SM Shrake: David! You are especially adept at and well known for bringing to life the “characters” in your stories. How much of that has to do with also being an actor in addition to a storyteller?
David Crabb: A lot. I’ve always performed my anecdotes and stories for people and included characterizations. As a little boy I did this to crack my mom and dad up, playing drunk hobos, foul-mouthed robots and pregnant hookers in makeshift costumes. (My sense of humor was a little blue even as a kid.) That kind of thing led me to acting. And now I suppose I’ve circled back to doing what I did when I was 8 to entertain my family. But I do it onstage without tinfoil hats and pillows shoved up my shirt.
Shrake: You are an avowed homosexual. We’ve seen lots of articles lately about gay standup comedians, how finally a few (mostly males — the lesbians have seemed to have more representation) seem to be getting their due and “representing.” What’s your feeling on that, but also: How does that compare to things for gays/lesbians in the story scene?
Crabb: I think all that coverage is interesting but seems to miss the point. As time moves on and culture progresses, more gays and lesbians are living their lives out of the closet. So it’s only natural that there should be more out, queer comedians and storytellers, just as there are more out, queer writers and parents and accountants and waiters, etc. The only difference is that our jobs as performers are ABOUT sharing our experience, which includes our sexuality.
Shrake: What are your top quick-hit tips for a novice storyteller?
Crabb: 1. Look at everyone and “share out.” The moment you stop doing that, it’s over.
2. Ignore any rule you hear that starts with “Never.” (e.g. Never start with saying the year and your age, never end with saying “I learned a lot about…”, never start your story with “So..”) Just tell the story the way only you can.
3. Remember that you don’t ever look as nervous as you might feel. I learned this from years of teaching storytelling and it’s been encouraging to see. I’m still amazed at how much I learn about performing from teaching.
4. Know where you’re driving the car. It’s better to know your ending and be unsure about the middle than to be confident throughout and try to wing your ending. What people remember most is how you leave them.
Shrake: How did Ask Me Stories get started, and what have been some highlights of hosting that show?
Crabb: Cammi Climaco and I took a storytelling class together and wanted to keep performing with that wonderful group. So we put together a show in the basement of a bar and that led to another and another and so on. Getting to hear so many stories while only worrying about hosting and producing is fun.
Shrake: Tell me about it.
Crabb: It’s a different kind of pressure that I like. And working with Cammi this long has been a pleasure. She’s a kindred spirit and nut job of the highest order. I kinda sorta love her.
Shrake: Same question for The Moth.
Crabb: Hosting the Moth is just an amazing gift. Hosting without worrying about any of the production concerns or storytelling myself is quickly becoming my favorite kind of performing experience. It’s probably the time when I feel most like I’m really “with” people in the audience. I feel spoiled and honored to get that opportunity.
Shrake: “Ask me” a question!
Crabb: What is the worst fashion mistake you made in the ’90s?
David Crabb hosts Story Contest: The 1990s at Busboys and Poets 14/V at 9 PM on Wednesday, November 28, 2012.