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What stories do you want to hear?

It’s that time of year again! The 2016 StorySlam Theme Contest is here. Past winning themes include Online Dating, Secrets, The Ex-Files, Do the Right Thing, and Almost Famous.

Got something better? Fill out the form below for a chance to have your theme programmed next season, and win free tickets to the Slam on your theme! Contest lasts now through August.


“Pride” Comes Before a Laugh

We’re so excited to wipe the slate clean, and kick off a brand spankin’ new StorySlam season on Monday with the theme Pride! To help prime your palette, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite funniest tales on the theme.

#4 In her quest for coolness, Sara must obtain the highly coveted Beanie Baby known as Wrinkle.

#3 From catered picket lines to heckling her daughter’s grad school presentations, Marjorie’s mom can be counted on to embarrass. Through it all, Marjorie learns to be proud of her mom — quirks and all.

#2 Martha is a proud Philadelphian. But after getting lost in her own city, will her pride still be intact?

#1 As a 16-year-old mother, Mary doesn’t always feel equipped or ready for parenthood. Today, she’s proud of both her journey and her son.

Event details:

First Person Arts StorySlam: Pride
DATE Monday, June 13
TIMES Doors at 7:30PM, Slam at 8:30PM
LOCATION World Cafe Live
TICKETS $10, 20% off for FPA members
More dates and themes here.


Meet Grand Slam Judge Chris Lundy!

Since his first First Person Arts StorySlam, Chris has been slinging stories that were instant favorites with FPA audiences. From tales of childhood fights, to fast food obsessions, to past career triumphs and missteps, story-lovers voted him “Audience Favorite” again and again.

We liked him so much, we even made him an official StorySlam host! The feeling was mutual, and Chris joined as a First Person Arts member in December 2015.

Now, we’re excited to have Chris help us crown the “Best Storyteller in Philadelphia” at this Thursday’s Season 16 Grand Slam! {{TICKETS ON SALE HERE}}


FPA: At your first-ever StorySlam, you won the title of “Audience Favorite”. You’ve gone on to win “Audience Favorite” several times since, have competed in a Grand Slam, and have become a regular StorySlam host.

What would you like to say to our two “Audience Favorites” who have earned a spot in the Grand Slam lineup this season, Mister and Lisa?

CL: The long way around still got you here! You’re with the best of the best now. Deliver tonight and everyone will see why.

FPA: What would you say are the three most important elements to a good story?

CL: 1) Consistency throughout the story. 2) Relatability. 3) Passion.

FPA: A good story isn’t just about content, it’s also about presentation. What can a storyteller do to make his/her story resonate with you as one of our official Grand Slam judges?

CL: Find the human element. If I can connect the emotional dots, I’ll be able to relate regardless of subject matter.

FPA: So, you’ve talked about some of the “do’s” of storytelling. Are there any “don’ts” in storytelling for you?

CL: Don’t ramble. Tell well-formed story. Don’t disregard the time limit. That’s important.

FPA: If a storyteller wants to suck up to you at the Grand Slam, what is your drink of choice?

CL: Bourbon on the rocks. Bulleit if they reeeaally want to suck up.

FPA: Will you be using decimals in your story scoring on Thursday?

CL: Reluctantly, yes. But these are the best storytellers around! I expect the margins will be paper thin.

FPA: This year marks First Person Arts’ 15th Anniversary. Tell us your own story on the Grand Slam theme of “Where I Come From” in 15 words!

CL: Take a pan. Toss in Haiti, Brooklyn, and the D.C. area. Then bake.

FPA: Any final words of advice for this season’s Grand Slam contestants?

CL: Don’t just retell your story. RELIVE your story. Out loud and in front of the audience.

16th Season First Person Arts Grand Slam
DATE: Thursday, May 12
TIMES: Doors at 7PM, Show at 8PM
LOCATION: World Cafe Live
TIX: $17-22 | BUY


Meet Your Host for the 16th Season Grand Slam, Chip Chantry!

He’s opened for comedy legends Louis CK, Bob Saget, and Dave Chappelle. See why these leading comics have shared the stage with him when he shares the stage with Philadelphia’s top storytellers at the Grand Slam next Thursday, May 12 at World Cafe Live. Meet comedian Chip Chantry! {{TICKETS ON SALE HERE.}}

Chip_horizontalFPA: You opened for Louis CK’s secret Philly show last month. How did that happen? Tell us what your reaction was like when you heard the news that you got the gig.

