Swearfest storytelling event comes to The Barkley Ballroom in Frisco
If you go
When: 10 p.m. Thursday, April 2; doors open at 9 p.m.
Where: The Barkley Ballroom, 610 Main St., Frisco
More information: To learn more or to sign up to speak at the event, call Scott Mastro at (310) 866-2587, email firstname.lastname@example.org or just show up and take your turn
On a Thursday night in Frisco, a lot of people came to town,
The announcer stepped up, the people gathered ’round.
He said, “We’re going to have a party, and we’re going to have a test,
People, we’re having a Swearfest.”
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Shakespeare, Chaucer, Edgar Allan Poe and Twain,
Poets of the ages have laid down some sweet refrain.
And that is why we’re gathered, to add names to that list.
People, we’re having a Swearfest.
Swearfest — everybody make some noise.
If there’s a God in Heaven above looking down on all us good little girls and boys,
Then we will be forsaken, and we will still be blessed
When we have our final say … in our Swearfest.
Thus goes the Swearfest theme song, conjured by Scott Mastro, aka Tender Bastard, founder of the interactive storytelling tour, which will make a stop at The Barkley Ballroom in Frisco on Thursday, April 2.
So just what is Swearfest? It’s a chance for members of the community to take the stage to spin a tale, share some knowledge or simply just vent — including as many swear words as they so choose. Mastro said past participants have waxed eloquent on topics ranging from a gangbanger’s personal memoirs and stories of love and loss to interpretations of Shakespeare and the history and evolution of the F-word.
“It’s amazing what people bring to Swearfest,” Mastro said. “So now we’re bringing it to Frisco.”
Origins of Swearfest
Mastro said Swearfest originated with an offhand comment he made to a friend.
“I was a journalist down in the southern part of the state in a weird little town and someone just had complained about something I did,” he said. “And I was joking to a friend that this town needed a swearing competition, and she said, ‘That’s a good idea.’ … And I thought, that is a good idea.”
Rather than just a contest to see who could be the most vulgar, the event evolved into something slightly less outrageous, a forum for storytellers to tell their tales, with a bit or a lot of swearing woven through in context. Swearfest showed up in Denver in January and has made the rounds of bars and venues, many of them in college towns, since “kids are the ones who want to party and drink and grab a microphone,” Mastro said.
The evening starts with an introduction from Mastro, who welcomes the crowd and throws down a few minutes of one-liners and short narratives from audience-suggested topics to push people’s buttons and encourage others to step up to the plate.
“Then we do the Swearfest oath, where everyone raises their left hand and says, ‘I do solemnly swear,’” Mastro said. “I have a theme song. And then I tell a story and I start encouraging people to get up and tell stories.
“Some people have plans; some storytellers are preregistered. Otherwise, it’s people in the audience, and we coax them, shame them, ridicule them (into getting onstage). The least number of storytellers we’ve had was two, three, five, so hopefully some people in Frisco want to get their storytelling in.”
Take your turn
There’s really no telling what will come out of people’s mouths once they stand, microphone in hand, in front of a room of their peers.
“One guy told a story about getting stopped by the police on a country road for crossing a double yellow line that had never been there before,” Mastro said. “Three squad cars pulled up with their lights blaring and he was just going to a community mailbox.”
Some storytellers struggle, either to start, continue or know when to stop, so Mastro helps them along with open-ended questions. Others sign up and come prepared, though Mastro said it’s best when someone stands up and just tells a story, rather than reading from notes.
“A teacher got up, and she was a natural; she talked about things you say to your grade school students but things you really want to say,” he said. “One time, I asked, ‘What are some things people are talking about that are trending in the news?’ One guy calls out, ‘Testicles!’ And I shouted back, ‘What about them?’ And he shouted back, ‘Everybody’s got one.’ And then he didn’t want to talk about it anymore.”
Mastro said Swearfest is exciting when it goes well, when lots of people choose to participate and he doesn’t have to draw from his own bag of stories, such as how he liked marijuana better when it was illegal and how Snoop Dog saved his life.
“It works for all ages across all demographics and all different sorts of occupations,” he said. “That goes back to giving people the opportunity to think a little bit about something. I try to remind people of that, so here we go on Thursday.”
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