STORY SMASH - Lyric Hyperion Theatre

Reviewed by Amanda Callas

The recurring live comedy game show Story Smash at the historic Lyric Hyperion Theater in Silverlake is an absolute joy. The juicy blend of timed storytelling, standup comedy, celebrity guests, and old-fashioned game show elements makes this show a standout.   Producer, host and show creator Christine Blackburn has engineered something marvelous and whether you absolutely love standup comedy, as I do, or loathe it, you will find Story Smash wildly entertaining.   Story Smash is the perfect night out.

The format is delightfully simple. Contestants, mostly standup comics with volunteers from the audience, spin a wheel that lands a theme, like "holidays" or "birthdays" or "pets."   They must tell a timed story (first under one minute, then in later rounds, two minutes) about the theme. High energy, no nonsense, gloriously funny host Christine Blackburn keeps things running like a charm. Afterwards, a panel of judges, brilliant comedy stars like, on the night I attended, Danny Zuker (exec producer, Modern Family ), Wendi McLendon-Covey ( Bridesmaids, The Goldbergs, Elemental ) and Blaine Capatch (Comedy Central), weigh in on the storytelling in a panel. The judges add to the general good-spirited hilarity with their own adroit wit, bon mots, and uproarious commentary, and are truly an entire riotous show unto themselves. The final winner who makes it through all the rounds of storytelling takes home the glory: a big box of cookies.

So many hilarious, laugh-out-loud vignettes were told by masterful comics and audience members: holidays ruined by pathological lying of relatives and sweet potato pie drama, getting banned from OK Cupid for attacking pro-pedophile Manhattan fans, performing autopsies on your birthday, bowling alley surprise parties that later end in divorce, spending Christmas in a maternity ward when you are not pregnant, hallucinating cats playing Dave Brubeck style jazz when you are on opiates, discovering your boyfriend has a thriving amateur porn career, getting attacked and then rescued by an enthusiastic swimming pit bull in Big Bear, and the strange thematic links between UFOs, talk therapy, and raising ten cats.  

The stories reflect the vibrant, masterful, eclectic comedy of standup comics like, on the night I attended, Glen Dunzweiler, Erica Blumfield, and Jonathan Galeano, but also the unexpected, pared-down quality that storytelling takes in such a short window of time on a forced theme, when something wonderfully human and simple emerges. I was completely and utterly engaged in this storytelling, in a way that even the most extravagant shows can fail. Standup comedy can occasionally suffer from an overly rehearsed, glib quality, and this show is the exact opposite, genuine and personal and spontaneous to its core. There's a real feeling of camaraderie and warmth here, a genuine campfire togetherness and confessional in the storytelling. It's spellbinding.

Story Smash has had over 500 hit performances with luminary guests like Larry King and was at the Hollywood Improv for five years.Its current home at the historic Lyric Hyperion is the absolute perfect marriage of show and venue. The Lyric Hyperion describes itself as "neighborhood friendly stage and independent, anti-corporate pro-pastry cafe."   Lyric Hyperion, you had me at "pro pastry."   The space feels extraordinarily cozy, intimate, well-furnished, the unusually comfortable theater that makes you want to linger for the whole evening (or possibly move in!).

It eschews the minimal theater aesthetic entirely, instead leaning into a cabaret mood with no raised stage, wrap-around seating, heavy velvet curtains, Persian rugs on the floor, houseplants, and mismatched vintage paintings on the oxblood red walls. The Lyric Hyperion is like the eccentric and inviting home of a hipster friend. You enter through the theater through a lovely, quirky little cafe, with loads of delicious drinks and pastries to choose from. I had a divinely yummy plant-based puff pastry thing, with curry flavor and chickpeas. There's an outdoor courtyard with strings of fairy lights and comfortable seating, perfect for lingering before a show or chatting afterward.

I think that Story Smash is the kind of show that would be tremendous anywhere, but really shines in a space like this, where the audience feels so relaxed and at home, like an organic part of the show. There clearly is a passionate and vibrant fanbase of Story Smash that itself becomes part of the communal experience of storytelling and joyous laughter. In the warped loneliness of Los Angeles, a megapolis of some ten million souls marooned all on their own islands by a roiling sea of freeways, producer, host, and show creator Christine Blackburn has masterminded not only brilliant comedy, but that most rare and necessary commodity - a genuine feeling of community.

The recurring show Story Mash is up next at the Lyric Hyperion in Silverlake on Saturday, November 25th at 7:30pm. The show is one and half hours long with one intermission. Tickets are $15. Street parking. Find links to tickets and more on the show at:

Posted By DH Magazine on October 15, 2023 11:04 am | Permalink