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 spin a few tales of your own.



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Best live storytelling: Anna David

Best live storytelling: Anna David Photograph: Courtesy Anna David

Forget spoken word shows in crowded cafes; the writers and performers at these popular storytelling events (where you'll hear coherent, concise tales, not stream of consciousness poetry) are smart, funny and fearless.

LA Moth StorySLAM

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Originated in New York City, The Moth is an open-mic storytelling show that has spread 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”). Participants put their name in a hat for a chance to present their piece onstage. If chosen, you get five minutes to tell a cohesive (and true!) story—with 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. 267 S Main St
  2. Until Sat Dec 20
More info

True Tales of Lust and Love

After so many solo book readings over the years, writer Anna David (Falling for Me, Party Girl) got a little lonely and decided to add funny, smart and sexy (really—they’re all babes!) women telling stories about sex and love to her lineup. Enter: True Tales of Lust and Love. This is the place to go to see strong female performers. Case in point, big-name comedian Maria Bamford has woven tales here in the past.

  1. The Mint 6010 W Pico Boulevard, at Stearns Drive Fairfax District
  2. Until Wed Feb 12
More info

Spark Off Rose

This is a good place to get your storytelling feet wet. Check online for upcoming show themes (past ones have included “addicted,” “trapped” and “fearless”), and email the staff with an outline of your story idea. If they like it, you’ll be booked for an upcoming show. Sounds a little intimidating, but many of the performers here are new, and it’s a super-inclusive crowd. You’ll also have a chance to practice your delivery at a pre-show rehearsal—but no improvisations allowed! All pieces must be read off the page at showtime, which sometimes leaves stories sounding a little stiff. The producers also expect you to “work with them to shape and structure” your story. You’ll either find this helpful or harrowing: if you just want to get up and do your thing (or watch others do theirs), this may not be the place for it.

  1. Theatre Palisades 941 Temescal Canyon Road
  2. Mon Oct 6
More info

Afterbirth + Not What I Signed Up For

Based on the best-selling book of the same name, Afterbirth is a storytelling show comprised of not-so-perfect-parenting tales, as well as musings on love and marriage. Dani Klein Modisett (the author/editor/creator behind both the book and show) has recruited her writer/actor/producer/creative friends and colleagues to tell their personal and sometimes hilarious tales about the daunting task of raising kids while remaining in love/sane/happy.

Sit 'n Spin

A regular event at the Hudson Theater’s Comedy Central Stage, Sit ’n Spin is a storytelling show slash concert, where writers and performers read essays (funny, dirty, sad—you name it) 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 show is often a riot regardless.

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

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Sound bites
Hear some of the yarns woven at past live shows.

LA Moth StorySLAM
A diverse and constantly updated list of stories recorded at live shows across the country.

True Tales of Lust and Love
Six sexy podcasts featuring some of the show's best comedians.

Spark Off Rose
A compilation of stories from seven live events—listen to a sample, then decide if you want to shell out $10 for the whole thing (or, you know, go see it live).

Afterbirth + Not What I Signed Up For
Podcasts of seasoned storytellers reading their best parenting tales.