Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: RISK!

Posted by Maximum Fun on 5th April 2010

Vital stats:
Format: true risky tales, told live and loosely clustered by theme
Duration: 30m-1h15m
Frequency: fortnightly
Archive available on iTunes: last 13

We’d all do well to remember that fortune favors the bold, that life is but a series of gambles, that those of use who refuse to take risks will near-certainly be condemned to lives with the richness and flavor of Cream of Wheat, etc., etc. But to repeatedly tell ourselves that is one thing — to hear concrete examples is quite another. One abundant source of such examples is RISK! [RSS] [iTunes], a NYC live-storytelling in the vein of The Moth but slightly saltier and subject to a thematic guideline: the tales told have to be about the teller’s taking a risk.

Anyone who clicked on the previous sentence’s second link knows that I like The Moth, but a version whose stories are all about risk, for me, puts it that much closer to the crack cocaine. The human cognitive predilection for stories is well-documented — and I strongly suspect that it might be crippling both literature and cinema, but that’s a screed for another day — but add the risk part and the attraction at least doubles. I know we’re all excessively risk-averse in this day and age. I know we’d lead more interesting lives if we took more risks. I just like to have it illustrated, preferably humor and theatrics.

RISK! suffers no lack of these qualities, since the risk-taking storytellers they get on stage tend to be established comedy and/or theater types. Andy Borowitz recalls his bold more, writing for The Facts of Life, to give the characters actual funny things to say. Ex-Mormon/ex-ex-Mormon/quasi-Mormon/Mormon Elna Baker voyages to darkest Africa to attempt, and fail, to learn the mystical secrets of sexual intercourse, then meets up with but tries not to go home with a man who’s surely the randiest 69-year-old celebrity of them all. And it wouldn’t be a bona fide story telling podcast without that storytellingest of storytellers, Mike Daisey. His own risk was taken in his collegiate days, when, high on coffee, he thought he’d make a statement by pasting up a few hundred racial slur-packed posters around his high school campus.

Some of these memories are only fit into the podcast’s mandate with a certain degree of stretching, but overall, there’s surprisingly little shoehorning. Almost all of these stories revolve around the taking of risks. Some of them center on surprisingly risky risks. Others still, which truly reach for the rainbow, are both about risks and are themselves risks, in that the teller actually stands a chance of misfire/flub/embarrassment/mass offense simply by virtue of telling them in public.

Though its mission is perhaps narrow, RISK! fills it about as well as can be expected. Its live nature, clinking glasses and all, scores several above-and-beyond points, since it prevents the feeling of take-forty overpolishedness you hear on certain other story-centric radio and podcast productions. The sour notes tend to come in the interstitial material, whenever host Kevin Allison decides to camp it up. He’s usually subdued and fine as a presenter, though occasionally — and it’s impossible to tell when — he’ll blow out the amplitude and affect a strangely exaggerated persona, forcibly inducing a few cringes. It’s totally inexplicable why he would choose to to this unless… you don’t suppose it’s just another form of risk-taking, do you?

[Got a podcast to suggest for Podthoughts? Got any suggestions as to how to take Podthoughts to the next level, no matter how wild? Send it all, without hesitation, to Podthinker Colin Marshall at colinjmarshall at gmail.]