Fans smart enough to watch MTV's cult sketch-comedy series, The State, have enjoyed Kevin Allison since the mid-'90s. When the series went off the air after four seasons, the troupe of funny folks stuck together--working on various movies, TV shows, and book projects--while Allison kept himself slightly apart, eager, it seemed, to find his own voice.
After a rough 10 years of unfulfilling part-time jobs and unsatisfying one-man shows, Allison has found his place in listeners' ear buds with his new podcast, Risk!.
The show invites people to tell true stories they never though they'd ever share in public. As Allison explains, it actually came out of his own admissions during morning check-ins with the staff at MTV over a decade ago. Unashamed and unfiltered, Allison would shock and make his co-workers laugh with his sexual romps from the night before. Now he's taken the brand of outlandish storytelling and transformed it into a portal of honesty for storytellers and fans alike.
Ahead of his next podcast, which is recorded live, Allison talked to Out about embracing the freaky side of life and having no fear when it comes to owning it.
On how he discovered (and embraced) the art of storytelling:
Following some advice from Michael Ian Black, I came back to New York and I talked to Margot Leitman about doing her storytelling show. I had never seen The Moth or anything like that. But I wanted to try telling my own story. And I thought it should be super risky, so I decided to tell about the first time I tried prostituting myself when I was about 22 years old. I say, "Tried," because it was like a comedy of errors.
At the time, it was only horrifying. But I was so nervous that the day of these how I called Margot and said, "I think I have to back out. I can't do this." And to my surprise she said, "Oh, that's such great news!" I said, "Why? You're overbooked or something?" She said: "No, there are people who get onstage about six nights a week, but when it comes to telling the truth, it wigs them out. So when someone comes to me and says, 'I don't think I can do this,' that's the one that is going to bring the house down, that the audience is going to be like, 'This is such a risk, I love it!' " And that's exactly what happened!
On how other storytellers have overcome their fears:
The first story Mollena Williams shared with us was a classic. She's a big lady, so she had a lot of shame about being fat. She shared this story about meeting this guy in San Francisco and the two of them had this amazing connection. At one point during sex, he grabs the folds of her belly and she instinctively slaps his hand away. He doesn't quite know what that's about, so he does it again and she slaps it away. He does it again and she stops the sex entirely and says, "Could you please not do that. I hate that part of my body." And he said, "No I will not stop doing it because I love that part of your body!" And she said her brain exploded. It was a wonderful moment for her. She started to accept her body. Then the story ended and she was explaining how she would be walking down the street and there would be a much bigger woman nearby and his head would turn and she'd say to him, "God I love you, you mother fucker!"
On the adventures that eventually spawned the podcast:
I'd always be the guy who would show up at a place like Wonder Bar, which used to be a little hole in the wall on Avenue A. In the back was a dark room. It was tiny. It wasn't big enough to be a room for anything. So they kept the lights off in there and dudes would come and have beers at the bar. But within 20 minutes, I'd always disappear to the back room. And there was this period where I kept getting my wallet stolen back there. I said to my friends, "I came up with a solution!" I had a Harley Davidson chain that kept my pocket snapped to my jeans. So I went back that night and came out and the wallet had been taken off the chain!
On dating--then and now:
The funny thing is, throughout my twenties, I was so anxious about my looks and I was very awkward. I had very little luck with dating. Then I got married for nine years. It was an open relationship, but not very open--monogamish. But when that ended, I was 41 and back in the dating scene, which I was always uncomfortable in. Nope. I'm a type now! When I grow a beard all of a sudden it was like, "Hey daddy!" So dating in my forties is so much easier than in my twenties. In my twenties, I guess I didn't feel like I fit into the mold Hollywood wanted me to be, but now I feel like people have this conception of me that I'm this bearded guys who's a little chubby and kind of like a bearish daddy. That works!
On coming out in the pages of Out magazine:
I came out publicly for the first time in Out in 1994 when I was 24 years old. I think we had only recently thought about doing "The Jew, The Italian, and the Redhead Gay" on The State. I remember talking about the sketch at MTV and saying how the sketch is kind of letting the cat out of the bag. They said, "If you want to, go for it!"--It was the gay '90s--and then I did, and there it was, in Out magazine, and my mom and dad saw it. They didn't know the magazine was coming out until it was in front of them. I'll never forget, my mom called and she said, "Kevin, I think you made a horrible mistake and you should try to go back into the closet. You're going to hurt your career. I'm so distraught I don't even know what to say." I was mortified. It was so hard on me. She said, "Listen, I can't even talk anymore, let your father finish the conversation." A couple minutes later, my dad gets on and just whispers, "I'm so proud of you!"
Catch the next live Risk! show at The Pit on 4/24. Until then, download the podcast and consider taking a storytelling class (and maybe sharing one of your own).