Kevin Allison takes a RISK! in New Orleans, discusses personal tragedies

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Courtesy of RISK!

Kevin Allison hosting his RISK! live podcast .

Josh Axelrod, Associate Editor

Kevin Allison weaves stories together like a gifted seamstress — with crude precision and an eye for the colorful. Bringing his “RISK!” live show to the Cafe Istanbul stage Nov. 11 for his New Orleans debut, Allison delivered a night of riveting and emotionally-draining storytelling.

The charismatic comedian created a setlist of compelling stories from New Orleans locals. Sharing the first story he ever told on the podcast back in 2011, Allison kicked things off with the tradition he brings to each new city he visits. The theme of the night was “Legends,” a topic that often circled back to death and provided for an intimate evening of personal tragedy.

Beginning the night with a topical monologue about Donald Trump, Allison was comfortable, confident and engaging. Mixing humor with a stirring decree of appreciation for the “RISK!” community, which has shown each other love and respect, he joked about how the entire election seemed like the idea behind a bad horror movie.

“Now I feel like we’re in a much scarier movie premise,” Allison said.

Allison then launched into his inaugural story about a sexual exploration in a seedy college bar. His expertise shone as he shared the obscene account with passion and an intuitive awareness for the audience, as he rhetorically hopped his way through the narrative.

What Allison does cannot be taught, which, ironically enough, he attempts to do through his storytelling workshops. The Cincinnati-born comedian is, undeniably, a natural. After experimenting with a comedy troupe and dramatic monologues, he’s found his niche on the stage telling stories.

Following the introduction, Tom Coleman from Cajunstoryteller.com described the tragic death of his wife during childbirth and how he eventually remarried, with his dearly beloved’s influence always hanging over him. Coleman, to a lesser degree than Allison, knows what he’s doing, and spoke with an endearing Cajun twang, poetic flair and a charming mix of poignancy and cheesiness.

Ryan Stroud, who was recently featured on the podcast, told the evening’s least engaging story about working for a marijuana kingpin. Immediately after, came the show’s dramatic high point, featuring Susan Trout, a second-year Tulane Medical student.

Speaking about the tragic suicide of her older brother, and then relating the emotional details of her multiple miscarriages, Trout had an inviting and steady presence, given the recency of the story’s content.

The story ends with a moving declaration of trust in the universe, and contains the genius of “RISK!”: Trout’s oration stops where her life currently stands, she remains unable to have children and her brother’s death still haunts her.

These are real people sharing a raw look into their nuanced lives, without artificial happy endings or dramatic exaggerations. “RISK!” uncovers the drama that exists in everyday life, by bringing everyday people like Trout to the stage.

Ending the night strong with a bizarre story about New Orleans legend Addie Hall, who was famously murdered and cannibalized, Dennis Monn explained the saga from his side of the story, as one of Addie’s close friends. Like Trout, Monn finds the humanity in an absolutely absurd and tragic story, demonstrating Allison’s aptitude for finding enthralling stories.

“RISK!” live is an entirely distinctive and intense experience, one that is hard to replicate anywhere else. Audience members left Cafe Istanbul last Friday night reaching for tissues, feeling upset and distressed, but with the unique feeling that they just made four new remarkable friends.