Andy Christie’s writing has appeared in The New York Times and in the Thomas Beller anthology Lost and Found: Stories from New York. He is a Moth GrandSlam Champion and has been featured on the Peabody Award–winning Moth Radio Hour, WFUV’s CityScape and WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show. His humor collection, I Wasn’t Kidding, was published in the U.S. and the U.K. by Random House. Consequently his work can be found on remainder shelves spanning two continents. He is creator and host of The Liar Show. He appeared in Story League's first show at the Kennedy Center in 2014 and at our show at DC Improv in 2015.
Please tell us how The Liar Show got started, and what the secret to its longevity is.
I guess the secret behind the show hanging around for so long is the same as mine. It can’t take a hint. Actually, I’m amazed and so thrilled it’s lasted thanks to all the great storytellers onstage and a gratifying mix of loyal fans and total strangers in the audience at every show.
Our out-of-town performances—Edinburgh; New Orleans, LA—are a blast, but the real heart of the show beats downstairs at the landmark Village club, Cornelia Street Café. They’ve hosted us for nine years, after about a year at The People’s Improv Theater (PIT), where we started. I had done a couple of monologues at the PIT and they asked for another, which I didn’t have—who has three monologues? So I said “How about this?” That’s how Liar happened. Necessity begets invention.
I think people come because it’s just a very simple concept and people love to nail a liar. It’s like you're a parent and all the people in the show are your no-account kids trying to get away with murder. And the interrogation is just, well, really fun! Everyone, cast and audience, gets to be the funniest person in the room. We were also lucky enough to get some nice press early on and and Cornelia has its own following, which helps. When we started there, I was a little intimidated by the club’s landmark status. I felt like we were really lowering the cultural bar. Then I remembered their audiences were fans of jazz and poetry. And those people will listen to anything.
Have you done both stand-up and story before? If no, what made you cross over for this show? If yes, what is the most interesting similarity or difference between the two genres?
I’ve never done pure stand-up because I’m not crazy. But I’ve always loved funny stories—hearing them and telling them. Who doesn’t? But at many storytelling shows, where stories are as likely to be heartbreaking as hilarious, the audience is so supportive and so into the storytelling scene that I can’t help but wonder if they’re laughing because they’re having a great time or because they’re just nice people. “Aww, look at him up there talking like a Big Boy.”
After my first Moth story, host Andy Borowitz asked if I was a stand-up comic. He was just being polite, but I realized I was much happier to hear, “Are you a comedian?” than, “Are you in therapy?” I liked the sound of your Story League show because it sets the expectations at “Funny.”
What would you most like to see change about the stand-up or story scenes?
I’d like to see all the downtown and Brooklyn shows relocate into my lobby on the Upper West Side. Thank you.
OK, tell us more specifically about the NYC story scene—besides that there's a variety of kinds of shows and lots of them, we know that already. Give us some dirt.
I can’t give you dirt. I mean, there is dirt, I just can’t give it to you. But yes, there are an infinite number of story-themed shows on any given night in NY. The scene has gradually changed from the time I first became involved. (Not my fault.) It began as a rediscovery of the pre-digital, pre-texting, pre-Following and -Liking idea that people can talk to each other; that everyone has a story to tell, and given a few minutes of quiet attention, both the audience and the storyteller can sort of flash back to a time when talking and listening were entertaining and, I hate to say this, enriching. So it was mainly “civilians”—short order cooks, architects, cops—getting up to share what happened to them that one time in that place. I loved it. People did it so they could go to work the next morning and tell the receptionist how they came in third at this weird storytelling thing, The Moth at Nuyorican Café, or heard someone talk about her Cesarean section at Speakeasy in the West Village.
I still love the scene, but it has transformed itself from one about craft and tradition into one about performance, like folk guitar in the '60s, stand-up in the '80s or, I don’t know, nothing in the '90s. It seems to be less about the stories and more about the storytellers. And the expectation onstage has evolved from, “They're listening?!” to “ Make them listen." That’s totally fine, and it’s still an amazing community. It’s just different from what made me fall in love with it. Also, whatever happened to covered wagons and the Foxtrot?
Is it possible to teach someone to be funny, or is it just in-born (or not)?
Of course anyone can be funny. I once saw a guy on Broadway walk right into a lamppost while he was texting. He was funny.
What’s the best advice you ever received from a more experienced performer?
“If things don’t go well onstage, remember: For you this is a big deal. For the audience it’s just 10 minutes wasted. They’ll get over it.”
Who was it?
I think Ophira Eisenberg said that to talk me off a ledge after a particularly unfortunate performance The Bitter End.
If you could meet your personal comedy hero (tell us who it is!), what would you say to him/her?
I’d love to hang out with Billy Connolly, the Scottish comedian and actor. I guess if I met him I’d say, “Hey, I was born in Scotland!” Then again, I say that to everyone. I just think it sounds kind of cool. But I was. Born in Scotland, I mean.
Do you do any touristy stuff when you come down to DC (besides appearing at the Kennedy Center in our shows)?
I’ve done the usual touristy stuff. The monuments, the Smithsonian, flying my Gyro-copter, etc.
But my most vivid tourist memory is of a 4th grade trip to Congress, when I swiped a cigarette lighter from Sen. Jacob Javitz’s desk. I felt awful for years. Because I lost it.