Last night was the Monti Story Slam at Motorco.
Did you know about The Monti? I didn’t. It’s a storytelling kind of thing. I’m so glad I have friends who are cooler than I am. Audrey and Willow knew about the Monti. So we went. It was packed. Clearly, there are a lot of people In The Know.
The regular-season format, they say, is the telling of a few stories by invited guests. The story slam, which took place last night, is a little different. It’s a storytelling throwdown. Names get drawn out of a hat, and the stories come in five-minute bursts. There are judges. There is one mike. There is a theme. It’s a little intense.
Last night’s storytellers were all men, and the theme was “heat.” They all went literal with it. Some of the stories were more on-theme than others; the fact that a story happened on a hot day doesn’t actually mean that it’s a story about heat. But the stories that were dead-on, were great. The crowd favorites involved teenagers jumping headlong through raging bonfires, and hot sauce. Everyone knew the winning story was going to win by the third or fourth sentence. By the story’s end, the protagonist was lying in a dairy case shoveling yogurt into his mouth with tiny grocery store sample spoons, wearing a chef’s hat at the local Teeter. It brought the house down. Due to the number of unrepeatable words, this one won’t make it to NPR. But it was great.
What I expected at The Monti story slam was good stories, told by the kind of people who would volunteer to stand up in front of a crowd and tell stories. Confident people. People who are used to being the center of attention, and have the gene that makes them comfortable doing that. People who would participate in public speaking, on purpose.
But that’s not what it was. It was good stories, told by the kind of people who worked up the courage to stand up in front of a crowd and tell stories, even though it’s a little terrifying.
When we bought our tickets, Audrey told me she knew, just knew, I had some Monti-appropriate stories saved up from my travels. And I do. But when she casually suggested I might tell one someday, in public, I blanched. I got defensive. I said,
“Nothing about that sounds like fun. At all.”
Writing a story, actually, sounds great. Being the one onstage telling the story, palms sweating, voice shaking, cheeks flaming, forgetting all the great lines I’d rehearsed at home, sounds like some version of a high school nightmare, in which you end up onstage accidentally and can’t remember anything about why you’re there and everyone is staring. Key word: nightmare.
But then they announced that the theme was “heat.” And suddenly I wanted to do it, just a little bit. I promptly decided I’d skip the literal and obvious, and tell a some sultry, slow-burner of a story about desire. I’d start with a hook that would raise everyone’s eyebrows, and build slowly, piling details on top of innuendos on top of intrigues, and have the crowd on the edge of their seats, desperate to hear how the story ends….but then, we all know I wouldn’t really do it. I would perish of a shyness attack, and the mortification of watching that scene play out onstage would probably take the audience down, too.
Which brings me to the point: what I loved about the story slam is that I think everyone who had the moxie to stand up there last night and tell a story might have felt the same way. They told their stories anyway. These weren’t professional performers, or particularly smooth talkers, or people who look like they do this on a daily basis. They were normal people with interesting stories to tell. There was some blushing, and some trembling, and the occasional flubbed line. Nobody cared. It’s part of what makes the stories so real. There’s a bumper sticker somewhere that says, “Speak your truth, even if your voice shakes.” That’s what happened last night at The Monti.