CC: I found out at noon the day of the show. I knew I was going to see the show, even though I didn’t know who it was going to be. When the owner of Helium called me to see if I could open, I immediately said yes, without even knowing who it was. When I found out, I was floored. Also, I was standing in the middle of a convenience store when I got the call, and got a few looks from people. So I guess I looked shocked.

FPA: In addition to being a standup comedian, you’re also a writer for comedy television. Is there a different approach to writing for TV versus writing for the stage?

CC: When you write for TV, you’re writing for someone else, so I think the biggest difference is knowing their voice. When it’s stand up, it’s just me, so I know where I’m coming from. But it’s fun to work in someone else’s voice, and put your own stamp on it. It’s a fun challenge.

FPA: What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you on stage?

CC: This isn’t as crazy as it is heartbreaking, so buckle up! A few years ago, I was asked to do a Nerd Nite show in Philly, which is a great event that combines entertainers and scholarly talks. It’s a lot of fun.

The room was packed with a few hundred 20 and 30-something-year-old self-proclaimed nerds that night, ready for a show. I was psyched!

Right before they introduced me, the host announced to the crowd that Steve Jobs just died. SHE ANNOUNCED THAT STEVE JOBS DIED IN A ROOM FULL OF NERDS, AND THEN SAYS, “Your next act is comedian Chip Chantry.”

That’s like going to do a set at the Basketball Hall of Fame, and having the host announce that Michael Jordan died. There were literally people in tears while I was trying to sling my jokes. So do me a favor: If, on the night of the Grand Slam, the world’s most famous storyteller dies, PLEASE KEEP IT TO YOURSELF.

FPA: Do you have any pre-show lucky rituals? Lucky socks or underwear?

CC: Having an empty bladder always seems to help matters.

FPA: What piece of advice would you give this season’s Grand Slam contestants?

CC: Pray that if the world’s most famous storyteller dies that night, no one announces it right before you go on.

FPA: Is there a dumb childhood joke that you still love, and why?

CC: I like to think of myself as pretty comedically refined and sophisticated, but whenever the Coyote falls off a cliff wearing rockets shoes, I’m on board for the laugh.

FPA: This year marks First Person Arts’ 15th Anniversary. Tell us your own story on the Grand Slam theme of “Where I Come From” in 15 words!

CC: You see, when it comes to my hometown and upbringing, I would have to say…

FPA: Do you think there’s a difference between standup storytelling and comedy? What role does storytelling play in your work?

CC: I think it’s all about emotion, and what emotions you can spark in the crowd. For comedy, getting the laugh is obviously the goal. But when I started telling more stories in my stand up–true stories–the comedy became so much more authentic and real. I tell a few stories that include some tragic topics, but if I can strike a real emotional response from the crowd, then throw in a punchline, the laughter is so much better. It’s a release from the tension.

16th Season First Person Arts Grand Slam
DATE: Thursday, May 12
TIMES: Doors at 7PM, Show at 8PM
LOCATION: World Cafe Live
TIX: $17-22 | BUY


Who Are You To Judge?: Meet Grand Slam Judge, Bryan Buttler!

IMG_1527(1)He’s been a First Person Arts fan for years, has covered FPA events as a former writer for Philadelphia Magazine, and even shared his own story at a Slam on the theme “Superstitious”! Meet Grand Slam judge Bryan Buttler of Bryan Buttler Media Relations! {{TICKETS ON SALE HERE.}}

FPA: You are certainly no StorySlam virgin. You’ve been part of the First Person Arts family for some time now. What’s your favorite thing about FPA StorySlams?

BB: I think there is so much interesting energy in the room! The Slams bring out such a unique mix of people of all walks of life, and usually people are so supportive. They are there to hear a good story.

FPA: As a journalist and a writer, you are also a storyteller. In your opinion, what are the three most important elements to a good story?

BB: I think you have to be passionate about the story. It is just like good writing: if you’re not interested, your audience is going to know. You also have to bring an element of truth to every story you tell. That’s what makes a story genuine. Also, just be yourself. There’s nothing worse than a faker or someone who is sugar coating something just to make people laugh or cry.

FPA: A good story isn’t just about content, it’s also about presentation. What can a storyteller do to make his/her story relatable to you as one of our official Grand Slam judges?

BB: Speak the truth! When you come from a place of the heart, you’re so much more likable.

FPA: So, you’ve talked about some of the do’s of storytelling. Are there any don’ts in storytelling for you?

BB: I’ve seen people who present stories that are purposely outlandish for the sake of trying to get laughs. It doesn’t work. Also, stay within time limits! No one likes someone who goes on and on and on. You’re like that kid in class who always answered the teacher and took up too much time.

