RISK! is a live show and podcast where people tell true stories they never thought they’d dare to share. Founded in 2009 by Kevin Allison of MTV’s legendary sketch comedy show, The State, RISK! has been downloaded tens of millions of times and has featured incredible true stories from Sarah Silverman, Kevin Nealon, Dan Savage, Margaret Cho, Andy Dick, Michael Ian Black, and regular folks from around the world. Slate calls RISK! “jaw-dropping, hilarious and just plain touching.” RISK! also puts on live shows for sold out crowds internationally.
Kevin Allison, creator and host of RISK!, started his comedy career on the legendary sketch series The State on MTV. But in 2009, everything changed. “I was doing a solo show out west, playing characters as usual,” he says. “Afterward, Michael Ian Black [also of The State] said, ‘I kept hoping you’d drop the act and tell some of your own stories.’ I said, ‘Yikes, that just seems so risky…’ But even as I said it, I could feel in my gut that that kind of risk could lead to the best stuff.”
The very next week, Kevin was on stage telling his own stories. “Suddenly, I was looking right into the eyes of audience members. We were reacting to each other, like friends. After the show, people didn’t just say, ‘That was funny,’ they said, ‘Thank you. That really got to me.’ I was finding the meaning in my own experiences and the people listening felt like they’d lived through these things with me. The more I worried I was taking a risk with a story – because it was too emotional, too provocative, or just too nuts – the more the audience lit up.”
In August of 2009, host Kevin and producer Michelle Walson started the live show RISK!, “where people tell true stories they never thought they’d dare to share in public” at Arlene’s Grocery on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It was an instant hit. Stories ran the gamut from the sacred to the profane, the hilarious to the horrific – and for the audience, it was a chance to re-connect with the things that make us human. It’s still just about the most cathartic, laugh-out-loud, anything-goes kind of smorgasbord you’re likely to see anywhere. The monthly RISK! live show, winner of an ECNY Award for Best Variety Show, now lives at The Bell House in New York City and the Bootleg Theater in LA. RISK! also tours to sold out international crowds.
Many remarkable people have shown a side of themselves on RISK! that you probably haven’t seen elsewhere, like Michael Ian Black, Janeane Garofalo, R. Ben Garant, Lisa Lampanelli, Kevin Nealon, Margaret Cho, Marc Maron, Sarah Silverman, Michael Showalter, Maria Bamford, Nick Swardson, Lili Taylor, Adam McKay, Rachel Dratch, Andy Borowitz, Kerri Kenney-Silver, Joe LoTruglio, and more.
The audio podcast of RISK! – also hosted by Kevin Allison – premiered online in October of 2009. The podcast includes not just the best stories from the live shows but also “radio-style” stories and interstitial music and comedy from artists all over the world. Most episodes of the show are free and easy to download from iTunes and other sources. With new episodes released each Monday, the RISK! podcast is the winner of an ECNY Award for Best Podcast, and has been downloaded tens of millions of times to date.
In 2010, the RISK! live show series went bi-coastal. Monthly RISK! shows in Hollywood are hosted by Beowulf Jones at the Bootleg Theater.
In 2011, Kevin and the RISK! team created The Story Studio, at www.thestorystudio.org, a school dedicated to teaching people from all walks of life to turn their most meaningful experiences into powerful self-expression. “Practically anybody will benefit from this training,” Kevin says. “We always say that, from the bar to the boardroom, a good story well told is what leaves a lasting impression.” New workshops through The Story Studio start each month and corporate workshops can be custom-tailored to a company’s needs.
RISK! is a labor of love, a communal groundswell, and a start-up with one hell of a future in the works. Be a part of it all. Or, as Kevin ends every episode of the podcast saying, “Folks, today’s the day. Take a risk!”