I have kept one diary in my 37 years on this planet. It spanned the length of my entire sophomore year of high school and is mostly about one boy, David Lima. It’s embarrassing in its crushness (not a word). That is the gist of Mortified. You rip out a page from your childhood and you read it to the world. Awful. Mortified DC will be at the Kennedy Center’s District of Comedy festival this Saturday and I honestly can’t wait to drown in horrifying nostalgia with a bunch of strangers. I got to chat with their producer Alexandra Hewett about some of her favorite shameful stories. It’s the shame game.
Brightest Young Things: I’m very excited about you being part of this comedy festival. I adore humiliation. What kind of embarrassing stories do you hear the most?
Alex Hewett: A lot of them are about unrequited love. Many people love someone so much they never even spoke to them in real life but in their journal there was this hot and heavy romance. There are a lot of virgins writing about sex. They have no idea and they write all these things about what sex is going to be like.
BYT: I remember not knowing what a blow job was and thinking you LITERALLY blow on a penis which honestly would be much easier.
AH: Yeah why is it called a job? That’s horrible. I also see a lot of journal entries from people who were really nice kids but in their journals they are really mean and nasty and they write horrible things about other people. That’s really common too. We also get a ton of celebrity fan fiction. On the podcast there was a boy who had family problems and self-esteem problems and he had to keep a journal for school. His journal started Dear Mr. Belvedere because he was kind of obsessed with the show. That’s who he wrote to even though he never met the man the character on TV really spoke to him.
BYT: That’s really kind of beautiful and sad.
AH: Even though the show is a comedy show…being a kid is tough. Being an adolescent is really a difficult time and you’re going through so much shit. For most kids who write in a journal it’s their best friend. Even for kids today who have Facebook, we get to choose what we share publicly but I think it’s different when you’re writing something just for you. The other kind of stuff we have is really bad poetry and songs. We have someone who wanted to be a weather girl so she had this series of really awful, poor quality news videos she created…she and her brother. He was much younger and very unwilling to cooperate with her so she has a lot of videos that are sweet and bad. So poetry, songs and then the love stories. There is so much drama when you’re in love as a kid. You’re in love today and the next day you hate them, then you love them again, then you’re in love with someone else two days later. We get people who have written their memoir at age 10 because you have a lot of experience at that point. I ask people to bring in what they have. Bring in pictures. Bring in your journals, whatever shit you have that helps us craft together who you were as kid that helps us find a narrative to pull some of your archives together to tell this story through your embarrassing stuff.
BYT: Is there a cut off because it has to be stuff from when you were a kid.
AH: It has to be 21 and younger. One of my favorite pieces is from Jennifer Tress. Her mother was very progressive, kind of a hippy, and ate age 4 she sat Jenn down and told her about sex. It was very clinical you know penis, vagina, all the words. Jenn at 4 was like “wow,” so she went into her room, shut the door and drew pictures of what her mom told her. She calls them the Sex Papers.
BYT: Is there usually a theme per show?
AH: They usually don’t. Our Valentine’s Day show is called Doomed Love but we don’t generally have a theme. I’m constantly looking for new material and new people. So I’m about to do a screening session where we meet with 5 different people who have a variety of things to see if their stuff is weird enough or funny enough for the show. It’s a lot of work, putting the pieces together. We spend a lot of time with our performers to craft the pieces.
BYT: What are some of your favorite pieces?
AH: I coproduce the show with Adam Ruben. Adam is amazing. Three of his pieces are on the podcast and he probably has 12 different Mortified pieces he’s performed because he has such a volume of stuff because he didn’t have many friends. One of my favorite pieces of all-time is his poetry. Adam went to this poetry camp growing up and his idol was Charles Bukowski. He went back to school and his teacher told him poetry has to rhyme and he was like “No it doesn’t,” so he went back and wrote a poem slamming her that ended up being this really great poem that he turned in. It’s on the podcast as this revenge against his teacher. Jenn Tress’ 4 year-old Sex Papers piece is also one of my favorites because of her drawing of boobs and people in the shower smoking a cigarette. Scott Shrake has a paper he wrote for school for science class that’s about gnomes basically saying gnomes are real. He did this whole history of gnomes. The drawings are beautiful and it’s well-researched. [Laughs] We have a story from Ashley Hadeed who was taking the SAT’s and was really nervous. One of her friends suggested they have coffee and she had never had coffee before.
BYT: Oh no, did she shit herself?
AH: Yeah…in the middle of the SAT’s she sure did.
BYT: This is how familiar I am with the effects of coffee. I knew where this was going, right out her butt. What can we expect from the D.C. show.
AH: We’re really excited about being there. We’re bringing back some of our favorite performers for you guys. You’ll just have to come see!