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“And I Am Not Lying” at UNDER Saint Marks’, March 2013

March 3rd, 2013 by Jeff Simmermon

**UPDATE**

Ed Gavagan’s story from tonight’s show is being taped by ‘This American Life.’ We really want to get a good crowd out for him, so if you were on the fence about this one, PLEASE consider coming out to support him! We’ve also created a discount code to sweeten the deal. For $6 tickets, enter discount code “BIGFOOT” there (click the blue “6″ on the calendar that appears, then enter the code.)
**/END UPDATE**

This week is a blur already. I am moving backwards in time, simultaneously experiencing Sunday night forwards and in my own memory from a week in the future. That’s what you do when you’re moving ahead fast – remember things while you live them.

I’m prepping for our shows at SXSW and won’t be at our monthly gig at UNDER Saint Marks’ Theater this week, but it would be horribly irresponsible of me not to tell you about it – it’s going to be awesome.

Naturally, the show is on Wednesday, March 6th, 9PM at UNDER Saint Marks’ Theater, 94 St. Marks’ Place, NYC. If you’re a faithful fan and want tickets right this second, click here (then click the blue “6″ on the calendar that appears.)

This show features:

Storytelling by

Brad Lawrence
Cyndi Freeman
John Flynn
Ed Gavagan

AND

Burlesque by

Nastie Canasta
Cherry Pitz

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Ophira Eisenberg’s Live Standup Set From ‘And I Am Not Lying’

January 15th, 2013 by Jeff Simmermon

Storyteller Ophira Eisenberg

Ophira Eisenberg is known pretty widely as the host of NPR’s ‘Ask Me Another,’ but she is also an excellent standup comic and storyteller. And she happens to be a friend as well as someone whose work I look up to and love. She regularly hosts Moth slams here in New York, and we met through that and a million other smaller storytelling shows that we’ve done together.

I’ve been trying to merge standup with my storytelling over the last few months, and Ophira is one of the people who made me think it was worth doing. I found out very soon, the very, very hard way, that it’s actually hard as hell and Ophira just makes it look easy.

She did an excellent standup set at my show (And I Am Not Lying, named for this blog, now at Under Saint Marks’ Theater) at Union Hall last February, and I’m really excited to be able to share this recording from the sound board.

If you only know Ophira from the radio, this is very different than what you might hear on NPR. For starters, there’s a lot of swearing in it. If that’s something that bothers you, you may want to avoid this.

If copious swearing and a few grownup jokes are something that bothers you and you listen anyway, please admit that you get a prissy little thrill from being offended and just keep any complaints to yourself.

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Christmas 2012: Four Generations of Family, A Mummified Banana and the Promise of a Dry Diaper

January 2nd, 2013 by Jeff Simmermon

My family all loves each other, and gets along pretty well. Which means that my holidays are usually pretty great, but rarely make for much in the way of great material. Four generations of people that love and respect each other kind of puts me at a disadvantage for a career in the arts. I try to work around it, though.

What follows isn’t really a story with conflict and an arc and surprises and stuff. But this chapter in my family’s history is so magnificent that it needs to be recorded somewhere. So I’m annotating a series of photos that sum it all up.

In-law jokes were for hacks back in the ’60s. Everyone knows that. But one of the things that nobody ever tells you about getting married is that if you get lucky and pick it right, you actually get to join a whole new awesome family in addition to your own. And if yours sucks a little, you kind of get another shot.

I started the holidays with Maggie’s family in suburban Maryland – here we are, opening some gifts early. My soon-to-be father-in-law gave me the entire run of Battlestar Galactica, which I’ve actually never seen – pretty solid!

brennans

For those of you that don’t know, my aunt and uncle own and operate a Christmas store in Smithfield, Virginia. It’s open year-round, and it’s not one of those chintzy chain stores you see at your more pathetic shopping malls. Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Elaine have an entire wardrobe of Christmas-themed clothing, and wear this stuff all the time, like it’s completely normal. They also usually have a little glitter or fake snow from a shedding ornament stuck to their sweater, glasses or something the way that other people might wear cat hair.