FPA: If a storyteller wants to suck up to you at the Grand Slam, what is your drink of choice?

BB: God, I do adore a mojito, but they’re hard to make if the bar doesn’t have mint.

FPA: Will you be using decimals in your story scoring on Thursday?

BB: Eh…that’s a hard one! Probably not. Get that full point, baby!

FPA: This year marks First Person Arts’ 15th Anniversary. Tell us your own story on the Grand Slam theme of “Where I Come From” in 15 words!

BB: I am the stereotypical oldest child, and those traits have served me well.

FPA: Any final words of advice for this season’s Grand Slam contestants?

BB: You’ve already wowed an audience once. You’ve got this!

16th Season First Person Arts Grand Slam
DATE: Thursday, May 12
TIMES: Doors at 7PM, Show at 8PM
LOCATION: World Cafe Live
TIX: $17-22 | BUY


Call for stories!

temp web image freedom seder.2

First Person Arts is now seeking pitches for the 4th Annual Freedom Seder Revisited presented in partnership with the National Museum of American Jewish History.

What’s Freedom Seder Revisited?
Inspired by the original 1969 Freedom Seder, where hundreds of people of all backgrounds gathered to explore and celebrate freedom in the context of the Civil Rights Movement, this communal event invites you to the Passover table for an evening of commemoration, stories, and a community exploration of freedom in America.

This year’s event will take place on April 13, 2016 at the National Museum for American Jewish History.

How do I submit my story?
Pitch us your 5-10 minute true story on one or more of the themes listed below for a chance to be part of this special program. Email your story pitch to pitch@firstpersonarts.org, or calling in a 3-minute excerpt of your story to 601-568-2435. Storytellers of all ethnic and religious/nonreligious backgrounds welcome to apply.

Selected storytellers receive a stipend. Pitches due by 1/16. DEADLINE EXTENDED!: JAN. 23.

2016 Freedom Seder Themes:

  • Freedom in America today
  • Community building
  • Slavery and bondage
  • Spring renewal
  • 10/21/2015

    Meet Animated Illustrator and Comedian, Doogie Horner!

    doogiehorner_Steve Belkowitz
    Comical and endearing, Doogie Horner returns from Brooklyn to his original homeland, the City of Brotherly Love, for a behind-the-scenes look at Kid Athletes, illustrated by Horner and written by David Stabler. He will be joined by Super Bowl Champion Raheem Brock, who will also be sharing his own personal story of how he became a professional athlete, creating a marvelous combination of humor and inspiration.

    Doogie is the author of 100 Ghosts (Quirk Books, 2013) and Everything Explained Through Flowcharts (HarperCollins, 2010). His art and writing have appeared in Wired, McSweeney’s, Fast Company, Boing Boing, the Believer, the London Times, the Sun, and other publications. His comedy achieved national attention when a video of him taming a hostile crowd on America’s Got Talent became a viral sensation. He has designed numerous book covers, including Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

    Here’s the man, himself.

    FPA: Your work with Philebrity involved a lot of very entertaining list-making. In honor of our 14th Annual Festival, give us a list of 14 things you miss about living in Philadelphia since you’ve moved to New York.

    DH: I’m not going to lie, I wish this was your 10th Annual Festival. 14 is a long list! That’s not a list–that’s a novel!

    This list will probably be more heartfelt than entertaining, but here you go.

    1. Ping pong at Bob and Barbara’s
    2. Federal Doughnuts
    3. Possums that are so bold they’ll climb up your back and steal the Wawa shorti right out of your hand
    4. The La Colombe in Rittenhouse. Especially their iced coffee.
    5. Brickbat Books, my favorite bookstore.
    6. Gangs of Fishtown children throwing snowballs at me and calling me names
    7. Talking to the comic book guys at Brave New Worlds in Old City
    8. Buying a house with your debit card
    9. My neighbor in Fishtown who we could hear through the walls, screaming in Spanish all hours of the night and day
    10. Helium Comedy Club
    11. Working at Quirk Books, especially with my friend Jason Rekulak
    12. Smoking marijuana with Mayor Nutter inside the Liberty Bell
    13. The Franklin Mortgage, my favorite cocktail bar
    14. Digging up Ben Franklin’s grave on the 4th of July to do spells and stuff

    FPA: Who is your favorite kid athlete?

    DH: I don’t know if I have one. They were all fun to draw. I enjoyed drawing Bruce Lee because he had some cool scenes, and same for Babe Didrikson. I guess Babe Ruth’s story was the most interesting for me. His parents put him in an orphanage! That must have been tough. I like that Yao Ming’s parents were also super tall, and had special giant furniture installed in their house.

