Meet Your Funny People: Pablo Picon
Winner, Story League Fall 2015 Championship
You did a great deal of preparation for the Fall Championship. Please share that story.
I was really scared; I never thought I was going to win the qualifier for this final. It caught me completely by surprise. I had a lot of pressure, because my friends and colleagues found about it on #$@#%$ Facebook and they all decided to come and support me. I did not want to bomb in front of them, and I had a good chance of bombing, being inexperienced at this and with English being my second language.
So I started writing obsessively. And every week I would talk with my fantastic storytelling coach in NYC to put me on the right track. And I performed—I performed a lot! Twice in NYC, where I completely bombed at standup open mics, but I learned a lot… I was stronger after that. Then in Philly at First Person Arts, where I started to see some improvements. And finally two more times at open mics in DC, with really small, hard-nosed audiences, which is the best way to fine-tune your story.
You've been onstage at 3 different venues now with Story League. How has each one been different?
Bier Baron was my first time. I wanted to throw up and run away. Even after two shots of liquor, I was scared as hell. But when I went onstage the lights blinded me, and that was kind of relaxing. I started talking and the people started laughing. It felt amazing, I felt like an orchestra director. I loved it and I wanted more.
Second time was Busboys and Poets. My story was 7 minutes, and I discovered that there was a 5-minutes time limit when I arrived there that night. I just hid in the bathroom to focus and eliminate parts to make it shorter. The other performers that night were really funny. I never thought I would win, and I think it was only by a few votes.
Third time was Black Cat. I put into practice everything that I had learned in the previous ones, and with my coach: Practice, feel comfortable with the time, and go to a quiet space and listen to a song that you love before stage time. Even though the room and the crowd were so big, I felt much more comfortable than the previous times.
Before you started performing, you were what we would call a Story League Superfan. How did you discover us, and what appealed to you about SL?
At work, I started listening to storytelling. I wanted to learn more. I found you guys on the internet. I went to a show and I laughed a lot. I liked your spirit of looking for funny stories. I think the mix of stand-up and storytelling was my biggest driver.
You write speeches for a living. What does that have in common with storytelling?
It has a lot in common, and I would love to put stories in all the speeches and presentations that I write. But I always have to think about my client, the person that is going to read the speech, and some of them don’t feel comfortable with stories. In those cases I prefer not to use storytelling. My objective is always to make them look good, and I learned that for that to happen it has to feel natural. First I analyze them and try to improve on their natural talents. Then, with more experience, we include storytelling.
What are you going to do with the $500 prize money?
Nothing, I spent it all with my coach, Philly, New York and celebratory drinks… It was gone long ago.
Will you continue performing with SL? How about with other shows? What's next for Storyteller Pablo Picon?
I told my girlfriend that I’m never, ever doing this again. Too much stress. She does not believe me… she is probably right (as always).