David Crabb is an actor, writer, and storyteller who lives in NYC, originally from Texas where he was all types of Goth in the 1990s- which is the basis of his hilarious and touching one man show: Bad Kid. An integration of characters and storytelling recreates Crabbs early life of Texan gothery, a premise that speaks to the paradoxical and simultaneous experiences of finding your niche but still not fitting in, and the universal experience of self discovery in a confusing world. Bad Kid will be at the Artisphere in Arlington on November 22 and 23. Crabb will also be performing at the Ask Me Holiday Show at the Axis Theater in New York City on December 9.
Brightest Young Things: So Bad Kid is [about a gay goth kid] set in Texas in 1991?
David Crabb: Yes, it’s set kind of between 90 and 92, in San Antonio, part of it, and then the second half is set in Seguin which is a tiny, tiny town…that’s sort of what the midpoint of the show is about: finding your place and where you belong in a bigger, more liberal, and cosmopolitan environment, finally growing to be this person, this ideal and then having to go live in this town where they have rodeos.
Is being a goth in Texas a sort of youthful rebellion thing like, “What is the most opposite thing I can be?”
This show doesn’t have so much to do with those gothic tastes, there’s something universal about I feel like anyone when they’re 14, 15, 16 you sort of fit in where you fit in and maybe you fit in with “kickers” and line dancing, or maybe you fit in with a bunch of skinheads who go romper stomping. For whatever reason you find your little niche, and for me a lot of it was that those were my favorite people. To me, it’s funny, the goths are sort of like the clowns of the underground teen community because as much they’re dark and morbid and morose I feel like some of those people were the funnest people I ever knew. So when I look back on it I don’t get a dark feeling, it’s just very clowny to me…
Like a type of theatre?
Yeah! Well when I was younger I didn’t know I wanted to be and actor, a performer, a storyteller but I think sort of subconsciously that’s part of the reason I was drawn to goth kids.
I mean “a goth kid in Texas” sounds like a John Waters movie.
Except no one ate poop. Well one person ate poop, just once.
So is Bad Kid all in your voice or are you assuming characters and other voices and playing many parts?
Oh I do many characters. I love the more direct solo work of somebody like, I dunno, Spaulding Grey is someone I really dig. But this is more in line with someone like John Leguizamo– I become two or three of my best friends, I play both of my parents in it. I would say at least half of the show is me speaking to the audience so it is still very storytelling based.
And it’s funny– I was always drawn to you as a storyteller because you’re so funny– and even the form in a broad sense because the humor can be your way in, to connect with the audience so immediately and then ultimately you surprise them with gravity and importance.
[I’ve been] hosting The Moth now for almost a year, I forget that it is so much like stand up because you’re keeping the show moving and hitting the audience with short anecdotes but for me that still exists in a storytelling realm, and people always tell me storytelling is so much like stand up, when I think of going to do stand up it scares the shit out of me. It just seems like such a different beast– even now with people like Louis CK who is a storyteller…
To a degree yeah, but I’m sure you’ve seen on The Moth when a very established and revered stand up [like Bill Burr] will do a story and so quickly it gets dark, and emotional, and they cry– more than a self identified storyteller would…
I know some storytellers who don’t dig stand up, to me it’s such a hard job– the pressure when you’ve been talking for 30 seconds and no one laughs and you’re “doing bad” I think that’s part of the reason, like you just said, when a stand up gets to do storytelling it’s like one of the few opportunities they get to not work that way. Another thing, if you get to see stand ups in a storytelling context sometimes instead of taking advantage of that [ability to not rely on laughs] they just go into joke mode and you can feel it in the room how jarring it is… Because you can tell a great story that has three minutes with no laughs but then when you get to the laugh part the pay off is way funnier.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Uq7BioUGb8
Or it’s a different kind of laugh, that more inward laugh, like you understand precisely why this is funny– which speaks more to having roots in the spoken word realm, where the audience does a lot of head-nodding in agreement.
Well I moved to NYC in 1999… I knew I was into performance and my gateway to performance was working with a theatre company called Axis and they were the first company to put on a production of Bad Kid. I started doing improv classes and acting classes and eventually found storytelling 4 or 5 years ago. I was a writer who felt really insulated and bored and wanted to share so many stories with people, I knew I wanted to make people laugh but I also wanted to say something serious, I was an actor but was bored of saying things other people had written.
Did you meet Kevin Allison right away? The Story Studio started later, right?
That’s funny you bring him up, so the way that happened was I decided to take a stand up class with Kenny who hosts Ask Me stories which is our show in NY, and we looked at the options and they all seemed so “yucka yucka,” and we realized in talking how few stand ups, even though we liked stand up, how few we actually liked and wondered if it was really for us. So then she found this random storytelling class at The Pit with Kevin Allison. So that was how Risk! came about, and me working at The Story Studio– so for me working with Kevin and Michelle Walson, that was really my main gateway in.
That’s so interesting because I’ve heard Kevin say on stage that he found stories after an epic frustration with character monologues and even sketch, and the epiphany was that his own voice was what he wanted to be using. There was this definite boom, I’m not sure if it was something happened in other mediums that caused it, but suddenly around that time it seems like performers wanted to be working in their own voice and audiences were on the same page.
I think even though storytelling is a large part of how our society functions, stories and narratives handed down over the years– that being said I think the modern boom of storytelling… YouTube, and MySpace and that wave, I don’t think you can ignore that as far people feeling like they had a voice and they wanted to be heard or seen.
Or that they even had the permission to.
Yes. Yes. The media that we consume now is all stories. I mean buzzfeed isn’t even news. It’s stories about boys that find the weird compartment underneath the stairwell.