Tell a true story you would never dare share with the public. This is the premise behind Kevin Allison’s storytelling podcast and live show, RISK! coming to Boston this week. As creator and host, Allison, a former sketch comedy star and alum of MTV’s “The State,” has steadily grown the podcast audience to a million monthly downloads since it began in 2009. This week Allison is headed to Harvard Square Books on July 19 for a reading and signing of RISK!: True Stories People Never Thought They’d Dare To Share. The following evening, Allison will host RISK! live at Arts at the Armory featuring Boston area storytellers Lucas Brooks, Matthew, Dicks, John Ball, Tori and Roy Lazorwitz. We caught up with Allison ahead of his upcoming events to chat group therapy, verbal selfies and daring to be authentic.
What’s the process like at RISK!? We started in August 2009 and we’ve very gradually grown a podcast audience over the years. It’s the fans of the podcast who reach out to us and say stuff like how they healed their relationship with their mother. Then we really work with people. They go through several drafts of their story with us to make sure that they process what they’re talking about and are able to get up on stage and share it.
Why are audiences so captivated by this kind of storytelling? It’s so very human and when you’re immersed in it it really does make you feel more connected in a fundamental way to your fellow humanity. We’re used to a lot of screaming, tiny soundbites and media that is just not very authentic. It’s a little bit too manipulative and fictional … When you hear someone being as honest as they possibly can and walking you through in great detail exactly how they felt, what they saw, what was going on in their body and what they actually said in these kind of peak experience moments in life, you kind of have a vicarious experience with them. There’s just something very cathartic about it. It’s a little bit similar to what happens sometimes in a group therapy setting.
What was the drive behind starting the podcast? From the very beginning it was about what if I stopped playing all these kooky characters and trying to be what other people in the industry might want me to be? What if I dared to be as authentic as I could. And in that process of doing it myself I started to learn how powerful all of this really is.
And with RISK! you’re enabling people who go on the show to do the same. Absolutely! Very early on in the podcast’s history, a listener wanted to share her story about how she was molested by a family member at very young age. She shared that story on the show and it was so emotional and so moving. A week later she wrote to me and said, “That helped me process this more than in the 10 years of therapy prior.”
I always tell people that when you do share a story on RISK you might think, oh this is kind of like a verbal selfie. It’s all about me and I’m just blabbering away at people. But there’s something about the real emotion and the way that people walk you through their thoughts and feelings that can be resonant regardless of whether or not they have a lifestyle at all like yours.
What do you people take away from the experience? How important it is to be as honest, open and intimate with the people in your lives as you can be. And to err on the side of living a little riskily. I hope that it does encourage people to live as fully as they can.