Los Angeles Theater Review: RANT & RAVE CHAPTER 61: JUSTICE (Rogue Machine Theatre)

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by Jason Rohrer on September 11, 2015

in Theater-Los Angeles


Almost a month ago, I went to Rogue Machine’s storytelling night for the first time. You know storytelling nights – they’re like poetry slams, only whiter and less political, and you can be incapable of a rhyme scheme and still do okay. Storytelling nights have replaced karaoke at hipper-than-thou bars, and public radio producers have jumped on them like reality TV minus the fat kid – and those are just the comparisons I came up with for the first paragraph of a review I should have written three weeks back, when I could remember anything anybody said. Actually, I remember everything everybody said. But of course, I’m going to talk about more than somebody else’s stories.

Over the years I’d learned not to love storytelling nights. Back before they were cool, I used to monologue all the time, generally at parties, to people too polite to say “You are a drunken bore.” I got a lot of mileage out of the one about the girl who I drove all the way to New York because we were never going to have sex anyway and I just wanted her out of L.A. Then The Moth happened, or I heard about it, which, same thing. So I started going to storytelling nights fairly regularly. Sometimes I told the story of cleaning out my dad’s apartment after his suicide while my uncle’s incredibly annoying girlfriend kept asking me why I didn’t have a better career, and my realization after the fact that she had actually done me a favor by giving my horror an immediate focus. That’s a good story. That one’ll get you laid.

But the thing about a storytelling night is that you can only get the mike if a) it’s not very well-run or well-attended, or b) you know who’s running it, in which case, probably, a). The better-organized the storytelling night, the more likely it’s got a theme, and that you’re just one of 75 people who puts a name in a jar and buys an $11 drink and a $14 sandwich and goes home without having sex. I have one of those stories too but it’s not one of my best, and I can only tell it if a storytelling night has a default “Dumbest Thing I Ever Did” theme. Many do. But if it has a more specific theme, like “Poodles” or something else I don’t like, then I don’t tell that one.

And whether the event is run well or poorly, you’ve got a pretty good chance not only of not getting to impress some girl, but also of having to listen to a lot of meandering self-interest from people who don’t know a story’s supposed to either have a point or be funny. The not very well-run events will put you through a half-dozen of those. They’re like open-mike nights only without the opportunity to hit on a first-time standup at her lowest point of self-esteem. Because at a storytelling night, unlike at a comedy club, everybody tells you nice things even if I think you suck.

ron-bottitta-01But I follow Ron Bottitta all over town, because I respond well to excellence, and it turns out that when he’s not acting in plays or movies or this commercial, he hosts a storytelling night at Rogue Machine. It’s called Rant & Rave, and it has a podcast, but in itself that’s not impressive; every storytelling night has at least one podcast. I have a podcast. The news is that Rant & Rave is one of the well-organized ones. It goes up the third Monday of the month. I have a podcast. John Pollono produces the thing (in August, with Chris Monger and Sara Fenton) well enough that Rant & Rave has played for years, over sixty times now, and it’s hugely popular. The night I attended was so crowded, the stage was completely filled with chairs, barely leaving room for a storyteller and a microphone. I have a podcast.

The Rogue Machine lobby has very cheap beer and wine, which is outstanding and almost unheard-of for a storytelling event of this caliber. But the second-best part of this particular event is that all the storytellers are always writers. As storytelling-night gimmicks go, this is a good one, especially for me, because I am a writer. Bottitta was too busy to say hello to me or even wave, what with running things and telling his own stories about playing around on the internet, none of which seemed designed to get him laid. Maybe he had a deeper plan. I had a plan, too. I planned to get on the stage and start telling stories, like the one about how I saved a little kid from drowning at Capitola and carried him up to his mother for a kiss, and I didn’t even throw the kid back in the water when I found out his mom was married to a fucking fireman. Like I have a chance against that. That’s not a good story actually.