    FPA: You were a contestant on America’s Got Talent. Tell us something we don’t know about the show. Any story-worthy TV shenanigans?

    DH: I don’t have dirt on any stars that you’ve heard of. I have plenty of stories about the other contestants, but I doubt you remember Harmonica Pierre or The Maniacs. The best part of doing the show is hanging out with all the other contestants. There is a lot of down time on the show. You sit and wait for hours, and you’re together with all the other contestants, and you’re all bored out of your minds, so you end up performing for each other—playing music, dancing, doing magic tricks or telling jokes.

    While we were shooting in Las Vegas, I was hanging out with Michael Grasso, a contestant on the show who’s a magician. We were crossing through the casino lobby heading towards the elevators when someone recognized Michael. “Hey Magic Mike!” they yelled, “do a trick!” and they tossed a quarter at him.

    Michael is a great magician, but he’s not super personable. He doesn’t like talking to strangers, and he didn’t want to stop to talk to this guy. So, without breaking his stride, and using only one hand, he made the quarter disappear, then reappear, then become two quarters, then disappear again, and then we were in the elevator and the doors closed. It was pretty cool, and I still don’t know how he made the quarter multiply into two quarters. Does he always have a spare quarter taped to his wrist?

    FPA: If you had to invent a sport that would make you the best athlete/player of the sport in the world, what would it be?

    DH: Reading/Coffee Drinking/Napping triathlon

    FPA: For athletes, the meal they eat right before a match, race, etc. is really important to their performance. What is Doogie Horner’s ideal meal before he gets up on stage to do standup comedy?

    DH: It doesn’t matter. I know some comics don’t like to eat before they go on stage, but I don’t mind. When I first started performing, I was nervous so I’d have a few drinks before going on stage. After a while I got less nervous, but would still have a drink or two out of habit. At a certain point though, a couple years ago, I changed my performance style to be less deadpan, more natural and improvisational, so I had to stop drinking entirely because it slowed me down too much. Also it’s bad for your health to do that every single night; it’ll catch up with you.

    So anyhow, now before a show I usually don’t eat anything. I just drink some water. Maybe I’ll have some coffee or a Diet Coke if I’m tired. After the set I’ll maybe have a whiskey on the rocks or a salad. Most comedy club food is pretty bad though.

    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    Grab your tickets!


    DATE Saturday Nov. 14
    TIME Doors at 4:30PM, Show at 5PM
    LOCATION Christ Church Neighborhood House (20 N. American St., Philadelphia)
    Before Oct. 23: $13
    After Oct. 23: $15
    FPA Members: $12

    Children under 10 free.

    -Browse the Full First Person Arts Festival Schedule-


    Meet Our ‘Baddest’ Festival Artist



    David Crabb makes being bad look so dang good. His acclaimed one man show, Bad Kid, is a hilarious and harrowing tale about growing up gay and goth in Texas–making friends who he paints as “superheroes going to a funeral”, and experimenting with substances, both controlled and otherwise. The performance has been such a hit, that Harper Collins asked Crabb to adapt it into a book, which was published this year, and has been spotted in the hands of such celebrities as Kelly Osbourne.

    David is also a Moth StorySLAM host and winner (so you know he has serious storytelling skills), and The Wall Street Journal praised him as a performer capable of guiding a crowd “from belly laughs to pin-drop silence.”

    Grab your Bad Kid tickets here!

    FPA: What’s the “baddest” thing this bad kid has ever done?

    DC: Ask the IRS. No but really, our relationship is healing. Sallie May, however… That’s another story. As a kid there are just too many indecent acts to count. It’s all in the Bad Kid memoir. (See what I did there?) The answer more than likely relates to some household cleaning product I ingested.

    FPA: What’s a can’t miss goth accessory?

    DC: A dark & mysterious cloud of sexy solitude… or lonely horniness. Either one works. And an ankh. Every good bad kid needs an ankh.

    FPA: Tell us about your time in Australia hosting for the Moth. How does it compare to small town Texas?

    DC: Strangely, there’s a very similar “wide open frontier” feeling about Australia, minus the guns. Australia’s coffee is excellent and their city birds put america’s to shame. We have pigeons. They have fabulous, screeching, golden cockatoos that sound like high-drama drag queens who’ve lost their purses.

    FPA: We saw from Facebook that Kelly Osbourne, herself, is reading your book. Who else would you love to see Bad Kid in the hands of?

