This feature was written and shot for What’s Up, found here.
When it comes to live comedy, everyone is familiar with stand-up – but storytellers are bridging the gap between poets and comedians, providing an entertainment experience like no other.
What’s Up met with Matt Price, a storyteller/comedian that has been wowing audiences with deeply personal stories for over 12 years, to get an insight into the art form.
“I like the truth of storytelling,” he said.
“It’s not just about being funny; it’s about people’s personal truths.”
While there are definitely stand-up comedians that base their shows around being deeply personal (Simon Amstell comes to mind), being authentic and making a connection with the audience is what storytelling lives and dies by.
Matt is so passionate about stories, in 2013 he co-founded a group call the Natural Born Storytellers alongside fellow comedian Michael Kossew – meeting once a month and open to anyone and everyone with a story.
He added: “We get all sorts from all walks of life, telling a true story for eight minutes.”
Sessions at the Natural Born Storytellers have a core theme, such as ‘Unlikely Friendships’, drawing a parallel to the likes of spoken-word and slam poetry.
“People tell me [and Michael] afterwards ‘It changed my life, getting up on stage’.”
According to Matt, the chief difference between storytelling and stand-up is the emphasis on specifically telling jokes – you can have gags and observations in stories but there is a foundation of truth.
These days modern storytelling has evolved; Matt was initially inspired by Richard Pryor, a black comedian and satirist, who became famous for his ruthless commentary on racism and American culture.
“Believe it or not – as a fat, white guy from Cornwall – he really spoke to me,” Matt added.
As the Edinburgh Fringe festival in August rapidly approaches, now is a great time to find out more about the art of storytelling as performers big and small prepare material for the culture-rich event.
Matt himself will be performing The Boy with Cake on His Face, a story about him getting an unwanted – and illegal – package in the mail, which he describes as “Cornish Breaking Bad meets Only Fools and Horses”.
If sport is more your thing, chief sports writer for the Herald, Hugh MacDonald, co-hosts A Beggar for a Miracle: A Fan’s Life in Football, about his up-and-down love affair with the Beautiful Game.
If you’re looking for something a bit more conceptual, Imaan Hadchiti’s Imaan after My Own Heart is about all the different types of love, from the Ancient Greek understanding to the love of sharing drinks with friends.
Matt’s main hint on being a good storyteller?
“Get to the point immediately,” he told us.
“I know that might sound a bit brutal – but an engaging storyteller will be able to tell you simply what the story is in one or two sentences.”
As an example, he told us that he was once set to do a four-and-a-half month comedy tour in Turkey – but after six weeks he was preparing to flee the country, following death threats from mobsters organising the tour.
“I don’t want to be presumptuous, but I imagine you might like to hear the end of that story. Hook people in.”
Our interview with Matt Price was held at The Gallery, West Hampstead.
Natural Born Storytellers regularly hold events at The Camden Head. Visit www.naturalbornstorytellers.com for more information.