Seems like everyone's got a story to tell in New York City. What about you? Whether you're looking to share or would just rather pull up a chair, opportunities to hear and be heard abound.
The Happy Endings Music and Reading Series is (in)famous for pushing the envelope. The participants, mostly comedians and writers, not only risk themselves by telling true, outrageous tales, but must also do something publicly risky before leaving the stage. Stunts range from the painless--getting a haircut--to the painful--diving from the bar. (I'm not sure where the a cappella performance of Michael Jackson's "Billy Jean" falls on that scale.) Shows take place at Joe's Pub on the first Wednesday of the month and cost fifteen bucks. Come ready for anything.
The Moth started as a gathering of storytellers in an apartment, spun off into staged performances, and now, with its weekly StorySLAM, is open to anyone brave enough to put their name in the hat—literally. If your name is picked, you get a microphone, an attentive audience, and five minutes. If that's not challenge enough, your personal anecdote has to be performed off the top of your head. So practice in advance! Competition is intense, as winners go on to a nationwide GrandSLAM and are featured on The Moth's popular podcast. Check their website for event themes and venues. Admission is free.
Newcomer Risk! is a mash up of these two, with professionals like Janeane Garofalo taking the stage aside amateurs. As the title implies, Risk! dares the performers to share stories they never thought they'd tell anyone, or tell the story in an unconventional way. One storyteller—storyteller, mind you, not singer—recounted his father's death, in song. This series was created by Kevin Allison, a comedian from MTV's The State, so expect some lightheartedness mixed with the tears.
For more laughs, check out The Rejection Show, which creates comedic gold out of the stuff other people said no to. Creative personalities of all types tell you about pitches that never got the green light, some of it amazingly great, others ridiculously bad. The hard let downs get personal too, with readings of break-up letters, hate mail, and dejected diary entries.
The grandfather of them all, A Prairie Home Companion, has kept the art of storytelling alive and well since it began broadcasting on Minnesota Public Radio in 1974. Garrison Kellior and his crew are still going strong, and settle in at Town Hall for a series of shows every fall, beginning in November and running up to Christmas.
In this city, no story is too small. Go ahead and add yours to the mix!