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This Excerpt From A Dave Eggers Interview Makes the Heart Sing

July 24th, 2013 by Jeff Simmermon

Humpback Whale Underwater

My friend and occasional blog-partner D.Billy sent me this excerpt from a Dave Eggers interview the other day and my God, it made my heart sing a massive oceans-wide whale song of recognition. I’ve been feeling ground down by a heavily “no”-intensive environment, the sort of thing where a cautious, smart “no” is always better than a “hey-let’s-give-it-a-shot yes.”

The cautious, smart “no” is usually pretty satisfying. You feel safe, secure. Then a few years go by and the view out the window never changes, and you start to think “wait, I feel kinda stagnant.” If you’re lucky you might notice that all that caution kept you in the driveway instead of out on the open road.

The whole interview is worth a read, but it all boils down to this at the end. Read it, and let your heart’s whale-song harmonize with the entire universe:

The thing is, I really like saying yes. I like new things, projects, plans, getting people together and doing something, trying something, even when it’s corny or stupid. I am not good at saying no. And I do not get along with people who say no. When you die, and it really could be this afternoon, under the same bus wheels I’ll stick my head if need be, you will not be happy about having said no. You will be kicking your ass about all the no’s you’ve said. No to that opportunity, or no to that trip to Nova Scotia or no to that night out, or no to that project or no to that person who wants to be naked with you but you worry about what your friends will say.

No is for wimps. No is for pussies. No is to live small and embittered, cherishing the opportunities you missed because they might have sent the wrong message.

There is a point in one’s life when one cares about selling out and not selling out. One worries whether or not wearing a certain shirt means that they are behind the curve or ahead of it, or that having certain music in one’s collection means that they are impressive, or unimpressive.

Thankfully, for some, this all passes. I am here to tell you that I have, a few years ago, found my way out of that thicket of comparison and relentless suspicion and judgment. And it is a nice feeling.

Because, in the end, no one will ever give a shit who has kept shit ‘real’ except the two or three people, sitting in their apartments, bitter and self-devouring, who take it upon themselves to wonder about such things. The keeping real of shit matters to some people, but it does not matter to me.

It’s fashion, and I don’t like fashion, because fashion does not matter.

What matters is that you do good work. What matters is that you produce things that are true and will stand.

What matters is not the perception, nor the fashion, not who’s up and who’s down, but what someone has done and if they meant it. What matters is that you want to see and make and do, on as grand a scale as you want, regardless of what the tiny voices of tiny people say.

Do not be critics, you people, I beg you. I was a critic and I wish I could take it all back because it came from a smelly and ignorant place in me, and spoke with a voice that was all rage and envy. Do not dismiss a book until you have written one, and do not dismiss a movie until you have made one, and do not dismiss a person until you have met them. It is a fuckload of work to be open-minded and generous and understanding and forgiving and accepting, but Christ, that is what matters. What matters is saying yes.

I say yes, and Wayne Coyne says yes, and if that makes us the enemy, then good, good, good. We are evil people because we want to live and do things. We are on the wrong side because we should be home, calculating which move would be the least damaging to our downtown reputations.

But I say yes because I am curious. I want to see things. I say yes when my high school friend tells me to come out because he’s hanging with Puffy. A real story, that. I say yes when Hollywood says they’ll give me enough money to publish a hundred different books, or send twenty kids through college. Saying no is so fucking boring.

And if anyone wants to hurt me for that, or dismiss me for that, for saying yes, I say Oh do it, do it you motherfuckers, finally, finally, finally.

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‘And I Am Not Lying’ Returns to the Black Cat in Washington DC, July 12th

July 5th, 2013 by Jeff Simmermon

**UPDATE – Dave Hill had to cancel because of some unforeseen circumstances. He is being replaced by the incomparable Paul Oddo.**

‘And I Am Not Lying’ is roaring back into town and cock-rocking the NPR crowd at The Black Cat on Friday, July 12th, at 9PM.

This show is going to leave a smoldering crater on 14th St NW, featuring a Game of Thrones-themed burlesque act from Corvette LeFace, Afro-Brazilian percussion from the 20-woman band Batala, comedy from Dave Hill, more burlesque from Cherry Pitz, and of course, storytelling by Brad Lawrence, Cyndi Freeman, and Jeff Simmermon (me.)

Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 at the door – available here. Seating will be limited, so you’ll want to get a ticket in advance and get there early if you want to sit down.

Here’s a poster I made for the thing, performer videos after the jump:

AndIAmNotLyingBlackCat_July12

Read the rest of this entry »

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Two Shows in May: 5.1 at Under Saint Marks, 5.9 at UCB East

April 29th, 2013 by Cyndi Freeman

Man, the month slipped past FAST. We’ve got two big shows in New York this May, and I’m here to tell you about them:

NotLying_USM_5.1.2013

First, we’ve got the monthly installment of our residency at Under Saint Marks Theater on Wednesday, May 1st, 9PM. The theater is at 94 Saint Marks’ Place, between 1st Avenue and Avenue A.

Featuring:

Storytelling by: Cyndi Freeman (The Moth, NY Fringe Award Winner), Brad Lawrence (The Moth, BTK), Jeff Simmermon (This American Life, The Moth)

Standup comedy by: Guilia Rozzi (Stripped Stories)

Sideshow by: Abigoliah Schamaun (Abigoliah’s Bizarre Bizaar)

Burlesque by: Brief Sweat, Cherry Pitz

You can get tickets here.

Then on May 9th, 11PM, we’re bringing the show to UCB East in a one-hour bouillon-cube of thrills, featuring

Storytelling by: Shannon Cason, Jeff Simmermon

Comedy by: Paul Oddo

Burlesque by: Nastie Canasta

… More special guests to be announced.

UCB East is located at 153 East 3rd Street at Avenue A. Tickets are only five tiny dollars, and you can click here for reservations.

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And I Am Not Lying’s 2 Year Anniversary at UCB East

April 9th, 2013 by Jeff Simmermon

I can’t believe we’ve been at this for two whole years. On the one hand, it feels like we just started yesterday, but on the other, it feels like it’s been forever.

This Thursday, April 11th, we’re celebrating our SECOND ANNIVERSARY at UCB East, at 11PM!

If you want tickets or reservations, click here.

Here’s a flyer, lineup after the jump:

NotLying_UCB Read the rest of this entry »

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And I Am Not Lying, Live on April 3rd

March 31st, 2013 by Jeff Simmermon

It’s time all over again for another installment of And I Am Not Lying at Under Saint Marks’ Theater – this month, we’re featuring a VERY special burlesque tribute to John Turturro’s Jesus Quintana from “The Big Lebowski!”

Here’s a fun flyer, info and ticket links below the jump:

And I Am Not Lying, April 3rd
Read the rest of this entry »

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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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I’m Doing a **BUNCH** of Shows February 5th – 10th

February 1st, 2013 by Jeff Simmermon

I just checked my calendar and realized that I’m doing a blur of shows next week, lined up like a long row of shots. The process is likely to be equal amounts of fun and exhausting, enough to leave me whimpering on the floor – just like a long row of shots. But if you’ve been reading this thing wondering when you can see me perform, consider yourself told.

There’s some really exciting stuff in here – an appearance with Michael Showalter, the monthly installment of And I Am Not Lying, and I’m the only white dude in a tribute to Richard Pryor at BAM. Check out these listings, and if you come to any of these, come up and say ‘hi’ afterwards!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 8:00 PM (doors at 7:30) – I’ll be appearing on Kerri Doherty’s “Geeking Out,” with headliner Michael Showalter
at Union Hall, Brooklyn, NY. I’ll be joined by my friend Juliet Hope Wayne and Carolyn Castiglia
Get tickets here

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 9:30 PM (doors at 9) – will be the monthly installment of And I Am Not Lying with Brad Lawrence, Cyndi Freeman, burlesque by Magdalena Fox, comedy from Sasheer Zamata and sideshow by Abigoliah Schamaun.

The show will be at UNDER Saint Marks’ Theater, 94 Saint Marks’ Place (between 1st and A). Click here for tickets (then click the blue 6 in ‘February), and check out the fun poster below:

FEB_2013_FLYER_web

Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 9:00 PM – I’ll be telling a story in Caroline Creaghead‘s ‘Get It Out There’, a monthly comedy series at BAM, sponsored by IFC. This month’s show is a tribute to Richard Pryor.

