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Literary Fri Mar 23 2012

Preview: Chicago's Biggest Liar Contest @ Herdegen-Brieske Funeral Home


Scott Whitehair, the brains and brawn behind live literature series like This Much Is True and Story Lab has taken on a project with a different angle -- he's put together a one-night-only event called the Liars Contest. I spent an evening at the Hopleaf helping direct people in and out of auditions, and I couldn't tell just by looking if the people coming to try out were full of it, so I spoke to Whitehair for some clarification.

Scott Whitehair: I don't want to reveal too much; there's two parts to the show, it's a 10-person storytelling competition seeing who can tell the most outrageous lies. So many great people auditioned, it's going to be a great show.

Tell me about some of the contestants.

Paulette McDaniels -- she looks like somebody's grandma and she comes in telling a story about an alien boy with three arms and you think: "this woman wouldn't lie to me, I totally believe her." And Monte LaMonte -- he's so believable.

I know people have been wondering if this show is really going to be in a funeral home.

People keep asking me that, like I'm going to go, "No, it's in a black box (theater)." It's going to be inside the funeral home as a theme park of lies, I don't want anybody to be sure about anything at any point, we have a lot of surprises, and a lot of misdirection. At least one person is going to get really uncomfortable and think: "I have to go." The Funeral Director, Joe Herdegen, is the worst one of us all, he's so charming, has great sense of humor, and a prankster's spirit.

Tell me something about your host, Patrick Brennan.

Patrick is an awesome host, anytime I've seen him doing stuff he's pretty amazing. He's very charming, but can kind of tell you to go fuck yourself in such a charming way that you kind of love him for it, so he's the perfect host for this.

Will this be the first of many liars contests, or is it a one-time thing?

Oh, this is the 43rd, this is a long tradition. I'm shocked that people have not been in the loop with it, and if I goes well next year we'll have our 25th annual -- what is that, the silver anniversary?

You're the producer of Story Lab and co-founder of TMIT, what led you
to decide to do a show like this?

There's so much concentration -- and rightfully so, on true, honest stories from people's personal lives where people are baring their souls, and it's awesome to have a show where we can work with: "Lets just completely lie to each other, and exaggerate and bullshit." The only disappointing thing about this show is I wish somebody else produced it because its such an opportunity, you can say anything! We're going to have fun, people will talk about the busload of supermodels they married, and the way people responded in auditions is... believe me, we're going to have some crazy shit.

Is it just people get up and telling a string of lies?

It does have a storytelling base -- there's going to be outrageous stories that will have a beginning, middle, and end, they're not one-liners. And contestants are being judged not on whether it's believable but on creativity. Audience participation is involved in judging -- we're trying to line up a private detective, a used car dealer, and an alderman for our panel of judges. There has to be creativity and originality in the stories. Everybody knows it's a lie, if you want to believe any of them you're welcome to. People are always coming up to me at TMIT and asking, "Is that really true?" With this show -- it's bullshit. It's just meant to be as much fun as possible, and it's not just the story part, I get to do a lot of weird shit behind the scenes. I'm working on the programs, they're going to be really confusing. We really use the fact that it's in a funeral home to an uncomfortable degree. The winner gets the Hog Wash Cup trophy.

That's right up there with the Stanley Cup.

Oh yeah, everybody gets their name engraved on it. And the winner gets a check for $149.99.


Cast for 43rd Annual Chicago's Biggest Liar Contest
• Keith Ecker (creator of Essay Fiesta)
• Don Hall (WBEZ, MothSlam host)
• Monte LaMonte (food blogger, comedian)
• Rebecca Kling (performance artist)
• Paulette McDaniels (playwright)
• Colleen Mulligan (improvisor)
• Sheri Reda (storyteller, journalist)
• Eve Shapiro (community organizer)
• Dave Stinton (standup comedian, writer)
• Kristen Studard (comedian, Impress These Apes 2 winner)

The 43rd annual Chicago's Biggest Liar Contest takes place Saturday, March 31 at the Herdegen-Brieske Funeral Home, 1356 W. Wellington Ave. Show starts at 8pm, tickets are $15 and can be purchased through Brown Paper Tickets.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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