9:51 am Aug. 5, 20101
Six storytellers and and unlimited free vodka cocktails convened last night at Union Hall in Park Slope for the first event—titled “You Went to College for That?"—of comedian Ophira Eisenberg's new performance series, Top Shelf Stories.
“I was hanging out with Adam Magazine, who produced this night, " Eisenberg said during her introduction, "and we were like 'Oh, let’s do a storytelling night in Brooklyn, and we can bring all of these great storytellers together… and then we had a few more drinks, and we were talking about our degrees, and I was like, ‘And I learned all of this great shit and I do nothing with it!’ So, what this night is, is that people will talk about anything in their lives, but, they have to weave in one to two minutes of interesting, unbelievable knowledge that they gained from their crappola degree… Yes. So you will learn! Vodka makes you want to learn… doesn’t vodka make you want to learn?”
The evening opened with Andy Christie, who went to art school because, as he says, his parents “made the mistake” of being very, very supportive of his drawings.
“With some kids, the parents should just say, ‘You know what? Let’s watch TV.’”
Christie wound up working in "industrial design," which he described as, “sort of like art, but a rational version of art. It’s like if, at the last minute, Vincent Van Gogh had said, ‘You know, what am I doing? How am I going to hear stuff?’”
Christie went on to talk about his ex-wife, whom he married out of college and subsequently divorced because, as he put it, “parallel lines do not necessarily converge. Ever.”
Ben Lillie, who has a PhD in theoretical physics, held the distinction of possessing the highest degree among the performers. This did not translate into success with the fairer sex—particularly since, as he noted, the only dating advice he ever got was from physics graduate students. So, in 2002 he tried online dating—then still “very much the Wild West”—and, of course, hilarity ensued.
Faye Lane had a different sort of education, having grown up in Texas, where her mother worked at Miss Gibson’s School of Beauty. After a bit of a falling out with Miss Gibson, Lane’s mother opened her own beauty shop, where Lane worked after school. Later, bored with that, she sold everything she owned and bought a one-way ticket to London.
Here is where the fairy tale begins. After enrolling in drama school, Lane went to an audition, where the director, after hearing about her life, decided instead to make a new movie—the story of Faye Lane. After a whirlwind six months travelling through Europe, during which Lane tried very hard not to fall in love with the director, she believed all of this to be too good to be true, which, in some ways, it was. Without a work or student visa, she was deported, and found herself back in Texas, and back on the porch of her mother’s beauty shop, though this time with no money. A few days later, the director from the movie called and said, “I know this is sudden, but will you marry me?” The two met at the Chelsea Hotel, and 20 years later, they still haven’t checked out.
Magazine, the producer, told a story of a misguided attempt at an affair with a student from a class he taught (who, as it turned out, did not care to cheat on her boyfriend while he was in Iraq).
Jim O’Grady finished the evening with a story of a college romance that demonstrated the cruelty of Cupid. "Before we put him in a diaper and turned him into a simpering eunuch fit for a greeting card, was in fact a sonuvabitch.”
When Eisenberg took the stage again, she commented on how many of the stories were about the loss of love. "The theme could have been real estate and it would have been ‘Oh, this is the house that she left me with.’”
But lost love makes for good humor. For example, after an anecdote Eisenberg told that involved a man she briefly dated who collected Garfield stuffed animals, I laughed so hard my computer nearly crashed to the floor.
"The girl with the laptop liked that one!” Eisenberg said.