The Story Collider: Who Am I?

Erin Barker and Nisse Greenberg introduce Story Collider at Union Hall in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

By Andrew Andrews

Storytelling is so big now (as we mentioned when reviewing Adam Wade from New Hampshire and confirmed at Sideshow Goshko) that a show almost needs a special angle to set it apart from the others. At The Story Collider, that angle is science: each month, hosts Erin Barker and Nisse Greenberg invite a handful of guests to each tell a story about science. Sound boring? Wait, there’s a catch: this isn’t a place to expand your knowledge, like Society for the Advancement of Social Studies or even Masters of Social Gastronomy; with a loosely-enforced “no learning” policy and a bar in the back of the room to help counteract any accidental enlightenment, Story Collider is intended to be pure entertainment.

When we last attended many months ago, Barker’s co-host was founder Ben Lillie, and although he’s relinquished the stage to Greenberg, the new (to us) team did a nice job of warming up the crowd of mostly-repeat customers and explaining the night’s theme of self-discovery: Who Am I? Julian Goldhagen—a self-proclaimed “talker”— was our first storyteller, recalling the time he induced a vocal cord polyp from vocal abuse (it’s a real thing!) and had to be silent for four whole weeks in order to recover from corrective surgery, only to find out later that his very-supportive boyfriend had been cheating on him throughout the ordeal. When Barker returned to the stage, she wondered aloud about everyone’s worst moment of betrayal and recalled the time her mother discovered that her stepfather was not only cheating on her, but even coaching his mistress’ kids’ soccer team without Erin’s mother knowing about it!

Next, Casey Lardner explained why quitting her college running team was the most difficult decision she’s ever made, despite the fact that she’d hated running from the moment she first joined the track team in high school. When Greenberg replaced her on stage, he recounted the time when, as a sixteen-year-old, he and a friend were recruited to announce the winners at his hometown marathon’s finish line: with no knowledge of long-distance running, the adolescent duo had a field day (pun intended) commenting on the male runners’ bleeding nipples, and were not invited back the following year!

Our third storyteller, Ada Cheng, explained how science and scientists, despite wanting to believe in objectivity, are heavily influenced by their culture and world view; she learned this first-hand while researching Hong Kong’s problem with immigrant domestic servant abuse in the 1990s, discovering that many of the abused women had found subversive ways to fight back.

After a brief intermission, “golden child” Larry Rosen traced his search for a career through aptitude tests and a stint with the Bugs Bunny Follies, then Raymond Christian closed out the evening by explaining how his ideas about race and the power of pseudoscience were challenged by meeting a white man who grew up in a black family (a real-life version of The Jerk, it seems).

With a cast of experienced storytellers each month, it’s no surprise that Story Collider has expanded its reach from Brooklyn to Boston, Washington DC, Los Angeles, touring cities, and even a podcast for listening around the globe. We were pleasantly surprised, though, that despite drawing a full house, there was still enough standing room that you and your friends should have no problem attending their special Brain Awareness Week episode next month at Union Hall! 4

Andrew Andrews attended The Story Collider: Who Am I? at Union Hall in Brooklyn on Tuesday, February 21, 2017 @ 8:00pm to write this review.