I leaned back on the love seat, hands behind my head, stretching a bit and closing my eyes to focus on the Elvis playing softly overhead. By the second-floor bar, under whiskey barrel decorations, hurling clubs and other Irishana, a waitress standing by a plate of cheese fiddled with her phone as I prepared to tell two people that I met Batman.
The 25th Annual Chicago’s Biggest Liar Contest is coming. And I’m going to win. But before I can dupe and delude audiences at the Ravenswood United Church of Christ on May 3 (yes, the liars’ show is at a church), I had to head to Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro on Wednesday night to audition, wowing the judges with my utterly believable and ridiculous ability to spew horseshit.
Local storyteller Scott Whitehair of Story Lab Chicago (where I met him while performing in 2012) and This Much Is True (incongruously named considering this contest) is one of the forces behind the event. It debuted two years ago, at the 43rd Annual Chicago’s Biggest Liar Contest.
“It’s not even annual,” Whitehair confided as I leaned against the second-story bar to complete my audition application form.
The point is horseshit. Balderdash. Bald-faced hokum. Me walking into a room with two judges and convincing them I met Batman through singing “MoooooOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooo and oiiiiiiiiiink!” at the end of the commercial.
They had two days of interviews on the second floor of the Irish pub for the nine liar spots. “A lot of good ones,” Scott said before we walked into a room empty but for stacked chairs and a table behind which he and This Much Is True co-host Stephanie Douglass sat.
They’re pros, the two of them, with performance and work experience everywhere from Steppenwolf to Printer’s Row to the Moth to nutrition programs in Uganda. I was still wearing my work clothes, had a lozenge I had yet to spit out and was about to claim I grew up idolizing Stimpy.
“We like to start of asking people to tell two truths and a lie,” Scott said, so I told them about making a jerk of myself in front of the Daily Show’s Lewis Black, paying $50 to meet Bruce Campbell at C2E2 and getting invited to see the private inner studio of the royal puppeteer of Thailand.
They laughed a bit, which was encouraging.
“Do you want to know which one was the lie?” I asked. *
“You can take that to your grave if you want,” Scott replied. “OK.”
He gestured at me. I took a breath and started one of the biggest whoppers I ever told.
I rampaged and strutted around the room. I secretly thrilled when I remembered the correct pronunciations of “Maurice LaMarche” and “super-glottal.” I remembered to say Lasik this time and my Kevin Conroy impression was pretty damn good when I screamed “I AM VENGEANCE!” and crooned the Empire Carpets jingle.
I had gotten to the point of the story where I’m humming the Star-Spangled Banner through a straw in a fern-filled room in Stickney when I realized how much fun I was having. No, my story wasn’t the most brilliant thing on the planet — I wrote it at work that afternoon. And no, I’m not a particularly brilliant storyteller — I tend to talk fast when I’m nervous.
I don’t think I made it — I was talking really fast. But I was having fun. And I was sharing my filthy, filthy lies with the voice and intonation I use in my head, not leaving any room for audience interpretation. In that little room on the second story of a faux-Irish pub, a guy accustomed to being read got to be heard.
Now let’s see if I can do it again at the finals.
* Bruce Campbell was the lie.