McKenzie and I don’t see enough shows together.
I’m a blue haired storyteller who writes and produces more than he creates and McKenzie is a cute bespectacled director of finance type. She volunteers-to-get-free-tickets because she LOVES theater.
So, when our couple’s counselor assured us, “You’ve been together for over a decade. You need to do more dedicated dates!” I suggested we go see a show.
We settled on seeing Chicago’s Greatest Living Storyteller, Nestor Gomez. He was performing his first full length solo show at the Steppenwolf Theater.
Your Driver Has Arrived chronicles his hilarious adventures in the rideshare business.
Cabbies are kind of my favorite storytellers. I can’t get into a Lyft without asking a million questions. They are a nexus for Hijinx. I’ve heard stories of FBI chases and fortune 1000 CEO meltdowns and a handful of too hot for TV tales. They have the best stories. (Cabbies definitely have the time + tragedy = comedy storytelling equation down.)
Nestor “The Boss” Gomez has his own book out on the subject which Your Driver has Arrived is based on.
McKenzie and I dressed up. Checked to see if any of our friends were also going. They were, so we coordinated to sit together. It was set to be a magical evening.
When You are an Artist it can be Hard to Close Your Critical Third Eye.
Save the Cat! Talks about two kinds of emotional responses to movies.
- That’s so horrible. I’m glad I’m not that guy. (Falling Down.)
- That’s so much fun, I felt like I escaped on a wild ride. (MCU.)
When you’re a writer and a performer there are four obvious responses to your peer’s work.
- An ignorant, I could have done it better.
- An envyous, I wish I’d done that.
- A painful, Oh, I could never do that.
- An inspired, I saw it and now I know I can do it too.
Nestor’s storytelling rests in that fourth spot. Because of his backstory: an immigrant with English as a second language, a boy with a stutter who longed to tell stories that made an audience giggle … his work never feels out of reach.
He became Chicago’s greatest storyteller by winning more Moth story slams than anyone before him. Outworking the prodigious Matthew Dicks, who wrote the seminal, “Story Worthy.”
Nestor showed up.
Showed up for you. Cares deeply about the audience. Wants to know what they are thinking and feeling. Ponders what they want to hear and searches for stories that fit in a sweet spot. He has a message, but that message comes in service to his audience.
I was entranced.
I am a masterful storyteller and a better teacher. As proud as I am about my own work in this genre, there are many facets of storytelling. I am not good at them all. One that I haven’t conquered is the full length show. Commanding an audience for 60-90 minutes, just you on the stage.
Yes. I’ve had full length shows. But they weren’t great.
Nestor at His Best.
It is hard to take vignettes and string them together.
It is difficult to use an entire stage when you’re used to going up and standing still in front of a microphone. Storytelling is always a conversation with the audience. You’re telling a story, but that story shifts under you as you riff with the audience’s energy. You’re creating with them. But when you go over 8 minutes that collaborative creation process strains.
My attention to Nestor never strained.
The stories he told, felt like obvious back and forths where there was time to chuckle and guffaw. Time to feel the emotional weight of a cop pulling him over and threatening his livelihood.
Most of all, when I left that night, I wasn’t crushed by jealousy. Because the show was so conversational and fun that it put my critical third eye to sleep. I got to see a storytelling show, for the first time in a long time, by just taking it in.
As we walked out into the Fall Chicago night, McKenzie asked, “Why you don’t you do stuff like that?”
A month later I know the answer is, it’s harder than it looks. But in the moment, having watched him, I stated loudly, “I don’t know, but now I want to!”
Nestor’s won so many Moth story slams because he gives everyone the feeling of, “That was awesome. I could be awesome too.”
There are artists who make it look easy.
Then there are the greats like Nestor who make it look accessible.
To see what Nestor is up to the month, check him out here.