Here are a few shots of the shop:

At Christmas:

xmas_store

christmas_store

At Halloween:

Christmas Store, Halloween
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Recap: And I Am Not Lying at The Middle East in Cambridge, MA

September 16th, 2012 by Jeff Simmermon

The Crack-Up

We did a show at The Middle East in Cambridge, MA last week – sponsored by WBUR, Boston’s NPR station. They even recorded me and pulled together a cool little plug on the radio for it – you can hear that here: And I Am Not Lying: Live, Raw Storytelling.

We were joined by the Boston Typewriter Orchestra, a bunch of folks who play the typewriter musically a hell of a lot better than I did it when I was dabbling in the genre.

The show sold out, which was a hell of a kick – there’s nothing like busting your hump for a month and seeing it pay off.

I’m booking all our stuff out of town now and arranging all the press, too. It’s always a hurricane of phone calls, emails and text messages, last-minute changes and just … STUFF. I’ve never once had a show where there wasn’t a surprise, a change, a sudden boulder of bullshit falling at the last minute like a turd-studded iceberg of waste from a crack in a passing jetliner. At this point, I get a little nervous when it doesn’t happen.

And getting people in the door is my primary source of stress. I’m trying to get to where I don’t take empty seats personally, but it’s a long, slow journey.

We’re not at the point where we can count on a sold-out show, or really any kind of turnout at all. People don’t know the name of the show yet, and I ain’t exactly a draw on my name alone. This isn’t like music, where people bring friends to see a band based on the genre.

You can say “hey man, there’s a really sweet reggae band playing tonight, let’s check ‘em out,” and you’ll get some good walk-in. With comedy, you can say to your friends “hey, this venue that regularly books comedians is having some comedians perform tonight. Let’s go have some laughs,” and you might get some decent walk-ins.

We have no established genre. The best thing someone can say to sell us is “hey, this guy that was on This American Life three years ago is going to say a lot of SAT words and also a lot of cuss words, and it may be really funny but it may also be kind of depressing. Also, they might have some people do burlesque performances in addition to other storytellers who also have a lot of feelings they would like to share.”

You’re not going to hear Conan O’Brien say “We’ve got a very charming and thought-provoking storyteller on the show tonight” anytime soon. People that aren’t into The Moth or This American Life think that storytelling is either standup comedy or some dude in a bowtie and a seersucker suit at a folk festival talking about growing up on the farm.

So when I see a line stretching out through the door of the club, through the restaurant and out the front door, curving around the block and around the corner I just want to jump up on top of the bar and spike a football. I always try to walk along the whole line and just drink it all in.

All these people made tonight their date night, their going-out night, and they did it because they wanted to be THERE, with us, seeing something a little new and weird. I wanna kiss every last one of them, at least until they start fooling with their phones.

The first half of the show was a dream. I’ve been busting ass on actual joke-writing to build a standup set ever since a tragic crash-and-burn a month or so back. And to deploy those jokes on a roomful of cheering, happy people – it was like riding a gold-plated surfboard down a sunbeam. Everything was cruising like a dream during the first half, every performer killing and the Boston Typewriter Orchestra rocking it …

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Michael Che at Caroline’s on Broadway, Tonight. I’m hosting, he’s headlining

August 9th, 2012 by Jeff Simmermon

All of a sudden, I’ve got the opportunity to host/open for Michael Che at Caroline’s on Broadway tonight, at the 10PM show. I kind of can’t believe it. I’ve been wandering around for months thinking “please, can I just catch a break,” and all of sudden here it is in my lap. That place is beyond legendary.

Michael Che’s one of my favorite comedians who will actually engage with me in person and online. One time we were drunk at the bocce courts at Union Hall and he started telling everyone that I was a professional bocce player, sponsored by Monster Energy Drinks. He got people to bet on us and then we lost HORRIBLY.

He’s a recurring cast member of “Bunk!” on IFC, and was one of Time Out NY’s three “Comics to Watch” this year.

Here’s a set that he did at our show at Union Hall last winter:

I’ll be there, telling stories and jokes in between professional comedians that people actually pay to see. It should be magnificent.

