One of the greatest moments of the last four years.

“I hear what you’re saying.”

He pressed his lips together, and squinted a little in suspicion. “But why? Isn’t that just Misery Porn?”

I was working with my friend Chris on a story he was going to tell at my live show. Chris (who I’ve written about before, here and here) is one of my favourite storytellers of all time, and I’d been excited to sit down with him.

The story is about him reading to his dying mother in hospital. He’d done a version of it at another storytelling show a few weeks before – and there, had played the whole thing for laughs.

As we sat down and talked through the story, I convinced him to pull in the sadness of the situation. To mire us in the grief that he felt, before the funny reveal comes.

Now, he was asking why.

One of the things I LOVE about workshopping stories with Chris, is that he often questions the suggestions I make. Since they always come from a gut response, his questions force me to figure out why I had that instinct, what the reasoning is behind it.

I thought about it for a minute. Then I began,

“Three reasons:

“The first is that, when we talk about death, it’s usually in one of two ways. Either we sensationalise it – TV or news story murders – or we talk about it in euphemism – ‘she passed away;’ ‘he lost his battle with cancer.’

“It’s important that we tell stories that highlight the mundanity of death. The boredom of the hours of pain we feel, watching someone die while there’s nothing we can do. It feels important to do that in public.”

He nodded, and said, “In another part of the longer piece” – this story is part of a one-man show Chris is working on – “I talk about the admin of death, the endless bureaucracy of it.”

“Awesome.” I carried on. “The second reason I think the sadness should be in here, is because, when the laugh comes, it’ll be so much more full-bodied. Laughing is fun anywhere. But when it comes after a heavy story, it’s a release. And more than that, by this point we really care about you, and about your mum. So there’s power behind what’s funny.”

“Ok, good point.”

“But what I think is the most important thing: when you tell a story that’s heavy and sad – it makes us really FEEL something. We’re so desperate for connection. We crave it as humans, we need it to stay alive. And the way our society is, it’s getting harder and harder to feel that sense of connection. We can get a little hit of it from going on Facebook, but it’s not substantial.

“When we hear a story like this, and it makes us feel that powerful grief that you felt – even more, when we hear it in a room full of other people who are feeling it right alongside us – it connects us all, in a really powerful way.

“That stays with us. Hearing a funny story is nice. But it’s not the one you’ll remember for weeks afterwards.

“Don’t deny us that sense of connection by leaving out the powerful emotions.”

Chris agreed to try it out.

Two weeks later, he told the story to a packed room of over 150 people – and it was perfect. One of my favourite moments in the show’s history, when the laugh finally came, it was a ROAR.

Here – listen for yourself:

Please don’t be afraid to pull in the heavier or sadder elements of your stories. Your audience, or readers, will thank you for it.

 

Chris runs an organisation called TellPeople, where they use brain science and storytelling techniques to make you better at talking to everyone. Find out more (and look at their VERY pretty website) at Tellpeople.ca.

Don’t be afraid of telling sad stories. Your audience will thank you.
(
TWEET THIS HERE)

 

If you’d like help figuring out how best to do that, that’s my zone of genius and the thing I love to do the most! Have a look at how it works at yesyesmarsha.com/storycoaching, or book in a (free!) 15 minute chat with me, HERE.

Thanks so much for reading! What did you think – either of Chris’ story, or of the idea of keeping the sad part in? Let me know in the comments, below! If you can think of someone else who’d enjoy this – maybe because they have stories with black humour – you can share it with them using one of the round buttons below.

You rule!

xx (Yes Yes) Marsha

PS want to know my best-ever client secret – and get even more advice, tips, plus stories that I won’t put on the internet? Come and join the Yes Yes Family – it’s free! Just pop your details in below:

4 Comments

  • Donata

    Reply Reply May 9, 2017

    Thanks for sharing this story. I loved the show, I was there when he shared the story and it was probably my favourite one! It was so real and you barely hear stories like these. Thank you Marsha for the inspiring work you do!

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Thanks so much, Donata! So glad you liked the story, especially as someone who saw this happen live!
      :)
      xxyyM

  • Marylin

    Reply Reply July 25, 2017

    So I started watching this… with my 12 year old son. Oh! My! God! The cringing and laughter in equal measures! Absolutely fantastic <3

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      I’m so glad you guys enjoyed this!! And what a terrible/totally perfect person to watch it with!!!

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field