Let me just bear down on this a little here: I am the only white dude in a Richard Pryor tribute show at BAM. This is a colossal honor, and a little intimidating as I’ll be sharing the stage with Jeffrey Joseph, Jermaine Fowler, and Hari Kondabolu – all incredibly gifted, hardworking and funny comics. Jeff and Hari both appeared at ‘And I Am Not Lying’ when we were at Union Hall, too.

The show is free, in the BAMCafe – doors at 8PM.

Friday, February 8th, 2013 at 8:00 PM – I’ll be telling a story in “Sharkbite Sideshow,” a bimonthly sideshow featuring some of the finest storytellers, burlesque performers, sideshow artists and pole dancers in New York City. The show will also feature performances from Cherry Brown, Ember Flame, Kryssy Kocktail, Lucille Ti Amore, Moxie Sazerac and fire dancing from Sasha the Fire Gypsy.

Get tickets for Sharkbite Sideshow here.

Sunday, February 10th at 5:00 PM - I’ll be telling two stories in Miz Stefani’s House, Live. This streams live, over the Web – so click this link at 5PM on Sunday if you happen to be ignoring the Super Bowl.

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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
Read the rest of this entry »

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Found Art Nostalgia: I Miss My Old Brain

November 26th, 2012 by Jeff Simmermon

I found this painting that I made in college on the wall at some old friends’ house in Richmond, VA this weekend. I haven’t seen it in years.

I actually got into writing and storytelling through visual art – when I was majoring in painting, I was obsessed with comics, Southern folk art and outsider art, Congolese power figures and sacred Voodoo and Santeria art. In voodoo and Santeria (as I understood it at the time), practitioners go into a trance and become the spirits they’re communicating with, and create altars in the home that are both doorways to a particular orisha and a living representation of the orisha itself, made from found objects.

I got really into writing stories on my work, making comic book pages out of junk I’d find in the woods and getting into a sort of trance-like state in the studio I had in my barn and letting whatever voice was talking take control of my hands until the thing was done. Eventually the words took up more and more of the the work and I just started writing. Then, telling a story wasn’t necessarily a craft so much as a thing that came out of a state, like a ship sliding out of a rip in the universe.

I think this was done on an old road sign that I found deep in George Washington National Forest. I know I got that image from an old comic, and I definitely recall writing all of this in one go, with a Sharpie. No drafts, no revising, crossing out, no wondering what the audience would think or trying to be likable. Just moving forward.

Here’s the piece:

sarah_painting

The text reads:

“On that dark day when the Sun rises in the West and decides to set in the East, these gargantuan striped giants will appear suddenly from ??Elsewhere?? and set to the business of devouring the earth. Neither animal, vegetable, nor man-made machine, they are insatiable, and know no reason or moral code. They only know that they must perform the impossible: fill their ravenous GUTS.

The Fantastic Four and the entire Marvel Universe subscribe to the belief that GALACTUS is the eater of worlds, but I tell you with the straightest of all straight faces that GALACTUS is a mere DUST MITE compared to these black-and-white beasties.

We could, and probably will, head for the hills or lie screaming in storm cellars with paper sacks over our heads during that fateful time, but it will only make our moment of consumption more frenzied and embarrassing.

We may as well die picnicking as pleading to a recently discovered God. Mankind will finally realize what the insects knew all along: Nature knows no right or wrong.

Our constant struggle with good and evil set us apart from the animals, but on that day, we will finally be free from that boring struggle and I just hope that more people than just me have the sense to enjoy it.

This used to have two bicycle fenders painted to look like the creatures in question, glued to the top. They broke off pretty quickly, though. When I look at this, I feel a blast of nostalgia for a time when I could disappear into a barn for several hours, sure. But I also miss having that degree of concentration, and that practiced flow. It’s take me about 90 minutes to write this post, and half of it is simple transcription.

Mostly, I miss my old brain: the one that knew when to think and when to get out of the way and let the art fall out.

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