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Jim Underdown at his desk at CFI Los Angeles, Hollywood, CA
October 9, 1960
|Residence||Los Angeles, California, USA|
|Education||B.A. in English|
|Alma mater||DePauw University|
|Occupation||Executive Director of CFI Los Angeles, Founder of IIG|
|Website||http://www.cfiwest.org http://www.hollywoodrealitycheck.com http://www.iigwest.org|
James Underdown has been the executive director of The Center for Inquiry CFI Los Angeles since 1999. The Center for Inquiry is a non-profit educational organization with headquarters in Amherst, NY, whose primary mission is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. CFI Los Angeles is the largest branch in the organization outside Amherst.
Underdown founded the Independent Investigations Group IIG , a volunteer-based organization, in January 2000 at the Center for Inquiry-West (now Center for Inquiry-Los Angeles) in Hollywood, California. The IIG investigates fringe science, paranormal and extraordinary claims from a rational, scientific viewpoint, and disseminates factual information about such inquiries to the public. There are Independent Investigation Groups in Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Denver, and Alberta, Canada. Altogether, the Independent Investigations Groups are the largest paranormal investigations team in the world.
The IIG offers $50,000 to anyone who can prove paranormal or supernatural ability under test conditions, and has in the past administered preliminary demonstrations for the James Randi Educational Foundation JREF's $1,000,000 Paranormal Challenge.  No one has ever come close to winning the $50,000 Paranormal Challenge.
Underdown is a 1982 graduate of DePauw University in Greencastle, IN, where he received his B.A. in English with an emphasis in composition. He was also the starting defensive end for the DePauw Tiger football team which recorded a 9-1 record in 1981.
Between 1982 and 1999, in an effort to gain life experience, he explored occupations as a school teacher, truck driver, painter, limo driver, hotel clerk, furniture mover, football coach, carpenter, and bouncer. During this period, James declared himself Poet Laureate of Calumet City, IL, and began touring Midwest comedy clubs as Jim U-Boat, a moniker from high school. He worked as a stand-up comedian from 1988 - 1993.
An excerpt of Underdown's "Owed (sic) to Calumet City" might explain why Calumet City's mayor stated ``First of all, he`s a lousy poet,`` said Mayor Robert Stefaniak after sampling Underdown`s oeuvre. ``It`s kind of cruddy, if you ask me. Second of all, I don`t know this man at all. He is not recognized by this community, and we don`t want to have anything to do with him.``
On Gary Landfill
"Live as you will on Gary Landfill
In Hegewisch, or below us in Lansing.
To you it`s a pity that Calumet City
Has the area`s only nude dancing."
Notable shows Underdown performed in during the late 1980s/early 1990s include the Serious Art Comedy Show at the Roxy (Chicago), "The Best of Blue Collar Art" at the Elbo Room (Chicago), and "Mr. Saigon" also at the Elbo Room which featured Matt Walsh and Matt Besser of the Upright Citizen's Brigade.
After moving to Los Angeles in 1992, Underdown taught comedy traffic school for the Improv Traffic School, and worked as a carpenter until joining the Center for Inquiry in May of 1999. During his time in Los Angeles, He wrote and directed 2 short films: A Day in the Life of Frank Sinatra, a docushort about a homeless man with a famous name, and Dear Father, a black comedy about a priest who gets a letter from a man he molested 20 years before. He also wrote and directed a one-act play called Party of 13, a secular retelling of the Last Supper. Party of 13 has run 3 times in Los Angeles. He is also the host and creator of "The Peep Show", a humorous roundtable discussion that ran for 2 dozen episodes on public access TV in the mid-1990s.
Underdown created the Steve Allen Theater in 2002 and hired Amit Itelman to be its artistic director soon after. According to the NY Times, "...the Steve Allen Theater is not just any theater...it is known for its willingness to embrace controversy. (In June -- 6/6/06 to be exact -- it held a Satanic High Mass for leather and tuxedo-clad devil-worshippers.)"
