“I’m in the green area” I say unhelpfully when Nikki calls, looking for me so we can start the interview. Twenty minutes later and some confusion about which “green area” I’m exactly talking about, I’m sitting down to lunch with Nikki Levy, the creator, producer and also performer of Don’t Tell My Mother: Stories About Sh*# You’d Never Want Your Mom To Know, a live comedy storytelling event that has been playing to sold out crowds since its inception seven months ago. Nikki, a successful film executive and producer at Fox, co-produces the show with Lizzie Czerner, which plays at the Bang Comedy Theater every month.
Nikki’s lifelong passion is comedy, so it’s not altogether surprising that after pursuing it in film, she decided to tackle theater. Asked how the idea for the show took root, she explains she wanted a place where her natural inclination to tell salacious, seemingly out of place stories was not only acceptable but actually welcome. “I wanted a place where it was appropriate to be inappropriate, where it was right to say the wrong thing, where it was celebrated.” She craved a space where it was ok to be crass and funny and vulgar and not be repressed or even chastised for it. “This is a place where you tell stories you don’t tell at cocktail parties, where you celebrate the mothers who f*cked you up” she finishes happily.
So she created it. The show is a live storytelling format, where 6 or 7 performers a night, actors, writers, and “real people” tell true embarrassing, horrific, funny stories that you would definitely not want your mother to know, no matter how close you are to her. Anything goes –as long as it’s true. The show, not surprisingly, is hilarious. There are stories about masturbating at the age of nine to your dad’s porn to an overweight young woman sneaking the brick of Costco American cheese into the bathroom –at three am- to avoid her mother’s rationing. It’s honest, blunt, and hilarious. It’s a brilliant idea.
When asked how she came up with this, she explains “Cheap Trick. You know Cheap Trick right?” After being forced to admit I have no clue what she is talking about, she explains that it was the song “Surrender” that gave her inspiration. I was driving home one day and I just heard this song on the radio… She breaks into song. “Mommy’s all right/ Daddy’s all right/ They just seem a little weird…” “I kept playing that song on a loop and I knew there was something in this.”
That “something” is pretty universal too. Mom and Dad are a little weird, and chances are, they made you a little weird too. No matter your age, demographic or sexual orientation, everyone has embarrassing moments, everyone has stories that they would die if their parents ever found out about.
“I have a great relationship with my mom, she is my best friend, I tell her everything. Well, almost everything… there are some things I manage to keep to myself!” I wish I were so lucky. The comment was actually reminiscent of the time I took my mom to my boyfriend’s open mike stand up, and what he talked about was the first time he did ecstasy. That was fun.
“See, you get it!” she laughs, “You can say anything.” “Real people” (like us non-industry plebeians) perform too.
The show boasts an impressive cast, featuring new people every month. Past performers include Drew Droege (New Girl, Up All Night), Lauren Weedman (The Five-Year Engagement, The Daily Show), Erin Foley (E!, Chelsea Lately), and Margot Leitman (Moth Grandslam Champion). The next show, appropriately playing May 10th in honor and celebration of Mother’s Day include Justin Halpern (Shit My Dad Says), actress Mary Birdsong (The Descendants, Reno 911), drag queen Kay Sedia (Chico’s Angels), comic Jen Kober (Treme), Huffington Post writer Mara Shapshay and Shelagh Ratner (VH1, Comedy Central). Nikki herself performs every night.
She is proud that the show, with the simple power of word of mouth and a great reputation, has been able to attract such great performers. People ask her for a chance to participate, are thrilled to be involved. “I never expected this kind of reaction,” she says. “Every show I’m nervous, every show is like the first one. I’m so excited and I’m also, like, I can’t believe this is happening.” Though it is still early, the show has been so successful there are plans to expand to New York, San Francisco, and they recently got asked to do a best of at the Comedy Central stage. This is where Comedy Central finds new, out-of-the-box note-worthy events and emerging talent: an incredible opportunity to showcase the amazing performances and the fresh inventiveness of the show.
When I joke about her running out of stories, she laughs it off. Not a chance. She has quite the arsenal. Which is lucky, because this show is destined for a long run. Brace yourselves, mothers.
The next show will be playing at the Bang Comedy Theater this May 10th. To find out more about the show and get tickets, visit: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/244093