G.L.O.C. LESLIE GOSHKO has fully immersed herself in the New York storytelling scene. She hosts NY performers and their tales of the bizarre on Sideshow Goshko, and she herself performs on numerous storytelling shows around New York. We asked Leslie to share her love and give us some tips and insights into the scene of the story, and that’s just what she did.
Once Upon a Time…
by Leslie Goshko
If I say to someone I’m a stand-up comic (although they may pity me), they generally understand what that is. If I say I’m an actress, they may ask what I’ve been in. If I say I do improv, they may reply, “You mean, like Whose Line on TV?” But if I tell someone I’m a storyteller, you’d think I’d just said, “Sometimes when the moon is in the seventh quadrant of the lobster phase, I taste the number seven while babysitting my radio.” It just doesn’t compute.
More often than not, when I tell people I’m a storyteller, a picture pops into their heads of grandmothers sitting around a wedding ring patterned quilt exchanging tales about how when they were young, they too enjoyed a good “romp in the hay” (and yes, they use the word “romp”…and “hay”). But the truth is, even though storytelling is one of the oldest formats around, it is gaining a new audience and momentum that’s bringing it to cultural and artistic prominence. From giants like The Moth and NPR’s This American Life to the random bar basement show, you can find talented people sharing true, hilarious, and sometimes very moving tales about their lives. Even well-established stand up comedians are getting in on the storytelling action (Mike Birbiglia’s Sleepwalk With Me, anyone?). And it is this scene that I’m very grateful and proud to be a part of.
Over the past several years, I’ve gotten to participate in a lot of really cool storytelling projects, including producing and hosting my own monthly storytelling show Sideshow Goshko. And over that time, I’ve heard a lot of personal tales and met a lot of great people. But something that stands out to me is how many people are completely unfamiliar with what storytelling actually is. Whenever I’m asked about the New York storytelling scene, I find that people have a lot of the same questions. So, here are some insights that I hope will help you understand this scene that I love so much.
Do you make up the stories you tell?
No. The storytelling scene is about sharing true tales from your life (and you can usually tell when someone is making something up). That’s one thing that makes this format so great: It’s incredibly honest, vulnerable, hilarious, and relatable. If someone fabricates a story, it’s usually because they think, “The more outrageous, the better!” Not the case. And besides, fact is usually stranger than fiction. You have more to share than you think.
Do all my stories have to be funny?
No. And this is one thing I love about storytelling! Sure, some venues and shows are better suited for funny stories. But there are other shows that are just as open to poignant, sentimental, and even gut-wrenching stories. These options give you a great opportunity to flex all different kinds of performance muscles. Try ‘em all!
How can I get involved?
As with any niche in the comedy scene, the best way to get booked on shows is to attend shows, meet people, don’t be a douche, and then find out about even more shows. There really is no short cut, that’s basically it. The more you see storytelling shows, the more you’ll see how the format works. You’ll see which stories you like, which ones you don’t, and why some work and others don’t. You’ll probably end up running into the same people (and I just have to say, storytellers are some of the nicest people) and then, you’ll end up getting some stage time. Venues like The Moth are already open to everyone and anyone to get up on stage (just get there early). And once you start attending shows regularly, you’ll find that some even have wild card slots where they let an audience member tell a story.
I cannot stress enough that you attend a show before asking to get booked on it. Nothing turns a producer off more than getting a random email from someone who has never even seen the show saying, “Hey! You’ve never met me and I’ve never even taken the time to support your storytelling show, but give me some stage time.” Not gonna happen. Remember the “don’t be a douche” part? Also, after seeing a particular show, you may find that your storytelling style doesn’t really fit with that show. Save yourself and the host some time by doing your research.
Any last-minute pointers on getting involved?
- Stay within your time limit! If a host asks for 7 minutes, produce a 7 minute story. Your time limit is not a “suggestion.” Unlike stand up, you may not get “the light.” But don’t take advantage of that by being unprofessional.
- Many storytelling shows have a specific theme for their particular night. Make sure your story actually hits on that theme. If the theme is “birthdays,” don’t tell a story about how your dog died and then try to weave in the theme by ending with, “It was anything but a birthday!” Take the time to write a story that relates to what the producers are looking for.
- This may sound remedially simplistic, but you’d be surprised how many people miss this point: Tell a story! What you’re sharing should have a beginning, middle, and end. Ask yourself, “Why are people going to care about this?”
So, that’s about it, ladies and gents. I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek into the storytelling scene. There are storytelling shows popping up all over New York. Try one out; it’s the perfect opportunity for you to share that story of how your uncle misplaced his dentures in the Jell-O mold. Again.
Leslie Goshko is a Manhattan Monologue Slam Champion, recipient of the NY Fringe Excellence Award, and host of the monthly storytelling show, Sideshow Goshko (Time Out NY Critics’ Pick, New York Daily News Editor’s Pick). Her stories and comedy writing have been featured on Sirius XM, WNYC, NY Metro Funny Page, Risk! podcast, and she can be seen performing with NY’s hardest-drinking improvised storytelling rock band — The BTK Band. Her one-woman show, Vodka Shoes, opened to rave reviews as part of the NY Frigid Festival and was awarded several extended runs. She’s also pretty proud to have performed on Broadway with the cast of Hairspray. Yeah, that was pretty cool.