Storytelling comes naturally to Adam Wade, and it’s only natural that he’d use the stage—which has seen him win 20 Slams at The Moth (a New York-based nonprofit whose focus is the development and performance of stories)—to ply his trade. But he has also appeared on the small screen, including seasons two and three of Comedy Central’s Inside Amy Schumer and ESPN’s Classic Now, and it’s clear that his honest, unassuming style fits a broad range of media. In this interview, Wade discusses his start in the industry, his techniques for adjusting to being in front of the camera (note: cuisine comes into play) and the future of storytelling. Read on for more.
TC: How did you get involved in storytelling with The Moth?
AW: Eleven years ago I started going to The Moth StorySlams. Right away, I was hooked.
TC: When you first got to New York City, you got a job at Virgil’s Barbecue. Was that the job that got you to say, “OK, I can survive now”?
AW: Absolutely. I knew that I the only way I could survive in a city like New York was to get a job as quickly as possible. But it ended up that it wasn’t just the getting paid part. The people that I worked with were priceless. They helped me in so many ways. They fed me twice a day. They helped find me permanent housing. They gave me guidance about everything. It was like I was working with 40 Yodas and I was their Luke Skywalker.
TC: You’ve talked about being nervous in front of an audience, and using that as your “persona.” How have you worked to appear less nervous? Are there any calming things you do?
AW: I still get nervous before all my shows. I’ve come to realise from talking to people and reading a lot of books about battling nerves that being nervous is GOOD! You should be. If you weren’t nervous, you’d be bored. I think now for me it’s more excitement than it is nerves. I love and need that excitement. When I do feel like the nerves are overtaking me a little too much, I meditate and listen to soft music. Just take some time, a few minutes, to chill out. That always seems to help me.
TC: There seems to be a storytelling community, with you as an integral part: Ophira Eisenberg, Ed Gavagan, Andy Christie. It’s unusual and very interesting. How did it form, and how do all of you keep it going?
AW: I don’t know. There are so many people in the community. AND AWESOME PEOPLE! I don’t really think about that stuff. It’s nice to see people active, dedicated and continuing to work on the craft. I always enjoy seeing and watching people perform. You do shows with a lot of the same people and sometimes you really clique with those people. You want to be around them.
TC: What led to your involvement with the Amy Schumer show?
AW: I was called to audition for the “Hello M’Lady” sketch for season two, and I got the part. It was so much fun. And fortunately they contacted me to be in a sketch in season three. Amy is great! But the world already knows this.
TC: There’s a difference between telling stories to an audience and hitting your mark in front of a camera. What do you do to adjust to the pressure?
AW: That’s a great question. They are two completely different things. But definitely the same type of pressure. Focus helps. Be sure to breathe. Don’t eat a lot of spicy food before. That’s just me.
TC: What is your favourite thing to do when you’re not working?
AW: I love to go bowling.
TC: Are there any future projects you’d like to talk about?
AW: Jack Vaughn of New Wave Entertainment is producing my debut storytelling/comedy album. He’s done albums with Louis C.K., Jim Gaffigan and Kevin Hart, to name a few. I’ll be recording it live in front of an audience on Tuesday July 21 at The Bell House in Brooklyn. Get tickets here.
TC: What advice would you give to a storyteller starting out?
AW: Have patience. Give yourself time to develop. Work on multiple stories all the time. Always be writing.
TC: Where do you see storytelling going?
AW: That’s the big question we are all asking ourselves, right? Let’s hope it keeps truckin’ along. It’s so special. This is a great time right now. All the digital technologies and what do people want? Stories from the heart! How cool is that?