Take a RISK! and Head to Caveat for Comedy in the Lower East Side on August 22
We all love a good live comedy show—particularly if the show is a wild card and you don’t know where it’s going to take you on any given night.
That’s why RISK!—which is both a live show and a podcast—has been so wildly popular for the last 10 years.
The premise of RISK! is that people from all walks of life come on stage and share stories that they never dreamed they would divulge in front of a live audience. What they share can fluctuate from the highly laughable to the tear-inducing, all within the span of a single story.
There’s something slightly voyeuristic in watching another person air their dirty laundry, and yet, the show’s purpose is never to shame or judge. In fact, RISK! creator and show host Kevin Allison says that it’s somewhat cathartic to both get a story off of your chest and listen to a story you might be able to relate to. It might make you feel less alone out there.
Music & Mojitos recently spoke with Kevin in advance of the August 22nd Show of RISK! at Caveat in the Lower East Side. August marks 10 years since RISK! was first produced, which is truly a lifetime in the media and entertainment industry. Check out what Kevin had to say about the show’s origins, how it feels to look back on 10 years of success, and what compels people to share their deepest, darkest secrets to a room full of strangers.
Q: How did you initially come up with the idea for RISK? What inspired you to create the show?
A: My sketch comedy group The State had a show on MTV in the 90s. When the group broke up, I spent the next decade or so attempting a solo career acting like crazy, kooky characters onstage alone. In 2009, Michael Ian Black said to me, "Why don't you drop the act? Take the mask off and tell your own true stories." I said, "That sounds too risky." He said, "That's the idea! If it feels risky, it means you're opening up, so audiences will start opening up more to you." So I tried telling a story that week at a show at UCB Chelsea about the first time I tried prostitution when I was 22. It was terrifying, but a huge hit. So I knew that very night I had to create a show where people tell true stories they never thought they'd dare to share in public.
Q: What do you think it is about this particular type of comedy that continually draws people out to the show?
A: Well, RISK! is an emotional roller coaster ride. What our audiences find so exciting about it is that a story can start out getting huge laughs...then take a shockingly stunning turn. Some of our stories are downright terrifying or so beautiful you can't help but cry. One interviewer said to me, "I saw the show, and kind of felt like I'd gone to an emotional nudist colony." There's a real "anything goes" attitude about what people are revealing up there. So there's always lots of laughter, but all the other jaw-dropping stuff that life can throw at you is just as likely to show up in the experience.
Q: It makes sense why someone would want to be in the audience for the show…but why do you think a person would be willing to share their deepest, darkest secrets with a room full of strangers?
A: A few reasons. It's surprisingly cathartic and clarifying to dig into your memories and make sense of them. It's a way of re-experiencing your best or worst moments, but with the emotional intelligence that comes with being just a little bit older now. But also, there's a ton of good feeling that comes from feeling like you're sharing something that might give others some insights, give them some vicarious experiences that they can get something positive from too. And they REALLY do. Every single day we get emails from people saying, "This show truly saved my life," or "I was a much more narrow-minded and less compassionate person before I started listening to this show." That's priceless.
Q: RISK! is coming up on it's 10 Year Anniversary. Looking back, what is one of your proudest moments from the show?
A: It's when people write in to say things like, "I was raped, but because I was listening to this show for all these years, I knew it wasn't my fault and I knew I had to get help," or, "This show saved our marriage because we learned how kinky we are from hearing other people daring to be that way," or, "Being a fan of this show was what finally convinced me to give up my job in finance and become a social worker," or, "When I'm feeling hopeless, I know I can turn on an episode of RISK! and end up laughing so hard, I cry."
That's the main reason we've never quit. The entertainment industry does not really value quality, honesty, talent or hard work first and foremost. About 95% of the time, what they prioritize above all those things is celebrity and buzz. So for this little podcast that has never had access to all the money of the National Public Radio machine or the other big podcasting networks owned by multi-millionaires to still be plugging away ten years later is a real testament to how much our fans and our staff believe in what we're doing. This is a very, very hard show to produce. But we know that it's a huge contribution to the national cultural discourse. We never give up hope that millions more listeners will discover the show one day.
Q: What do you envision for RISK! in the future?
A: To just keep on keeping on! We're working on so many stories right now that are just astonishing. People who have survived cults... or rescued kids from child sex rings... or came face to face with racist police brutality... or tried kinky play so wild it would make you blush... or survived extremely rare and devastating diseases... or met the Virgin Mary while tripping on shrooms. Anyone who has ever felt vulnerable, or freaky, or emotionally overwhelmed... they should know they have a show that won't censor them but that will always be daring people to dig deeper and reveal even more.
Take a RISK! and see the show for yourself. You can purhcase tickets for the August 22nd show at Caveat in the Lower East Side HERE.
Banner photo by Mindy Tucker.