Well, here it is only minutes since leaving Cafe du Nord a club in the Castro district of San Francisco. I've seen some awesome musicians there, with the two most memorable to-date being Red Meat (a really unique honky-tonk band with an fabulously clear and together sound, mixed with some really funny lyrics), and Ledisi (a kick-ass soul singer in the style of Erika Badhu and Lauryn Hill). Every time I walk into that club, visions of these two shows and an incredibly wild halloween party I attended in '98, rush into my head and immediately put me in a pleasant disposition there.
All this to say that I attended a story telling show there tonight presented by Porch Light called "More, More, More – Stories of Gross Excess". I was first greeted by a $10 cover charge which in and of itself wasn't gonna kill me, but it would have been good to yield my party days mantra "beware of a $10 cover charge for an event on a Monday night" ;-) But hey, this was Cafe du Nord, pleasant memories, fun vibe, must go with the program. Besides a friend was one of the performers, and that alone should have made this worth it. Right. So in I went.
It was to be six performers armed only with their unrehearsed and unwritten stories, and the mind to deliver these. In order of appearance and per the program, the performers were: Karen Ladson, Garth Steel Klippert, A. H. Weatherman, Stephen Brophy, Chelsea Starr, and Mark Pincus.
Karen Ladson was first up, a voluptuous black woman from the Bronx talkin' about the evolutionary growth of her great big breasts…which used to be bigger than the rack she sported this evening. Much bigger!…double 'D' and growing, though now greatly reduced. This was the tale of a well endowed girl from the age of 10 and the challenges that went with this. She told an interesting story with plenty of comic relief to keep the festive mood in the room, though the lulls in the story were some times a bit longer than comfortable or enjoyable, but she was endowed with a wonderful and unmatched vocabulary, which kind of led me to conclude that her story was not as unrehearsed as had been advertised. On a 10 point scale she got a solid 6 from me, though I would have given her a 7 on the poetic scale.
Next came Garth Steel Klippert, and he discussed several of his neuroses and his compulsiveness to understand TV over the years leading to his abuse of the Internet. Now Garth definitely picked things up a bit, and was more consistently funnier than Karen, while sharing some infamous Richard Lewis moments which the crowd could relate to. He got a more solid 7 from me (every one wants to be the critic :-)
The next story teller was the one that forced me to not only question my $10 investment this evening, but whether my life was worth living long enough to see my friend go on stage…last! Had I had a gun in my mouth, pulling the trigger would surely have followed. Her name was A.H. Weatherman. It was my assumption that story tellers had to be mildly entertaining to be qualified or selected for this event. Well, apparently that was not the case. She set us up with the "this is a story I've been wanting to tell for a very long time" line. I should have seen it coming a mile away. We had to sit through her telling a story about her mother's obsessive compulsive disorder, the messy kind. While, no one says that sad stories cannot be entertaining and perhaps even of human interest, this was like being forced to sit through a therapist session with someone who can lull you to sleep and make you wonder why they would ever share such an uninteresting story with any one, much less a crowd of people who actually paid money to come hear their stories. Am I being aweful?…well it's in hopes that she never does this to any one again, to make sure that any one who might want to see this show and see her on the program, be advised that this is a good time to make sure that you go smoke a cigarette or buy some gum or a few drinks, during her set. It wasn't even a depressing story in the tear-jerker style. It was just a whinny, badly told and very uninteresting story. Now, having said this, a psychiatrist-in-training friend of my buddy's and her sig. other, thought it was a wonderful story…but also admitted to going to see the movie "Rwanda Hotel" on a Friday night ;-) I polled another 6 chics leaving the venue during the intermission and they assured me that A.H. really did suck and that it wasn't my imagination or bad taste…phew! I gave her a 1 because I felt too sorry for her to give her the 0 se deserved.
Sorry for this rant, but I've never had that "kill me now" feeling during a performance no matter how bad it's been. This was definitely a first. Fortunately, next was intermission time and we got a chance to decompress from this lousy story telling. Sadly, that last one single-handedly took away from the momentum the first two performers had built up.
Next came a randomly selected audience member who added to "Stories of Excess" with a pretty funny binging and more binging and then lots of puking, story. In a morbid college boy way, it was a really funny story.
He was followed by Stephen Brophy, a writer on the "Average Joe" reality TV show among projects. Stephen told of reliving his youthful drug and party all day fantasy with some old friends and how it not only didn't live up to expectations but also led him to quit drugs altogether. His story definitely had its moments and began rebuilding the momentum, which by now was well behind the 8-ball.
Finally, the stars were up. First came Chelsea Starr, a hottie dyke stripper, who was doin' it for the money. She was precious in her story telling and in how she confided in the audience. Her aloofness and subtle natural sensibilities made her fabulous. You could sit there and listen to her all night. Sure, it didn't hurt that we were hearing the inside dirt on what strippers are thinking when doing their shows and bachelor parties, but she was on. At this point, the investment in the show had just paid off, I hit breakeven!
So now I knew that the next guy up, Mark Pincus, the founder of the start-up I work for, would at worse drop a notch below Chelsea but not much further (having heard him deliver presentations in large forums, I knew he'd be comfortable on stage), so I tried to keep my expectations low. Sure enough, he was there to tell of the excesses that have come with his successes as an Internet entrepreneur. So blow me away when the guy was actually "fucken" hilarious. Not only did I think so, but the room was rolling. Here, people were being empathetic with a millionaire who was having his Larry David moments of how the U.S. Treasury and the state of California should be sending him 'Thank You' notes for the amount he has been paying in taxes. Drop dead funny. Mark took Chelsea's aloofness to another level, and had that space cadet persona that one can only laugh with. Between him and Chelsea, I would have paid $20 for the night, but it would have also required that we get rid of at least two of the other performers.
And one piece of advice to all you story teller wannabes, tell stories you really think other people want to hear. Getting access to a mike doesn't mean you *have* to tell every one a story, you are allowed to just keep these to yourself and give the mike to someone else, especially if your story is bad and the event is about entertaining an audience ;-)