Ep. 67: RISKing It All in Your Story with Kevin Allison
Updated: Nov 28, 2020
On this episode of The Storytelling Lab, Rain features none other than Kevin Allison - storyteller, comedian, teacher, author, and host of the widely-popular show, RISK! Rain and Kevin break the norm with their conversation about Kevin's life experiences and his advice on how to connect with all types of people, offering you something truly raw, risky, and real this week. This episode is perfect for anyone thinking about taking a more daring approach to their storytelling style and seeking inspiration on how to navigate that path.
One night in 2009, on the stage of San Francisco’s “Sketchfest,” comedian Kevin Allison was performing some original sketches for his solo set, full of kooky characters and crazy scenes.
His old friend Michael Ian Black was in the audience, watching Kevin perform for the first time in years.
Kevin and Michael had both been a part of MTV’s sketch comedy show, The State in the 1990s. Several of the show's cast members went on to create other shows and movies like Reno 911 and Wet Hot American Summer.
But during those 12 years after the show ended, Kevin couldn’t quite find his footing as a solo performer, especially coming from such a collective and collaborative endeavor as The State.
After the Sketchfest performance, he asked Michael his honest thoughts.
Michael told him that he thought the performance would resonate with the audience much more if Kevin just dropped the crazy characters and told his own real stories. That, after all, was the thing that Michael most liked about Kevin’s comedy previously. It had been authentically him.
“Ooh, I don’t know,” he said, “That sounds kind of risky.”
After the two parted ways, Kevin couldn’t get the idea out of his mind. He was scared of it, because of how risky it seemed, but that made it even more intriguing at the same time.
“If you open up to people in a way that feels dangerous to you, they’re much more likely to lean into you.”
Kevin Allison is now the creator of the widely-known live storytelling series, RISK!
Now one of the most popular storytelling podcasts as well, RISK! differs from other storytelling shows as it specifically calls for its storytellers to tell “True tales; boldly told.”
For Kevin, this meant being open and honest about his kinky fetishes and place in the BDSM community and culture. For others, the topics vary. But for everyone, the stories are risky.
It’s about embracing those things about ourselves that we’re scared to talk about and finding our audience once we’re vulnerable enough to do that.
“It’s the messiest stories that are most important to share.”
Since the popularity of the podcast, Kevin had found himself helping new storytellers prepare for their stories. He did that so often, that he thought others might be interested in the lessons he’d learned over a decade of telling stories. Now Kevin also runs “The Story Studio,” a Brooklyn-based company that leads workshops and courses on storytelling.
I found out about The Story Studio when researching storytelling workshops as I began to lead my own workshops. I wanted to see what was already out there and what I might provide for people that wasn’t already fulfilled.
When I saw Kevin’s picture on the “About Us” page, a big smile grew on my face.
As a 12 year old boy, my best friend Brantley and I used to watch The State together, crying from laughter at the absurd characters and sketches they created, loving the soundtrack of 90s grunge and indie rock, and couldn’t wait to go back to school and repeat the punch lines.
Now here one of the members was -- once a comedian I looked up to only the way an adolescent child can -- impacting the world in the exact same way I wanted to.
Kevin and I talked about why authentic storytelling takes courage.
We talked about how we as humans can use stories to grow. And we talked about how once we take a risk, we learn the things we need to know to become our best selves -- mostly because we learn we’re not alone.
“The process of revealing yourself and finding yourself never quite ends.”
If you’ve thought about getting on stage and telling your story -- and I KNOW that some of you reading this have -- but you think it might be too risky, this is the episode for you!
Some of the highlights of our conversation:
The struggles and loneliness of Covid-19
The perks of working on a storytelling podcast
Adapting his podcast “RISK!” to work through the pandemic
Leaving room for organic moments during on-stage gigs
Sketch and storytelling comedy
Teaching sketch comedy classes
Getting his show on MTV after graduating from NYU
Performing one person sketch comedy
Diving into risky storytelling comedy
Performing on “The State” on MTV
How the concept of RISK! was developed
What kinds of stories are shared on the show
The types of stories that make the biggest impact
Actionable tips for telling stories on stage
How to flesh out your stories to make the biggest impact
Taking risks, being vulnerable, and staying true to who you are
The importance of using sensory memory in your storytelling
Developing storytelling classes and the storytelling school
Discovering new parts of yourself in your own stories
Storytelling as a therapeutic tool
Returning to the same themes and imagery within your stories
As always, I hope you enjoy the episode!
Peace and Love,
Follow Kevin on:
Or visit his personal website!
Follow the RISK! Show on:
Or go to the show’s website!
And visit The Story Studio for workshops and courses.
For more storytelling tips and tricks,
Visit my website rainbennett.com, or
Follow me on Twitter @rainbennett
Follow me on Instagram @rainbennett
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