It’s hard to believe, but there are just 2 StorySlams left in the 14th Season: “Big Time” and “#onlinedating”! So, you know that means our confirmed Grand Slam contestants are already sizing up their competition. We want you to meet the contestants too, so you know who you’re going to root for on May 14 at Underground Arts! We’re introducing you to the talented lineup of tale spinners one at a time. Up this week, meet Tim!
Location: At the moment I live in Pittsburgh. But I travel constantly and have moved around a bunch. I am originally from St. Louis and have lived in East Lansing, Michigan; Providence, Rhode Island; Washington, D.C.; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Brooklyn and the Bronx.
Slam won: I did two Slams this year, both at L’Etage, because I love that place. At one, I told a story about South Africa, penguins, Brigitte Bardot, and apartheid. At the other, I told a story about getting locked out of my car at a strip joint and inadvertently participating in the armed robbery of a crack dealer. That one was my winning tale. Aparently Americans really love strippers, guns, and crack.
FPA: How long have you been “Slamming”?
TWS: Slamming” sounds like an alcohol problem. But I have been telling stories at StorySlams for about two years.
FPA: How do you prepare for a StorySlam? Do you have any rituals or lucky pairs of socks?
TWS: Even if it is a story I have told many times before, I write it down word for word, then practice it without trying to memorize it. This is for two reasons: Every new StorySlam becomes the occasion of a new written story as well as a chance to tell a story that way, but also I believe in effort and practice despite being a member of the slacker generation. You know what I believe would improve Improv Comedy? If they wrote the sketches ahead of time, edited them, rehearsed them, work shopped them, and then rewrote them based on audience reactions.
FPA: Share a storytelling tip with us!
TWS: Storytelling tips, like horoscopes, are often vague and hard to follow. So, here’s a really specific, easy to do one that, I guarantee, will work. You never know what people are going to laugh at. If they laugh at something that you didn’t expect or intend to be funny, you can always get a bigger, second laugh just by pausing and saying, “That wasn’t supposed to be funny.” If the second laugh is big and you really want to go for it, try, “And now you are starting to hurt my feelings a little bit.” Hilarious.
FPA: What would Chapter 7 of your memoir be called?
TWS: My bankruptcy.
FPA: Who’s the best storyteller you know and why?
TWS: I don’t who is the best, but I sure think Mike Birbiglia does an amazing job of combining comedy, pathos, and a little bit of a point. At StorySlams, I find, the stories that grip me are the ones from people who have had some really unique experience. When it comes to nonfiction, content matters a lot to me.
FPA: What do you do in real life when you’re not out winning StorySlams?
TWS: Nothing. Travel, I guess.
FPA: What do you love most about First Person Arts?
TWS: StorySlams are to this decade what stand-up comedy was to the 1980s. But what I love about First Person Arts is that they are devoted and committed to building an independent storytelling community rooted in one of American’s greatest cities, Philadelphia, and covering it from every angle from Slams to podcasts to teaching and community outreach. I hope First Person Arts becomes a model for other cities around the country.
FPA: If you had a storyteller spirit animal, what would it be?
TWS: I feel strongly that keeping wild animals, even as spirits, is wrong and I don’t do it.
FPA: The winner of this Grand Slam will get a $250 prize! What will you do with the money if you win?
TWS: Get the Luxury Room at the Morris Hotel. Best hotel in downtown Philly. This was the view from the window the night I won a First Person Arts StorySlam!
The 14th Season of First Person Arts StorySlams is presented by Harmelin Media.