James is lead singer of "The Heathens", a rock and roll band dedicated to freethought and skeptical themes. Band members include lead guitarist and musical director Craig Else, keyboardist Dino Herrmann, bassist Joel Pelletier, and drummer John E. Skaare. The Heathens have played at the Steve Allen Theater in Hollywood, CA, and at Patriot Hall in downtown Los Angeles.
In the '80s, Underdown was also a regular guest vocalist with "Decades" a Chicago-based band led by Mike Arturi, the current drummer for The Lovin' Spoonful, who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. James was also the lead singer for the "Jam Knights" a bar band in the Chicago area.
Underdown has appeared in a number of low budget feature films, including as a policeman in the 2011 feature film "High Road" and as himself in the 2007 comedic documentary "Super High Me".
James Underdown in the Media
- Using only invisible thread, a very long pole and a Mr. Coffee pot lid Jim Underdown shows the audience at JREF, The Amaz!ing Meeting: TAM9 From Outer Space how to fake their own UFO photographs.
- James Underdown summarizes the 2011 National Academy of Sciences Summit on Science, Entertainment and Education in this article for Skeptical Inquirer Magazine. With a $225,000 grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the symposium asked scientists and media representatives from Pixar and Disney to brainstorm creative ways to empower student learning in science. Underdown writes that “many a false belief rests on a poor understanding...of how the universe works” improving science education now will demystify public misunderstandings in the future. Some of the luminaries included Ralph Cicerone, Charles Vest, Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Brian Greene.
- James Underdown and Mentalist Mark Edward appeared on the "Talking to the Dead" episode of Penn & Teller: Bullshit!
- Underdown also appeared on "Bullshit" in the Season 2 episode on Yoga and Tantric Sex. Here he scams the Tarot Card readers by changing his appearance and behavior.
- The Oprah Winfrey Show, "Should You Have Sex Before Marriage?"
- James has appeared on History's Mysteries, Proof Positive, The WGN Morning Show, 1000 Ways to Lie, Hannity and Colmes, Angels vs. Demons, Life and Times, Midday L.A. and other shows.
- Are there similarities between the paranormal claims people make today and the miracles found in the bible? Paranormal investigator and founder of the Independent Investigations Group James Underdown takes a look at 5 miracles in the bible and relates them to real-life paranormal investigations at ReasonFest May 2011. 
- James Underdown does an experiment for "Miracle Detective" Oprah Winfrey Network which replicates exactly the angelic apparition that people claim cured a 14 year old severely disabled child at Presbyterian Hemby Childrens Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina. The "angel" was sunlight from a hidden window, and the little girl is still severely handicapped.
- Jim Underdown IIG and Mentalist Mark Edward are featured on Discovery Channel's episode of Weird or What? "Mind Control War" 
- "State Sponsored Quackery" Article in the November/December 2009 issue of Skeptical Inquirer magazine. Owen Hammer & James Underdown report on the IIG's on-going investigation into California nursing standards concerning teaching therapeutic touch as continuing education units (CEUs).
- "Mother (Nature) Dearest" OpEd in the August/September issue of Free Inquiry magazine. Can three hardcore atheists have a spiritual experience while hiking into the Grand Canyon?
- "They See Dead People: Or Do They?" Article in the September/October 2003 issue of Skeptical Inquirer magazine. How do TV mediums John Edward and James Van Praagh appear to be talking to the dead? CITATION http://www.csicop.org/si/archive/category/volume_27.5
- "The Evolution of Thought" OpEd in Spring 2001 issue of Free Inquiry magazine. Is secularism making progress? Seen through the lens of history, yes, it is!
- "Mixing Religion and Humor" Article in the May 1998 issue of Freethought Today, a publication of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
- "Nonsectarian Prayer is Oxymoronic" OpEd in Daily Breeze newspaper, July 20th, 2000. How can the act of praying be nonsectarian when it assumes a religious perspective?
- He also contributed to The Chicago Reader's December "Year in Review" issues in 1995 and 1998.