    DC: Speaking of drag queens, I would love RuPaul to read the book. Goth and Nuwave kids wear/wore their own sort of drag. I really feel like they’re the clowns of the alternative kids in that sense. I think Ru would appreciate that. I’d love erasure’s Andy Bell & Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant to read it, as the book references their music a lot. I’d love Morrissey to check it out, only to read his deliciously nasty review of it afterward. I’m sure he’d hate it. Hating things seems like it’s sort of his job now.

    FPA: This is our 14th Annual Festival. In honor of that, give us a 14-word story!

    DC: At 14 I was serenaded with Mariah Carey by the “Ariel” at SeaWorld.



    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    Grab your tickets!


    DATE Friday, Nov. 13
    TIME Doors at 8:30PM, Show at 9PM
    LOCATION Christ Church Neighborhood House (20 North American St., Philadelphia)
        Before Oct. 23: $13
        After Oct. 23: $15
        FPA Members: $12



    Meet Your 15th Season Grand Slam Host, Margot Leitman!

    Margot3_Credit Mindy Tucker


    It’s the most wonderful time of the year! (No, we’re not talking winter holidays yet. Sorry.) Autumn is rolling in, with our 14th Annual First Person Arts Festival Presented by PNC Arts Alive riding its coattails in the apple and pumpkin-scented wind.

    Comedic storyteller, writer, and teacher Margot Leitman hosts this year’s 15th Season Grand Slam at the Festival! (Psst! This show always sells out. Grab your tickets now!) An accomplished tale-spinner herself, Margot is a five-time Moth StorySLAM winner, Moth GrandSLAM winner, and the author of two books: Long Story Short: The Only Storytelling Guide You’ll Ever Need, and Gawky: Tales of an Extra Long Awkward Phase. She also co-hosts the hilarious sex-themed storytelling show Stripped Stories.

    Let’s get to know her!

    FPA: Margot, as co-host of storytelling’s sexiest show, Stripped Stories, what is the hottest, riskiest story you’ve ever told in front of a live audience?

    ML: Well, let’s just say I chose to tell it live and didn’t have it recorded for a reason. I can just picture my dad (who is quite computer savvy) Googling me and uncovering the sordid details of a mistake in judgment I made when I was 23. You just can’t un-see that!​

    FPA: You’ve just recently published a new book, Long Story Short: The Only Storytelling Guide You’ll ever Need. What’s your #1 tip for this season’s talented Grand Slam contestants?

    ML: It doesn’t need to be a “big story” i.e. a near death story about dangling from a cliff, to be a good story. As long as you were affected by what happened, even if it’s a “small story” like getting fired from a temp job, your audience will be on board. Passion and emotional response to the story you are recounting will take you very far. ​

    FPA: You’ve performed all over the world—from New York,​ to Australia, to Chicago,​ to LA. What do you love most about Philly audiences?​

    ML: Oh boy, are they smart! Very worldly. They get references that go above a lot of audience’s heads.

    FPA: Who is your storytelling hero/muse and why?

    ML: ​Is it cliche to say Spalding Gray? Does everyone say that? It’s true. I picked up his manuscript for Monster in a Box off the ​​shelf at my parents house one visit many years ago and read it in one sitting. I felt on fire afterwards because it inspired me so much. Reading his works and researching him changed me. It inspired me to start doing this, and seeing how far it took him drives me daily to see how far storytelling can take me. ​​​Or I guess I should say, how far I can take storytelling.​

    FPA: This is our 14th year Festival. In honor of that, share a 14-word story with us!

    ML: The same day as my bad car accident, I discovered my severe cat allergy. ​

    And there you have it! Click here to grab your 15th Season Grand Slam tickets and see Margot live!

    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    15th Season First Person Arts Grand Slam
    DATE Thursday, Nov. 5
    TIME Doors at 7PM, Show at 8PM
    LOCATION World Cafe Live, Downstairs (3025 Walnut St., Philadelphia)
           Before Oct. 23: $19
           After Oct. 23: $22
           FPA Members: $17


    -Hannah, Marketing Intern


    Tell Us Your Dream Themes!

    It’s that time of year again! We want to know what stories you’re dying to hear. Submit your juiciest, silliest, most heartstring-tugging, outrageous, and inspiring themes below for a chance to have your idea picked and programmed in FPA’s next StorySlam season (Season 16). Our winner(s) will also win 2 FREE TICKETS to the Slam on his/her/their theme(s)! Enter once, twice, or one hundred thousand times! The contest ends July 31!

    Upcoming Events
    • StorySlam: Windfall
    • Date: August 27, 2019
    • Time: 7:30 PM
    • Venue: CSZ Philadelphia
    • Location: 2030 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107