,” Nyberg said.
He and Berg capitalize on duct tape’s quirky folk status as the symbol of inventiveness gone awry. They’ve seen the stuff used to mount flashlights on car fenders as a substitute for headlight repair. They’re seen it used to attach dryer vent hoses to a car’s heating vents to boost the defrosting capabilities. They’ve seen rolls of duct tape adhered to dashboards for use as cup holders.
On the other hand, they’ve also seen some crafty and creative uses for the tape, such as duct-tape wallets and the prom fashions promoted by ShurTech Brands, which makes Duck brand tape and is headquartered in Avon right here in Northeast Ohio. They’ve even seen duct tape used for the greater good at charitable events where people pay money to tape willing victims to walls.
And they’ve seen duct tape venerated by a devoted, almost cultlike following. Nyberg said they’ve heard more than one report of duct tape being distributed at the funerals of people who were known for their liberal use of the stuff, and the mourners using strips of the tape to seal the coffins.
In the process of amassing their duct tape lore, Berg and Nyberg have become duct tape historians of a sort. Duct tape, they say on their website, was first manufactured during World War II as a way to keep moisture out of ammunition cases. People started calling it duck tape, either because the tape was waterproof or because it was made using cotton duck cloth.
It wasn’t till after the war that the tape was used to connect pieces of duct work during the housing boom, and its color was changed from Army green to silver to match. Oddly, most types of duct tape aren’t recommended for that use now, because the adhesive dries out.
What duct tape is good for is feats of strength. Its marriage of resilient plastic, fabric mesh and adhesive makes it unusually strong (when doubled over onto itself, it can pull a 2,000-pound car out of a ditch, the Duct Tape Guys say), yet it can be ripped easily without the need for tools.
It’s also gotten fashionable over the years. Duct tape now comes in a range of colors and even some playful prints.
Berg and Nyberg’s stage show includes some legitimately useful applications, “but that’s really not the gist of what we’re trying to do,” Nyberg said. Rather, they’re more likely to suggest such uses as covering yourself in zebra-print duct tape to camouflage yourself in a zebra herd, or in leopard-print tape to blend into a leper colony.
Their act is just meant to make people laugh, Nyberg said. It’s G-rated entertainment for audiences of all ages, a good way to rest tired feet for a half-hour or so.
Promoting duct tape isn’t the two men’s sole vocation, however. Nyberg is self-employed as an advertising and marketing consultant and illustrator. Berg is a former teacher who now works as a coordinator for children with special needs, a job that gives him more flexibility for his duct tape duties.
Nyberg claims the job switch was prompted by his asking a friend to step in as a substitute Duct Tape Guy when Berg couldn’t make a trip to Germany. “That made Jim kind of nervous,” he said.
Seems he couldn’t do it all.
Unlike duct tape.
Mary Beth Breckenridge can be reached at 330-996-3756 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also become a fan on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @MBBreckenridge and read her blog at marybeth.ohio.com.