You can get tickets to the show here: Michael Che at Caroline’s on Broadway

Entering the code “COB10″ will get you $10 tickets.

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And I Am Not Lying at the Black Cat, Washington DC, June 14th

June 1st, 2012 by Jeff Simmermon

**UPDATE**
The 8PM And I Am Not Lying Live show at the Black Cat is now sold out. We have added another show that night – also at the Red Room at the Black Cat. Doors are at 10PM, tickets are still $12. You can get tickets for the 10 PM show here.
**/END UPDATE/**

We brought the And I Am Not Lying live show to the Black Cat in Washington, DC last year. And I don’t mind telling you that it was a lifetime highlight. The show sold out and everyone killed. I could have gotten shot by snipers on the way out of the club and not felt a damn thing.

So it thrills me to tell all you people that our sputtering cargo plane is going to crash back into the Black Cat’s mountain and spray the whole ZIP code with fuel. We’re bringing the planet’s first best and only comedy storytelling burlesque sideshow back to the Red Room on Thursday, June 14th!

You can get advance tickets to the 10PM show here: And I Am Not Lying at the Black Cat

Here’s a flyer and a cool trailer, text info on performers after the jump:

And I Am Not Lying - Live at the Black Cat

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Storytelling Validated in the Times: A Guide to Shows and Open Mics in New York City

April 4th, 2012 by Jeff Simmermon

Street View from 768 Delancey

The New York Times gave me a tiny shout-out this evening in a piece about the storytelling scene in New York City. I am referred to as “imposing,” which is confusing, but I’ll take it as a compliment. I strongly encourage that you run right out and read the whole thing. Cyndi Freeman gets a mention in there, too, as well as a bunch of other folks that I am honored to consider peers. The mighty Adam Wade gets some serious ink, too.

Here’s an excerpt that I think is the core of the piece, referring to my friend Ophira Eisenberg:

She explores the taboo, but without the persistent relief provided by consistent punch lines. In doing that, she shows how a story can use humor but not be shackled to it, how it can be emotional without pandering, and how difficult ideas can be articulated entertainingly.
What she demonstrates is that storytelling can give a certain kind of comedy a chance to grow.

Storytelling has grown a lot beyond regular Moth slams. The Moth was the Big Bang that coalesced into the sun for this whole thing, but now a bunch of other planets are cooling and growing their own life forms. The following is a list of storytelling shows that I’d recommend checking out in the city. I’ve been in most of these, and am friends with folks that run all of them.

A lot of these shows don’t have a lot in the way of a Web presence. I hate linking to Facebook pages, but that’s the world we live in — crafting stories and running shows takes a lot of energy, and so does running a website. At this point in my life I’d rather have “writer/performer” etched on my tombstone than “blogger”. Anyway, here they go:

Liar Show
Real Characters
Told!
BTK Band
Nights of Our Lives
The Story Collider
Ask Me
How I Learned
The Soundtrack Series
Adam Wade has a BUNCH:

I can also see how Moth story slams would be intimidating to people that are new to this. They’re huge, with lines around the block and they sell out pretty much every time. There’s also no guarantee that you’ll even get picked. And if you do get picked, you’re pretty much screwed out of a decent score unless you get picked fifth through tenth. By the fifth storyteller the booze kicks in, scores start to loosen up and judges figure out what the hell they’re even doing.

Frankly, these things should be a little intimidating to first-time performers. Anyone who just thinks “what the hell, I’ll just jump on stage for the first time in front of 400 people and be awesome like I always am, every day of my life” is missing a critical component to their personality and is likely going to embarrass everyone in the room except themselves. I’ve seen this happen. A lot.

You should get on stage and do it anyway, but a little fear is a good thing. It means you’re taking it seriously.

None of the following open mics were around when I started going to the Moth. If they had been, I’d have definitely tried my stories out at these first. I’m not saying that there’s a right or wrong way to do any of this stuff. Any door you find is one you can walk through.

But if you happen to want to workshop a story yourself or test it out in a lower-stakes environment — hell, sometimes the crowd is barely even paying attention — you could do a lot worse than to check these out. In order to win a fight you’ve got to spend a lot of time doing pushups and hitting the bag to get ready for five intense minutes. It’s the same principle here.

