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New Mules in the Old Stall: Brad Lawrence and Cyndi Freeman

July 4th, 2010 by Jeff Simmermon


Brad Lawrence and Cyndi Freeman (as Cherry Pitz)

Originally uploaded by chinese_fashion

We’ve got a couple more mules kicking in the stall here at the And I Am Not Lying stable.

It’s all well and good for me to log in at a whim (which is apparently every three weeks or so) and blog about my feelings and stuff, and for D.Billy to contribute his take on art and design, but we’ve been getting a little stale.

Not blogging is a lot like not working out: it’s pretty great until you look around and realize what happens when you haven’t been doing it for a long time. You’ve got all this free time, all this energy to do other stuff, and then you start feeling a little flabby and the next thing you know your traffic’s fallen off and you pants don’t fit and nobody is writing you little notes about how great you are.

Or what an asshole you are. There’s no middle ground online.

We’re experimenting with a few things here, and one of the biggest most exciting things is the addition of two new bloggers — Brad Lawrence and Cyndi Freeman. They’re both great friends of mine, and part of what makes New York’s underground performing scene weird, wild, but ultimately cozy and comforting.

Cyndi actually gave me my first shot as a storyteller at a tiny little bar out in Bay Ridge, a place so far out on the R train I thought I was going to have to have my passport stamped. It was at this weird little divey biker bar with a coffee shop and Internet cafe sort of tacked onto the side. You had to be careful when you went into the bar side to use the bathroom — the door opened up directly into the line of fire for the dart board, so it was entirely possible to walk in with a full bladder and end up with a pierced ear. Or eyelid.

She’s encouraging, loving and generous, with a bottomless patience for truly crazy people — she’s also a Moth Slam champion and fantastic storyteller herself. She helped me edit one of my Moth stories the night before I competed directly against her in a Moth Grand Slam. For Cyndi, it’s about helping people and building the community.

Cyndi’s also working on a one-woman show about the life and times of Wonder Woman, which she may actually perform in a Wonder Woman costume. She does gigs at sci-fi and comic conventions dressed up as Wonder Woman sometimes, so it’s not really a stretch.

Furthermore, Cyndi performs around town as the burlesque queen Cherry Pitz. She co-produces Hotsy Totsy Burlesqueand also co-produces a new storytelling show called The Standard Issues at Pacific Standard, at the corner of 4th Avenue and Saint Mark’s Place in Brooklyn.

Brad Lawrence and Cyndi Freeman are married, see – -and they co-produce Hotsy Totsy Burlesque and The Standard Issues together. I know — it’s adorable. And it’s some wild, weird, and fertile crossover territory, too.

Brad is a two-time Moth Grand Slam champion. He did it back-to-back, too, sort of a greatly scaled-down version of Ian MacKaye starting both Minor Threat AND Fugazi. Brad’s pretty much one of the most charming, laid-back dudes you could ever hope to meet. You can take the guy literally anywhere and he makes it all better, because he’s seen so much worse. He’s got his own blogging concern over at Billy Joe’s Boy, and book proposal in the works. He’s also a member of the BTK Band, New York’s only improv-comedy storytelling rock band, and one of the only bands that can guarantee every single audience member a hangover whether or not they even drink anything.

Here’s Brad, telling a story at Seth Lind’s “Told!”:

Brad and I have pretty much the perfect 21st-century dude-friendship — we’ve done home improvement projects together and drank whiskey and shouted together at burlesque shows, and he’s also helped me move. You cant’ ask for a better guy than that.

I’m really stoked to have these two join us. Not only do I love them as friends, I respect the holy hell out of them as artists and I love their weird eclectic tastes. I hope you guys do, too.

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Performing at Seth Lind’s “Told!,” Monday, June 21st

June 17th, 2010 by Jeff Simmermon

Man – it’s been a while since I’ve been on here. On the one hand, I’ve been trying to focus more on writing more stories — which, if you want to do it well, is pretty much the opposite of blogging.

And on the other, my God, the Internet just sucks my soul out through my eyeballs. So much blather, so little quality.

But whatever. I’ll be performing at Seth Lind’s “Told” on Monday, June 21st. Show starts at 7PM, but here’s the exciting thing: they’re filming the thing as a TV pilot! It’ll take up some extra seats and they’ll shut the doors for real once the theater fills up, so you might want to get there a bit early.

I’m honored and flattered to be asked, really. I’ve been kinda below the storytelling radar for a while, and this is a great chance to bust up out of the darkness.

Here’s the list of storytellers and more, cobbled from Seth’s promo e-mail:

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The Williamsburg Hair: A Short Film by Zach Timm and Matt Rivera

March 1st, 2010 by Jeff Simmermon

Regular readers of this blog know about the Williamsburg Hair Man — first documented here, then on BoingBoing and Gawker.

I’m not letting this dog die, dammit. Not yet.

