Odd Salon NYC

Like falling down a Wikipedia hole, Odd Salon entertains with topics you might never intend to study. Considering that the online articles are free, is it worth paying for these live digests?

By Andrew Andrews

Odd Salon NYC’s August Theme, Chutzpah, is represented by the arm from J. Howard Miller's 1943 "We Can Do It!" poster.

New York has seen its share of lecture series, including SASS, Homeschooled and the wildly-popular Secret Science Club. Give some people a copy of PowerPoint and a day to scour the interwebs, and they’ll be happy to put together a ten or fifteen minute presentation about a topic or theme of your choosing.

It’s not surprising, then, that San Francisco’s Odd Salon would find a second home in NYC. Each month, a selection of speakers narrate slide shows about someone or something related to the episode’s theme. This month, the theme was chutzpah; next month will be cockamamie. Presenters include members of the “old guard” that have appeared before, as well as so-called “first time offenders.” Host Daniel Cohen begins the night with an “invocation” in the form of a famous quotation, and each speech is concluded with a toast, for which the audience is asked to raise their glass and drink to the person or ideal of interest.

The production bills itself as an evening of stories from the “odd corners of history, science, art and adventure.” The fact that it’s been running in San Francisco since 2014 says something about the dedication of its audience, if not the quality and value of its presentations. Despite the New York chapter being only a year old, the turnout at The Kraine is impressive, although there is still plenty of room to grow as more people discover the series. Like many events catering largely to an informal, younger and intellectually-curious demographic, don’t expect an on-time start, and the “fifteen minute” intermission might run nearly twice as long.

The talks themselves are always interesting, although—as you might expect from a range of people with varying levels of experience, maturity and public speaking skills—some are undoubtedly better than others. At this event, we considered presentations about Raphael Lemkin (creator of the term genocide) and Frances Bannerman VI (creator of the Army-Navy Surplus Store) to be the most well-done. A biography about three young, female World War II assassins was quite interesting, albeit a little less polished, while a piece on Ruth Bader Ginsburg was full more of emotion than detail. Next month’s stories will certainly cover completely different topics, so if these particular tales don’t sound as interesting to you as they proved to us, I’d still encourage you to take a chance with some other theme.

Odd Salon is as much a community as it is an event, sponsored by the non-profit InterCulture Foundation, with a membership program offering discounts and freebies to contributors. As evidenced by the mingling during intermission, audience participation bits, and general friendliness of the attendees and staff, there’s clearly a loyal following, and rightly so. But with similar events occasionally appearing around town for less than half the $25 charge at the door (with slightly-lower-priced reservations available online in advance), I suspect it takes a certain kind of person to attend the program religiously. I have no doubt we’ll return for another occurrence at some point, but unlike the comedy sketch series Good Cooks that I reviewed recently, we won’t be attending this show month-after-month.


Andrew Andrews attended Odd Salon NYC at Kraine Theater in Manhattan on Wednesday, August 28, 2019 @ 7:00pm to write this review.