The following places are where I go to practice:

Phoning it In – Lukas Kaiser runs this open mic Monday-Thursday in somebody else’s apartment in Tribeca. It’s a warm room, supportive, and sometimes a woman walks straight through with a baby in a stroller and disappears in the back.

Kambri Crews’ “What’s Your Story” held monthly at Luca Lounge. You pretty much have to find this on Facebook or go to Luca Lounge and check it out first.

I Like You, Maude

Oh, Hey Guys at UCB East

Like anything else, there’s an etiquette. If you’re brand new to any of this, I’d recommend showing up and checking a show out first, then introducing yourself afterwards. Get to know folks, connect online. Pretty soon the whole thing will blossom and you’ll be tired of all the emails, updates, and Facebook events. And eventually, your brain will hurt from all of it and you’ll have nightmares abut your own show.

Congratulations: you’ve arrived.

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And I Am Not Lying – Live at Union Hall on Tuesday, April 3rd

March 29th, 2012 by Jeff Simmermon
And I Am Not Lying Live 4.3.2012

In all of this SXSW and engagement excitement, I almost forgot to mention:

It’s time once again to cock-rock the NPR crowd with New York’s first, only, and best comedy storytelling burlesque sideshow at Union Hall on Tuesday, April 3rd.

Show’s at 8, tickets are $10, available here: And I Am Not Lying LIVE at Union Hall

AS always, here’s a fun trailer for the thing:

We’re a “Critic’s Pick” in Time Out NY this week, which is pretty exciting! I don’t know if that’s an endorsement or just a button somebody clicked, but we’ll take it.

This month’s show features:

Comedy by
Andy Ross (Real Characters, The Onion)

Burlesque by
Dangrr Doll (Gotham Burlesque, D20 Burlesque)

Belly Dance by
Madame X (a complete mystery)

As well as storytelling by

Brad Lawrence
Cyndi Freeman
Jeff Simmermon (me)

Hope you guys can join us!

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For As Long As We Want And At Our Own Pace: I Got Engaged

March 29th, 2012 by Jeff Simmermon

I got engaged a little over a month ago – February 1st, to be exact. It was Maggie’s birthday.

We specifically didn’t mention it online for a while. It’s nice to think that something can be real without the Internet validating it — and without having to turn it into a story for instant mass consumption.

But still, I wanted to share this with you guys. It’s actually really hard to write about. Every time I try to write down what it means the words look so small and dumb, and there’s so much wonderful stuff that gets left out. That’s because there’s so much wonderful stuff here, in this experience, and in this particular woman, that I don’t think I could write it all down if I tried every day for the rest of my life.

Maggie and the Ring

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The Next Two Weeks Are A Year’s Worth of Shows: And I Am Not Lying Live in Brooklyn and Austin, TX.

March 5th, 2012 by Jeff Simmermon

The act of telling personal stories about one’s own life takes a certain amount of a certain type of nerve — mostly the “who the hell do you think you are” variety. Seriously: why should anyone give a whoop about my feelings about my feelings?

That feeling gets even weirder when I’m using the Internet as a megaphone to get people to my shows. “Who the fuck do you think you are telling everyone to come see whoever the hell it is you think you are” is pretty much the refrain that runs through my head every time I bathe my face in the cool glow of one rectangle or another.

But screw all that, we’ve been busting our asses to pull together a HELL of a week of shows this week in Brooklyn and Austin, TX for SXSW and I want to pull ‘em all together in one place, then crop-dust the whole Internet with ‘em all damn week.

First: We’re cock-rocking the NPR crowd with And I Am Not Lying – Live, NYC’s only comedy storytelling burlesque sideshow on Tuesday, March 6th at Union Hall in Brooklyn. You’ll see stories by me, Brad Lawrence, and Cyndi Freeman as well as magic by Albert Cadabra, burlesque by Cherry Pitz and Little Brooklyn and comedy by Wil Sylvince.

We strongly recommend advance tickets (only $10), which you can get here: And I Am Not Lying at Union Hall, Brooklyn

More info/flyer here, cool trailer here and embedded below:


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