Zach Timm and Matt Rivera’s brief documentary about the Williamsburg Hair Man and subsequent Gawker phenomenon debuted at Filmshop’s “Unprotected” last Saturday at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. I went with D.Billy and some other folks, and had no idea what to expect. And as it turned out: it was really good! I loved it, and it definitely got the best crowd response.

I talked to a bunch of folks about it ahead of time, none of whom could make it out. Fair enough. Zach’s a nice young man, and was kind enough/self-promotional enough to post the video on Vimeo. Here it is, see for yourselves:

The Williamsburg Hair from Aligned Creative LLC on Vimeo.

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Reading/Telling a Story for “How I Learned” at Happy Ending

January 24th, 2010 by Jeff Simmermon



happy ending (302 broome st., new york, ny, 10002)

Originally uploaded by cjkershner

It’s late and I’m screwing around instead of writing. I’m tired, too tired to get any meaningful writing done, but not so tired that I can’t sit here and stare at my lava lamp and wait for it to really start gooping around in earnest.

What I’m supposed to be doing is preparing a story for the “How I Learned” series, which I’ll be performing in at Happy Endings (302 Broome Street, Manhattan) this Wednesday, January 27th. The show’s at 8, doors are at 7, and there’s no charge. Happy Ending used to be a seedy massage parlour in Chinatown/Lower East Side, but now it’s a cool bar with pretty good drinks, most of which have names that are cheeky double entendres. I’ve found that if you get there early, it’s a good time. Stay too late and the Ed Hardy Army starts to creep in, though.

Don’t let the outside fool you — there’s no sign that says Happy Ending. If you get to a place that looks like the photo on this post, you’ve got it.

I can guarantee that I’ll be reading/telling a story. What it’ll be is eluding me right now …

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‘Roo Shooter at The Moth

November 13th, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon

Kangaroo, Ute, Moon

In early 2004 I was an assistant to a kangaroo shooter in the Australian Outback. Pretty much the only experience more bizarre and terrifying would be if I were to have worked with a kangaroo shooter at the National Zoo.

Before you go getting all fired up, remember that kangaroos are pests in Australia, and people eat their meat all the time. And meat does not just cheerfully lie itself down on the burger bun, either. Kangaroo meat is as free-range and organic as it gets, but you’ve still got to do a fair bit of old-fashioned killing to make it happen — and the process is disturbing, gory, and pretty hideous. Not unlike the rest of nature, the parts they don’t show you on the television programs.

But not a day goes by that I don’t think of that experience in some way or another. It taught me a lot. I learned to get tough, how to do some hard, hard work, and how to put aside all my pussified city liberal ideas and face the realities of the food chain.

I told this story at The Moth on October 22, 2009. I’d told it at the Moth last year, as well as at The Liar Show, Risk!, and Seth Lind’s Told. I’ve also told parts of this story to pretty much anyone that will sit still in my presence since early 2004. I think D.Billy, my co-blogger here, has seen me tell the thing each time, too.

I’ve pitched it to This American Life twice now, and had Ira Glass personally tell me to my face, that while he really likes the story as long as he is a broadcaster in the United States of America, it will not appear on his show. He was actually really nice about it – and he’s right. The story, in its original and best incarnation, has tons of appalling gore in it, the killing of defenseless baby kangaroos and uses the word “cunt” more times in ten minutes than most Americans have heard in their entire lives. And cutting that stuff out kinda neuters the whole enterprise.

If I’m this sick of telling this story, I can only imagine how tired my friends are of hearing it. And I’ve sure made a lot of hay off the experience on this blog.

Unless something tremendous happens, I feel like I can safely say that this story’s been done to death and put to bed here in New York City. It feels good to be all the way through this one and kinda wipe the slate clean for a batch of new stuff.

On the other hand, I’m about to go to Australia again for two weeks starting Saturday. And if I can claw my way in front of a microphone after a couple or six VBs, this thing might rise again. If any of you know of storytelling shows or reading series or something similar in Adelaide or Melbourne, please let me know. I’d love to try this or other stories in front of an Aussie audience.

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Daro’s Wisdom: Not for the Weak-Minded

September 23rd, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon

My grandmother’s real name is Helen, but everyone in my family calls her Daro. It’s one of the first words I ever said, apparently — I just pointed at her and yelled it out and it stuck, simple as that.

Daro is 95 years old. She lied about her age her whole life until she turned 90, and then she started telling EVERYBODY. She’s a relentless self-promoter, a tireless artist, creator, and outsider poet. And man, she’s full of wisdom that she does not mind sharing at all.

Here’s some classic wisdom she shared with me when I visited her over Labor Day weekend:

We were sitting at the dinner table eating a home-cooked meal. Sort of. She proudly announced to me “I never use the oven anymore, Jeffrey. I just do everything up here in the microwave now, and it’s great!” We had some microwaved vegetable soup with a salad of romaine leaves covered with canned pears, and canned peaches. “Try some of the dressing I invented just tonight, Jeffrey,” she told me, all excited. “I came up with it myself. It’s mayonnaise with pineapple juice mixed in!”
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“The Moron Years”: a 40 Minute Story Odyssey

August 18th, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon

It’s been said that you should never meet your heroes — but whoever said it never knew my friend Juliet. Juliet was one of my first friends in the NYC storytelling scene, and she’s an absolute titan: strange, hilarious and heartwarming all at once. She wrote this piece about David Lynch in Philadelphia, but brother, believe you me — this pony can turn a LOT of tricks.

