We comics and speakers are always worried that our material has gotten old. (And by old -- I don't just mean stale; it's worse than that.) That hilarious story about the time you smoked a joint with Bob Dylan might leave a younger audience asking, "Who is she talking about? Is he the brother of that old actor guy, Matt Dillon?"
It's weird how new material seems so hard to come by, when it's around us every day. Think about it. Things are constantly happening to you, and you clock the funny or interesting ones by sharing them as stories with your friends when they ask, "So -- what have you been up to?"
In "The Comedy Bible", I spent a lot of paragraphs to convince beginning stand-ups NOT to tell stories. They take too long, and they interfere with the audience's ability to laugh every 10 seconds - because you usually have to wait 'til the end of the story. (And by then - it usually ends with silence and "guess you had to be there.")
But now, with a lot of new venues and trends in media emerging, there's a greater place for story telling. Reality TV has helped this along by generating interest in the real lives of the performers - and not just their scripted material.
In storytelling venues, writers get the chance to read their stories of life's triumphs and defeats. And comics -- used to the safety of the setup-punch joke format -- have been revealing a lot more truth and going beyond their comedy personas to give us a look at their most vulnerable selves, adding deeper meaning to the ordinariness of our average day.
Monica Piper is a great example. She's been very successful as a standup comic. We've shared the stage many times, trying to find a way to walk the line between holding on to our feminine selves - and having the balls to tell-it-like-it is. Now, she's expanded into storytelling, and it let's her do both, brilliantly.
Last night, I showed up at Wendy Hammers' "Tasty Words" show, which starred many wonderful storytellers -- but it was Monica Piper who stole the show.
Monica had us absolutely in stitches just telling us about the stresses of getting through an ordinary day:
"I chose to switch from coffee to Tension Tamer Tea. It was a new box, tightly sealed in plastic. Unable to tear it open, I grabbed a steak knife and wondered if anyone else in the universe was stabbing her Tension Tamer Tea."
But there was a deeper message in her story. Monica discovered she had breast cancer. Luckily she found out in time, and after an operation, she has a clean bill of health. And with that revelation that she shared, we get the to her REAL message (a perfect combination of comedy and inspiration), where Monica realizes that now she relishes those small, ordinary stresses of the day -- because they remind her of her deep appreciation to be alive.
Monica also reminded me that there are stories everywhere. You don't have to wait for something funny or impressive to happen to you in order to tell a great story. If you're paying attention to life, there might be more of a lesson we can relate to in your trips to Seven Eleven - than a less observant storyteller's climb of Mt. Everest.
Eureka moments happen all the time. All you have to do is notice them --and write them down.
One story can make a difference in your life and in the lives of others. What's your story?
Stayed tuned for Judy Carter's new book, "The Message of You".
Pre-sale now for 33% off available at Amazon.com.