My brother and I learned early on into our youthful antics that it’s helpful to have a shorthand. When I read DTMM, the acronym for the excellent storytelling series Don’t Tell My Mother!, my thoughts flashed back to my teenage brother holding flaming juggling torches. “DTM,” he instructed me- don’t tell mom- before he literally played with fire. We quickly moved on to DTD- dad- and then the most secretive and confessional, DTA- don’t tell anyone. Decades later we still use these codes. I’m not surprised that writing about Don’t Tell My Mother! has elicited my overly personal introduction. This show creates an atmosphere of oversharing that is positively infectious. Who isn’t hiding something from their parents that they’re just dying to tell?
The monthly show goes up this Thursday at Bang Comedy Theater on Fairfax before moving to Cafe Fais Do-Do in the fall. Rotating guests include heavy hitters in the acting, writing and comedy worlds. Creator Nikki Levy, Vice President of Wedge Works World Wide at Fox, hosts each night and warms up the crowd with a story of her own. I caught last month’s Father’s Day edition, which Levy affectionately dubbed “the Father’s Day Dysfunction Show.”
Only a master storyteller can make dysfunction charming with out whitewashing the painful, juicy parts. Moments into Levy’s quirky story about her father’s affair with a Scientologist, I knew I was in capable hands. I’ve caught many storytelling shows around Los Angeles and while I appreciate the opportunity for amateurs to get onstage; I’ve been burned too many times. (One girl’s story about a dog, a dildo and Matchbox 20 tickets comes to mind.) Rather than feature gimmicky stories that aim for cheap laughs, DTMM resonates with craft and consideration. Later I learned that Levy develops the stories with each guest amounting to a taut show brimming with hilarity and rawness.
That night writer Amanda Marks blew me away with her story about artificial insemination. She described a secret rating code for donors that’s only given out if you know to ask for it. It’s like “ordering your sperm Animal style” she said, bringing the house down. Comedian Ari Shaffir candidly discussed his father’s stint in jail, a life changing event for his family, but all eight-year-old Ari wanted was a Mattel Electronic Football Game. Writer Ryan Knighton reinvents tension with his thrilling story about raising his daughter as a blind man. The show was rounded out with great performances from Tom Lenk, Laurie Kilmartin and Mary Lynn Rajskub.
This Thursday you can catch Don’t Tell My Mother! The Big, Gay Show featuring David Dean Bottrell (Boston Legal), the Frangela Duo (VH1’s Best Week Ever), Jen Kober (Curb Your Enthusiasm), The Lane Twins (Hollywood to Dollywood) and Jack Plotnick (Reno 911!) If you miss it, check out the DTMM website for podcasts and videos from the show. Have a secret that you can’t hold in any longer? Why not submit your story for consideration on the site? After all, this is equal opportunity purging.