Wednesday, March 9, 2011

WICF Spotlight: Mad Men and Milkshakes – Storytelling

Jess Sutich hosts Mad Men and
Milkshakes: Storytelling tonight as
part of the WICF
There are a lot of stand-up festivals popping up all over the country. But the Women In Comedy Festival is unique in many regards. First, in the quality of its organization – it has progressed amazingly quickly leading up to this year’s third installment. Second, in its focus on women. And third, in the variety of genres it presents.

That’s where Jess Sutich comes in. Sutich hosts a regular storytelling show at ImprovBoston called A Night of Oral (Tradition), which happens again next month on April 7. Tonight, she is part of opening night festivities hosting the storytelling show, Mad Men and Milkshakes.

Some festivals give a nod to storytelling with a show or two, but the WICF features a storytelling show almost every night, tonight through Sunday. Sutich knows the better players in the storytelling scene, and she’s impressed with the names on this year’s schedule. “There are such great acts here this year that it can only lead to increased exposure and hopefully even more storytelling festival submissions for next year,” she says.

As a storyteller, Sutich is happy to see so many other storytellers on the bill, but also sees a benefit for the pure stand-up acts. “It's nice to see that variety on the stage and it allows comedians to see other things going on in the comedy and performance world,” she says. “Storytelling is infectious also. When you hear someone tell a story it reminds you of stories that you have so it's great to be a part of a festival and lure all of these great performers in, you know get them to drink the Kool-Aid.”

The line between stand-up and storytelling is a bit blurred. Sutich has experience with several different comic formats, all of which share at least some similarities. “I think that to some extent all forms of comedy can inform each other,” she says. “I started as an improvisor and I bring that skill to my stand-up as much as I bring my stand-up to storytelling and vice-versa. I think that a lot of comedians get started with comedy because they can just tell really funny stories. You can have a stand-up style where you include more stories and real life events but storytelling gives you more of a relaxed timeline. Instead of having to go through a bunch of different jokes you are really there to get people involved in one particular moment.”

According to Sutich, audiences at A Night of Oral (tradition) have been laid-back and open to hearing something different. Storytelling is in a bit of a boom period now, with shows like The Moth expanding in New York, LA, and around the country, and This American Life becoming a staple on NPR. “Storytelling is growing in the performance community, in large part due to the influence that The Moth has had,” she says. “I feel like I can actually feel the audience leaning forward to listen when people tell their stories. Also, although A Night of Oral (tradition) is definitely comedic, a wide range of topics have been brought to stage and the audience is really game for it. They aren't afraid to let it get real.”

And now, abruptly, two questions:

Who are you looking forward to seeing?

I feel like I should use this question to hit on people. I am definitely looking forward to Giulia Rozzi and Margot Leitman's Stripped Stories on Friday, and Sara Benincasa's Family Hour With Auntie Sara on Sunday. Those are both great shows. On Thursday at Mottley's I am going to check out the Dress-Up show. I have seen Ophira Eisenberg host The Moth in New York so it will be fun to see her do stand-up AND in fancy clothes. I am excited that Rachel Dratch will be on of course, and after seeing Flight of the Conchords I was really excited that Kristen Schaal would be here. Beyond that there are just a lot of awesome comedians that I love seeing perform so I will get out to see as much as I can! I hope all of the people I have mentioned read this and consider this a formal pick-up line.

Why should people come to see your show?

People should come to see my show because it's great. If you are into schadenfreude I overshare a lot about my life and it really can make you feel a lot better about the decisions you are making, if you have a great story and you want to see what it's all about while you build your nerve to take the stage it's good for that too. The people who are on the show at the festival and each month are always delightful and funny. My show will make you laugh while you drink beer and when you go home you will feel strangely closer to other human beings. I suggest that everyone try it at least once.

Women In Comedy Festival - Mad Men and Milkshakes: Storytelling: 9PM, $10. Mainstage, Hosted by Jess Sutich with Mad Men and Satan Drank My Milk: Tales of Co-Habitational Hell.ImprovBoston, 40 Prospect Street, Cambridge, Ma, 02139. 617-576-1253

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