She’s been busting her hump all summer to pull together a 40 minute extravaganza, a colossal odyssey through 5 twisted years that she’ll be performing on Sunday, August 23rd at 6 pm at the Cornelia Street Cafe. I’ve heard snippets of these stories while we were drunk on a friend’s porch, on stage at the Moth and over the phone in the middle of the night while I was having a painkiller-induced nervous breakdown and I’m here to tell you: this is going to be spectacular. Plus my friend Jim, one of the other best storytellers I know directed the thing. So there you have it.

This is not just the friendship talking. I’ve seen her wreck a packed house in New York and drunkenly insult the city of Philadelphia to its collective face. And it’s magnificent.

This is a taste of Sunday’s show, a story she told in Philadelphia last year that is a small part of Sunday’s bigger whole. Check it out for yourselves, and I hope to see you there …

The Moron Years

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Big Black Bird

August 9th, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon

I told this story at my friends Brad and Cyndi’s “Stories at the Creek” a couple weeks ago. It’s a work in progress for me. I’m trying to turn this year’s cancer battles (well documented on this blog) into a story I tell on stage, and this is the first crack.

Like I say in the video, I’m not sure if I’m ready to talk about this or not, but I’m ready to be ready to talk about this, and that’s as good a start as any. I think that telling stories based on our memories helps us get control of them and bend them to our purposes — something I’m really eager to do with this particular experience.

I wouldn’t have told this or posted it if I weren’t ready to see this as material, something to be honed and edited with the help of sharp-eyed, caring friends.

This thing’s a whammy, too — two ten-minute videos about cancer and depression. Not exactly the light and fluffy feel-good romantic comedies I’m known for performing, so brace yourselves. Maybe this is like watching “Requiem for a Dream” (not to flatter myself): good once, but a total fricking BUMMER.

Long story short, I’m used to telling funnier stories with big laugh payoffs, and this sure isn’t one of those.

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Performing at Seth Lind’s Told! Tonight at 7PM

July 19th, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon

I’ll be performing a story at my man Seth Lind’s story show TOLD! tomorrow night at Under Saint Mark’s Theatre. My story’s always a work in progress — it’s about the time I was a kangaroo shooter in the Outback. My close friends are so tired of this one, because even though I had the actual experience back in early 2004, I have only just recently stopped talking about it.

So if you’re new to this blog and you live in New York, come on down. It’s the right price, too: Free dollars and free cents!

Seth runs a pretty interesting show, too. He brings a lot of what he’s learned from his day job at “This American Life” to the experience as well as his training in comic improv, creating a show that’s informal and experimental, a little bit talk show and always really, really interesting to see.

Here’s the description straight from the show’s Facebook page:

Hi. You are cordially invited to the ninth installment of TOLD, the free monthly storytelling show at Under St. Mark’s Theatre.

This month… ‘The Rough Guide’ – riveting stories from out on the road. Our totally sweet performers include:

Actor and Comic Book writer CHRIS KIPINIAK, who will show us that a trip to Egypt can have more in common with the plot of ‘The Hangover’ than you might think. Well, part of the plot of ‘The Hangover.’ Tyson doesn’t sing.

Moth Grandslammer DAISY ROSARIO, tells about a crazy drug trip… not the kind you’re thinking.

Comedian KEVIN ALLISON (The State) with a tale of arriving at a place where I know you’ve been, and deciding to do something I hope you haven’t.

And JEFF SIMMERMON, who just had a story on “This American Life” last week, tells about heading Down Under… to be a hired killer. For real.

Plus, if the tech gods and schedule gods are with us, MELANIE HAMLETT will join us between stories via live video feed, to report in on her current cross-country adventure living in her truck.

Hope to see you there.

TOLD #9: The Rough Guide
Monday July 20th – 7PM
Under St. Mark’s Theatre
94 Saint Mark’s Place
FREE FREE FREE

Hosted by Seth Lind
Produced by Heidi Grumelot
Presented by Horse Trade Theatre Group

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Appearing on ‘This American Life’ This Week Or Maybe Next, It Depends On A Lot of Factors

July 8th, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon

So, it’s as official as it gets. I just heard from the producers today who confirmed it as a “go,” with the caveat “anything can happen, but we’re looking good.” I’m going to have a story on this week’s episode of “This American Life,” and I couldn’t be more thrilled about it.

It’s a new version of a story I performed at The Moth’s GrandSlam a few months ago. I pitched it to This American Life with that video, and they brought me into the studio for an interview a few weeks ago.

And here’s the REAL dirt on Ira Glass:
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