The wonderful storytelling event, Sunday Night Sex Talks, is making its way back to New York. Created by storyteller Jessie Rosen, the show gives performers a chance to share a deeply personal, sexual story with an audience.
The audience has to swear to a Vow of Silence, ensuring that the stories can be as detailed and explicit as possible. The Knockturnal got to attend the latest co-ed show, this past Sunday in New York. And while we can’t recap the stories told, we got to interview the incredible Jessie Rosen about the creation of the show. Additionally, we sat down with Corrine Fisher and Krystyna Hutchinson, creators of the GUYS WE’VE F****D podcast, and two of the evening’s performers.
What inspired you to make this show, both as a performer and as a storyteller?
Jessie Rosen: Two reasons. One, because I was looking for a way to enter the storytelling community in Lost Angeles. There’s so much great storytelling there, and in New York, and I just felt like a lot of the categories were covered. So I was looking for something that was important to me, that we could approach in a way that I thought would enhance the cultural conversation. Not just a storytelling show with a theme every month, but what could make a buzz, or give people something to think about, and have them leave with a little bit of knowledge and edge to it. That was the inspiration. Sunday Night Sex Talks was something that I did as a get-together in college. It was a group of friends that sat down and talked about our sex lives with a boxed wine. It was just something that we called “Sunday Night Sex Talks,” and it had always been such a powerful and fun communication thing. Just to get things off our chest and hear what was weird, or hear what people were going through. I remembered that from college, and thought “what if I could combine my desires, and start a storytelling show, and bring back this thing that was so fun, and also such a source of knowledge?”
How has it evolved and grown since it started out?
Rosen: Well, Sunday Night Sex talks will be celebrating five years in L.A. this October. We started this show in a very different capacity. It was started, and still exists every month, in one variety, as a “No Boys Allowed” environment. So we do shows with no men on stage, and no men in the audience. We call that our “Original Show.” That’s how it was founded, and those shows are really special. Interesting things come up, as it’s a storytelling environment that’s single-sex – all of those things have been so fascinating to me. But we felt like we were missing half the conversation. So we wanted to keep this special women’s only environment, just because it’s one of the only shows like that in the world. So while we wanted to do a co-ed show, I wanted to make sure that we maintained both shows. The co-ed shows will sometimes feature male and female performers, and sometimes just female performers with co-ed audiences. We felt like, all of this information being shared, all these confessions, all these things that could perhaps take your own intimate life a step further… it was a miss to not have both men and women in the room. So we started doing them at UCB on the West Coast, but we had never done them here. For a period of time, a couple of years ago, we were doing our “No Boys Allowed” shows here in New York – also at Le Poisson Rouge, in the Gallery space. So when we proposed the idea of coming back to them, and doing a co-ed show, they were like “Yeah, but let’s do it big. Let’s do it an official, large-scale event.”
For the shows where you have two performers come on at once, is it more like a conversation than a performance at that point?
Rosen: When we feature a couple at the co-ed shows, telling a story together, it starts, I think, with them having prepared a story. Much like any storyteller would prepare. And then – this happens at all the shows, I think – there’s something about the vulnerability of the moment, and the warmth of the room, that it does become like a “Did you really think that when it was happening?” It gets to that point. Because so often, especially with the couples, these are things that they’d never talked about before. And this is, potentially, about sex or some kind of intimate act that they’ve shared together! Yet they’ve never unpacked it, and then talked about it, in a way that’s for fun and entertainment. But also, we sometimes have stories that have a little more heart and vulnerability – more so with the single-performer stories – that have levity and strength, but have a little bit of darkness, you know? The theme of tonight is “Mistakes,” so you’ll be hearing some stories that have that cautionary tale to them.
So although it’s billed as a slightly more comedic show, you do have those performers that delve into more serious subject matter?
Rosen: Yeah. That’s the way it’s changed over the years. If one thing has really changed, it’s that the show started as a broader, sexcapades stories of conquests. And then slowly but surely – and I think this started because of the intimacy of the women’s only space – that I would start getting emails with story pitches that say “I’ve been to your show, and the room seems like it can handle this story. What do you think?” And they would always have levity and humor, but they would go to some darker and more challenging places. Breakup stories, stories of abuse survivors…. things like that, that really morphed the show into a new space. Where you know you’re going to hear something powerful, and educational, and deeply entertaining. But you’re prepared to maybe handle something. Elna Baker, who will be performing tonight, is telling a story that has more of that to it, and she’s a total pro. I’m excited for that one.
How much of the show, do you think, relies on the fact that you don’t tape the performances, or share the stories outside of the show?
