To draw in and contract one’s muscles involuntarily: to cringe. The feeling you get when something is said that should not have been said. When somebody fails to act in the manner that is expected of them. To be awkward is unbecoming. But, if there is some sado masochistic part of you that feeds on the pain of an an awkward encounter, you should be coming to Erin Rodgers’ monthly comedic storytelling cringe-fest: Awkward. Recently I
sat down swapped emails with Rodgers to find out what made her want to put all her life’s most embarrassing moments on display.
What inspired the genesis of Awkward?
I’d co-produced a few shows and I really wanted to do a show myself. I’d been a big fan of Storytelling podcasts like the Moth for several years and after seeing the awesome Toronto MothUp (now Raconteurs) I thought it would be great to run a comedic storytelling show.
As for the theme, I’m a pretty awkward person. Having a show where I can tell stories of embarrassing myself basically turns every humiliation into a triumph (or at least that’s what I told myself when I tripped and punched a guy in the dick…seriously, that happened)
Can you describe the feeling of “awkward” without using the word embarrassing?
I think that it’s a feeling of exposure. Most of us spend every day trying to seem very adult and together. We have a public persona and we don’t want people to know that we make mistakes, are unsure of ourselves, or are “weird”.
“Awkward” is often, I think, the feeling of losing control. And sometimes it’s also a matter of unintentionally hurting someone else, then trying so hard to fix it that you make everything 300 times worse.
What do you think compels people to go on stage and share their most embarrassing experiences with strangers in the audience?
I’m not sure about everyone else but I know for me its two-fold:
1) My friends and I have been swapping these stories for years. I think a lot of times when any group of people get together there’s that part of the night, right near the end, where those stories of humiliation come out. They’re some of the funniest stories that you can tell, because everyone has had them and as a listener you can’t help but emotionally relate.
I think performers especially have a very intimate knowledge of awkward moments. As a performer (comedians especially) you’re going up in front of people and hoping that the audience will give you the reaction that you want. Get performers together and I guarantee you at some point everyone will be trading stories about bombing at some point
2) This is a bit of a cliché, but I think there’s something very therapeutic about telling (and listening to) these stories. The storyteller may have spent years feeling embarrassed about a particular moment in their life, and then suddenly they have a chance to turn it into something hilarious. Also, listening to these stories, I always feel less like a weirdo. Suddenly my most humiliating moments don’t seem so bad.
In your experience what makes something awkward? Is it something a person creates themselves or is it thrust upon them?
I think mostly its something you create yourself. Most people have had one of those nightmare “everyone points and laughs” moments, but those rarely happen after middle school (unless you are a member of the Kardashian family).
I think “awkward” is all about your reaction. Most of the time it’s a fleeting moment that the only the embarrassed person remembers (and remembers and remembers).
What’s the most awkward thing to ever happen at an Awkward show?
So far its been mostly awkwardness free. I said a performer’s name completely wrong once, and once my a performer came up in the middle of my intro because they thought I was done.
I think the most dramatic thing that has happened was on my way to a show when I didn’t realize my dress was almost all the way open through the majority of my ttc ride. The funniest part was after I told that story on stage someone came up after the show convinced I had made the story up as it was “too convenient”. It was the first time in my life that I had to convince someone that actually, no, I AM just that oblivious and dumb
Where and when can people see the show in the upcoming months?
Awkward is so pleased to call the Comedy Bar home. The show is the second Friday of every month at 8pm in the beautiful new Cabaret space (next show is Friday February 10th). I’m also excited to be presenting a special all gay Awkward at Buddies at Bad Times on Thursday March 15. The cast is stellar: Gavin Crawford of this Hour has 22 Minutes, Paul Bellini who wrote for Kids in the Hall, Andrew Johnston of Bitch Salad and Video on Trial and so many more.
All photos by Sharilyn Johnson
Follow Erin Rodgers on Twitter @AwkwardToronto