Over the next month, as preparation for our first storytelling workshop, “Spotlight on You” on October 13th, we will be featuring the four Better Said Than Done storytelling teachers. And now, introducing, Adam Ruben!
When did you tell your first story and what was that experience like?
February 2010, on the SpeakeasyDC stage. I had done stand-up for many years at that point but was recently, thanks to the Moth podcast, starting to get interested in storytelling. I attended a show first to get an idea of what to expect, then prepared and pitched my story. The experience itself was great, and I’ve never looked back.
Why do you think people are drawn to storytelling?
It’s something that anyone can do. Hell, it’s something everyone already does; this is just a formalization of what we all do at the lunch table with our friends or the dinner table with our families. “So you know how I said I was going to Philadelphia this weekend?” we’ll say. “Well, you’re not going to believe what happened.” That’s what I like best about storytelling, the fact that it uses our compulsion to hear what happens next. Plus, it’s nonfiction, which raises the stakes by default.
Worst moment on stage?
During a show with Story League and Story Collider at Artisphere, in the middle of my story, an audience member had a seizure and required an ambulance. (Luckily, he was fine, but we had to stop the show for 10 minutes, and then I had to figure out how to pick up where I left off and still seem natural.)
Best stage experience and why?
I’ve woven a lot of my stories into my solo show, “Please Don’t Beat Me Up: Stories and Artifacts from Adolescence.” Performing this show has been very gratifying–I get to take all of the bullying that I suffered through in childhood and turn it into something people can laugh at.
Thoughts on “everyone can be a storyteller.”
True. If you think nothing interesting has happened to you, you’re wrong. One of my favorite stories I’ve told is about an argument with a repairman at the Toyota dealership over a matter of $97. Anything can be made interesting.
What teaching experience do you have?
I’ve taught a stand-up comedy class to college students at Johns Hopkins since 2005. The most important part of that class (as, I think, is true for any class on storytelling or performing) is the workshop. By performing your story, then hearing honest feedback on what works and doesn’t work, you learn a lot more than by simply discussing storytelling theory or watching DVDs of famous storytellers–as long as you’re willing to really listen to the criticism and make changes accordingly.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’ve been doing comedy for over a decade. I’m also a comedy writer and a molecular biologist, combining the two pursuits in my monthly column “Experimental Error” in the journal Science and in my book, “Surviving Your Stupid, Stupid Decision to Go to Grad School.” I’ve appeared on the Food Network’s “Food Detectives,” the Science Channel’s “Head Rush,” and NPR’s “All Things Considered,” and I’ll co-host the Discovery Channel’s new show, “You Have Been Warned,” in early 2013 (the international version premieres this fall in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, China, and Southeast Asia).
Any other reasons people might want to take a class with you?
I heard there will be food.
Indeed there will! Here is one of Adam’s stories with Better Said Than Done. “Fifth Grade Field Day.”
If you are interested in the first workshop on October 13th, or any of the workshops following throughout November and December, you can get all the information on our storytelling workshops here or find a list of available classes to register for here.