Rosen: I think it’s key. Funny story about that, I was at a cafe in L.A. somewhere, and I overheard some girls talking about a story. And I didn’t realize they were talking about a performance they’d seen, and I certainly didn’t realize they were talking about my show. At the end of the story, the girl said “but that’s all I can say about it, because I took a Vow of Silence.” It was so special to me, because I think that people so respect what it takes to get up here and share the intimate details of you sex life, that they feel like they got something really special, and they don’t want to give it away. I would love to believe that no one says anything when they leave this room. I’m sure that’s not true, as there have been some stories in L.A. with celebrities involved, so I’m sure they have been spread along. But for the performers, I think it’s a chance to go a little bit further. So we will do a Vow of Silence, at the beginning, but sometimes a performer will get up there and be like “before I start this, remember you swore.”
Have you ever considered doing something a little different than this, that you would put out in maybe a podcast form?
Rosen: We’ve talked about it a lot. We’ve talked about everything from an “okay, what’s happening in this room is important to us, in terms of safe sex education, and in terms of people evolving and having great sex in their lives” perspective. But we also talk about the fact that there’s so little live event experience that only happens live. So if we were to do a podcast, or digital experience, I think we would always want to preserve the sanctity of this event, and then do something a little bit different than broadcasting the same experience.
I noticed that two of tonight’s performers are from the “Guys We’ve F****D Podcast.”
Rosen: Yeah, which I’m so excited about it. I’m such a fan of theirs. I think that we’re doing it in different ways, but our message is the same, which is that shame & sex have so long gone hand in hand. And the more we get in these environments, say things out loud, and see that we’re okay – my parents are going to be here – see that your parents can handle it… just to see that there’s nothing to be ashamed of, then the more conversations we can have prevent further heartbreak or abuse. So I’m very glad to have them here to support that.
I know your podcast (GUYS WE’VE F****D) is in a similar vein to this show, but how did you prepare differently for this show than your own show?
Krystyna Hutchinson: Well, I know what story I’m telling.
Corinne Fisher: Yeah, I was gonna say, we don’t really prepare for the podcast.
Hutchinson: That’s the beauty of it. We just talk off the top of our heads, so that it’s as honest as possible. Sometimes we prepare if it’s a subject that we need to learn about, prior to interviewing somebody, but other than that we just go in and let the conversation happen. The most prep goes into finding the guests.
Fisher: For me, I did storytelling for many years before I did stand up. So this is more like going back to my roots, doing the stuff that I did before.
Hutchinson: And these are stories that I’ve told before, though I haven’t told them on stage. But they’re very fitting for this, so I’m excited.
How did you prepare for not only the comedy, but the more personal elements of your stories?
Hutchinson: You know, just by reliving all the horrible moments I’m about to share with everyone onstage. Checking in with my senses at each turning point in the story.
Fisher: I think when your’e doing stand-up, you’re very concerned with the laugh. And when you’re telling a story, you can take the time and enjoy the silence. If there’s a lot of silence during stand-up, you can enjoy it if you hate yourself, but it’s not good. But when you’re telling a story, there can be laughs, and there can be several minutes of information, or sadness. And I love storytelling, because you can get pretty sad and pretty funny, whereas with stand-up… you can get sad, but you can’t get THAT sad.
Hutchinson: Yeah, it’s your responsibility to keep the room up. Storytelling, you just gotta tell the story.
Fisher: It’s a different environment. People are prepared for something else. Expectations have a lot to do with how a show goes. So if I’m going to a show, expecting to laugh, I better f*****g laugh. With storytelling, you just want to hear about somebody’s life and experiences, and anyone who’s lived, like, a day, knows that isn’t always funny.
Have you guys ever done this show before, or anything like it?
Hutchinson: We’ve both done sexual storytelling – “Awkward Sex and the City” is the first one that comes to mind. And we talk a lot about it on the podcast. So we’re prepared.
Fisher: I used to work with a storyteller who’s been on the podcast named David Crabb. And he’s wonderful, won The Moth a bunch of times. He used to run a lot of shows in bars and dungeon-like places, where I told these stories many years ago and haven’t told since. I’m telling a story tonight that I’ve never told on the podcast before.
Hutchinson: Ooo, exclusive.
What’s it like going into the show, knowing it’s not being recorded in any way?
Hutchinson: It’s really kind of nice.
Fisher: Yeah! Last names will be used. It’ll be fun.
Hutchinson: I was thinking of actually switching up my story to tell something I’m not planning to do on the podcast. That’s nice, just to keep something for the people who are hearing them as you’re telling them. I forgot that was something special.
Fisher: And this is also an opportunity where, if you eventually want to share something, but it’s not ready yet, this is a nice opportunity to workshop it. Especially since, once it’s out on the podcast, everyone knows it. (laughs) Not that everyone listens to the podcast, but like, TOO many people for it to be a secret.
Hutchinson: And then I’ll tell a friend, and they’ll be like “yeah, I know, I heard,” and I’m like “god damn it. Can you not listen?”
Fisher: Yeah, like, “our friendship is dying.”