Live storytelling shows: Where to hear the best yarns

At LA's best live storytelling shows you can hear tales of humor, tragedy, sex and vice—or tell a few of your own.



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Radio Picture Show Photograph: Courtesy Radio Picture Show

Forget overly dramatic spoken word in crowded coffee shops. The writers and performers at these popular storytelling shows (where you'll hear coherent, concise tales rather than stream of consciousness spewing) are smart, funny and fearless. Many of these shows are adapted from improv shows to websites and podcasts, and some have spawned books. Hit up several of these shows to see everything from surprise celebrity appearances to surprising talent sitting right next to you in the audience.

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LA Moth StorySLAM

Originated in New York City, The Moth is an open-mic storytelling show that has spread to cities across the country, all the way to Los Angeles, where there’s certainly no dearth of performers. There’s a pre-announced theme for each Moth show (“nerve,” “grudges,” “shifting gears,” “fall from grace,” “taking sides”), and participants put their name in a hat for a chance to present their piece onstage. If chosen, performers get five minutes to tell a cohesive (and true!) story—with a beginning, middle and end—that falls under the theme. The story (and its telling) is scored from 1 to 10 by preselected audience-member judges. It’s a friendly competition that helps to shape emerging storytellers, and the quick turnover (ten storytellers per show at five minutes each) keeps the audience attentive. A tip for viewers: Look at the schedule beforehand and pick a show with a theme that interests you; if you just went through a breakup, it would suck to show up at “true love” night.

  1. Avalon 267 S Main St
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Two-Headed Beast

On the first Saturday of every month at Stories Books & Cafe in Echo Park, several seasoned stand-up comics (think Sean O'Connor, Eric Andre, Beth Stelling) put down the microphone and tackle traditional storytelling on the cafe's back patio instead. Although most of these performers are used to working the road, the vibe here is nothing like a club. Dave Ross, who produces and hosts the night with fellow stand-up Jake Weisman, says attending the show is like hanging out with family for an hour and a half. He's also quick to say that he and Weisman have darker sensibilities and tend to book those with the same. Or maybe comics just feel comfortable enough on the patio to show their underbellies—which are usually worth checking out.

  1. Stories Books & Cafe 1716 West Sunset Blvd
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Eat Your Words

Greg Walloch wants his show, Eat Your Words, to feel comfortable and communal—much like sitting around a dinner table. So he hosts from a cozy side room at The Standard in Hollywood, and asks each of his guest performers to share a food-related tale: about a favorite meal or an impactful memory surrounding food. On the first Thursday of every month, fans gather to be entertained by comic and storytelling greats (Kurt Braunohler, Hasan Minhaj), local chefs and purveyors (Sergio Perera, Jacob Kear, Simon Ford) plus Walloch himself, whose riveting tales are always full of great insight, warmth and candor. The storytelling event is free, but it's suggested you send an RSVP.

  1. The Standard, Hollywood 8300 W Sunset Blvd
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Sit 'n Spin

A regular event at the Hudson Theaters' Comedy Central Stage, Sit ’n Spin is a storytelling show slash concert in which writers and performers read essays (funny, dirty, sad—you name it) set to live music. It’s mostly creative folks in the entertainment biz who perform here, and the themes follow suit. If you’re “in the industry,” you’ll probably empathize with the tales of casting couches and $10 residual checks; those who aren’t keyed into the showbiz scene might feel a little left out, although the event is often a riot regardless.

  1. Comedy Central Stage 6539 Santa Monica Blvd, between Seward Street & Wilcox Avenue Hollywood
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Stripped Stories

Each Stripped Stories show has a strict no-recording policy. In fact, audience members must pledge to not even speak of what they just heard once the show has ended. Producers and hosts Margot Leitman and Giulia Rozzi enforce this in order to create an environment where guest performers can be candid, a necessary ingredient in any story about sex. The theme never changes, nor does it need to; Stripped Stories has been titillating audiences with memories of romps in the hay since 2007, when the show first started in New York. It's been bicoastal for the past three years, and happens once every other month at Upright Citizens Brigade, where it's hosted Nick Kroll, Reggie Watts and Tami Sagher, among others. Each show also features a musical guest singing sex-themed songs, as well as the most popular part of the evening: audience participation. The winner of an elaborate, full-crowd game of "Never Have I Ever" gets to share his or her own saucy tale onstage. A recent winner was a nebbishy guy who pretended to be a pilot in order to get a woman to have sex with him. It worked.

  1. UCB 5919 Franklin Ave
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Users say

Gary B
Gary B

Thanks for including of The Moth in the list! Just to clarify, StorySLAMs are never at The Avalon but can be found monthly at Zanzibar, Busby's East, and Los Globos.