It doesn’t matter since I didn’t get to tell any story that night, because pretty soon I realized that this lineup had been picked ahead of time. There’s a waiting list, even. I got on it, despite feeling cheated by sitting all the way through the thing when they knew there was no chance I’d get to tell a story. Probably though they’ll read this and put me on the next time, even though they said they were booked up for months. You can’t believe it when people say things are already set. There’s always accommodations they can make. It’s how Hollywood works. And look, I’m writing about them.

rant&rave62posterMEDIAThe August Rant & Rave theme was “Justice.” As far as the stories that were told, while I don’t like to praise the competition, I have to say that it was very strong material. One woman made the story of getting raped by a jingle composer both harrowing and humorous, which I appreciated, especially when the rapist died. I saw another woman do much the same funny-sad balance with a story about getting put in prison for a protest march in college. A black guy did a really slick move, making it seem like his story was about a terrible discount airline experience but flipping it into a racial thing, and including how black people get shot a lot. I bet he got laid that night. Also this white guy told a story about kicking somebody’s ass in college, and pranking his friend who messed with his girlfriend. He also probably got laid. Chicks dig ass-kicking and they love feeling sorry for you when your girlfriend cheated. That story is almost too perfect.

Two brothers told about when one of them took a bunch of heroin and got shot during a robbery while the other brother was in acting school getting rid of a lisp. Then the heroin brother got 14 years of sobriety. Their story was funny, and guys who tell getting-sober stories always get laid – I got sober – and the other brother really let him have the limelight, which is unlike a lot of brothers I know. I wouldn’t have done it, but I don’t have a brother. I have a podcast. Another woman told a story about getting molested by her father, which was a bummer, and not funny at all, except for one part when she said her husband wasn’t going to get a blowjob after he made a blowjob joke about her and her dad. That story was upsetting.

Honestly I don’t know why women do storytelling nights. For instance, the women’s stories that night were traumatic and touching and moving, thought-provoking. But making me cry isn’t going to work the same on me. I’m not a girl. It’s like they’re not there for the same reasons I am. I’m going to try and get ahold of Bottitta before the next one, which is on the 21st I think. This one’s theme is “Media.” I know they say they’ve already got a lineup, but I have some really good media stories. Like: I was in a commercial once, for golf clubs, and this makeup girl totally almost went home with me.

Rant & Rave Chapter 61: Justice
Rogue Machine at Theatre Theater
5041 W Pico Blvd
coming up:
Rant & Rave Chapter 62: Media
Monday, September 21, 2015 at 8 pm
for tickets, visit www.roguemachinetheatre.com
for more information, visit Facebook


John Pollono September 12, 2015 at 11:13 am

Thanks for the well-thought out words, Mr. Rohrer. I always enjoy reading your pieces.

For the record, the show was actually created by me and Roxanne Hart. She no longer produces but the format and spirit of Rant and Rave were borne out of our collaboration.

Looking forward to having you tell a Rant story.

Jason Rohrer September 12, 2015 at 12:05 pm

Mr Pollono, do you really think I’m going to do my homework and get my facts straight for Rant & Rave, after I sat through that whole evening of other people’s stories, all better than the ones I can come up with, the whole evening making me feel small and less-than without even getting to tell as much as an anecdote to the person next to me, who actually changed seats at intermission so that I had beside me the only empty seat on Pico Boulevard? I am not that reporter, sir. I am simply not that guy. Thank you for your information. I didn’t mean to imply that Bottitta had created the thing. He in fact told me he hadn’t created it. I just didn’t follow up to ask who did, because I don’t usually care about stuff that isn’t me-adjacent. Although I did watch The Verdict again a few weeks ago, and I’d forgotten Roxanne Hart is in that. She’s excellent in it. That’s a hell of a picture, I tell you. Damn.

Jason Rohrer September 12, 2015 at 12:17 pm

Also: I may have misrepresented my relationship with you when I was emailing your producer Sara about getting on the show. I was trying to impress her, and I probably gave the impression we’d met more than once, and that I’d played games-night with your family for years and years and that we all took vacations together. I was trying to impress her in hopes of getting on the show. So please, if she asks you, tell her we went to college together or something. Thanks. Is she married?

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