- James Underdown is a regular guest on Senior Astronomer Seth Shostak's "Skeptical Sunday" episodes of SETI's weekly radio show and podcast Are We Alone?.       
- He is also a regular on Bear Down: The Chicago Bears Podcast as Jim U-Boat and Fireman Pete.
- James Underdown once wrestled Victor the Wrestling Bear at the International Amphitheater in Chicago. Victor was there with trainer Tuffy Truesdale as a part of the Outdoors and Sportsman's Show. Underdown was one of the few challengers who knocked Victor to the mat, though the bear eventually won the match.
- "The IIG $50,000 Paranormal Challenge". Iigwest.com. 2010. Retrieved 2011-07-20.
- "One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge". randi.org. 2008-10-30. Retrieved 2011-07-20.
- "Calumet City Seems To Take Little Pity On Self-proclaimed". Chicago Tribune. 1988-06-29. Retrieved 2011-06-10.
- "About Us". Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. Retrieved 2011-07-20.
- "THEATER; A Very Model Of a Modern Meta-Musical". The New York Times. 2007-12-07. Retrieved 2011-07-20.
- "James Underdown". www.imdb.com. Retrieved 2011-07-20.
- "Making UFO’s: Reality and Illusion". Randi.org. 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-18.
- Underdown, James (May/June 2011). "When Entertainment Meets Science: Summit Boosts Innovative Education". Skeptical Inquirer (CSICOP) 35 (3): 5. Check date values in:
- "Penn & Teller: Bullsh**!: Talking to the Dead Episode Summary on". Tv.com. Retrieved 2010-11-04.
- "James Underdown". www.imdb.com. Retrieved 2011-07-20.
- "ReasonFest11". Unreasonable Faith. 2011-04-29. Retrieved 2011-05-11.
- "James Underdown (3 of 4) @ ReasonFest 2011". YouTube. 2011-06-15. Retrieved 2011-06-15.
- "Guardian Angel: Video Expert Re-Creation | Guardian Angel: Video Expert Re-Creation". Oprah Winfrey Network. 2011-01-20. Retrieved 2011-28-01. Check date values in:
- "Weird or What? "Mind Control War"". Discovery Channel. 2010-06-02. Retrieved 2011-02-07.
- "State Sponsored Quackery Feng Shui and Snake Oil for California Nurses". November/December 2009. Retrieved 2011-06-12. Check date values in:
- "The Evolution of Thought". Council for Secular Humanism. 2011-07-21. Retrieved 2011-07-21.
- "Review: Religulus". Council for Secular Humanism. 2011-07-21. Retrieved 2011-07-21.
- "Mixing Religion & Humor". Freedom From Religion Foundation. 1998-05. Retrieved 2011-07-21. Check date values in:
- "Skeptic Check: Diluted Thinking; The Hollywood Reality Check". SETI. 2011-02-28. Retrieved 2011-5-09. Check date values in:
- "Skeptic Check: Conspiracy; The Hollywood Reality Check". SETI. 2010-04-05. Retrieved 2011-5-09. Check date values in:
- "Skeptic Check: Superstition; The Hollywood Reality Check". SETI. 2010-08-16. Retrieved 2011-5-09. Check date values in:
- "Skeptic Check: Playing Doctor; The Hollywood Reality Check". SETI. 2010-07-12. Retrieved 2011-5-09. Check date values in:
- "Skeptic Check: ESP or Think Again; The Hollywood Reality Check". SETI. 2010-07-12. Retrieved 2011-5-09. Check date values in:
- "Skeptic Check: Sheer Lunacy; The Hollywood Reality Check". SETI. 2010-07-12. Retrieved 2011-5-09. Check date values in:
- "Skeptical Sunday: is Ignorance Bliss?; The Hollywood Reality Check". SETI. 2010-07-12. Retrieved 2011-5-09. Check date values in:
- "Skeptical Sunday: Take a Number; The Hollywood Reality Check". SETI. 2010-07-12. Retrieved 2011-5-09. Check date values in:
- "Bear Down: Meet the Crew". Bear Down. 2010. Retrieved 2011-06-10.