There are variety shows...and there is the Banana Pitch Variety Show, a unique curated open mic and interview series featuring writers, musicians and comedians.
Hosted by Michelle Kicherer (who is also a WW contributor), the show returns Monday, Sept. 18, at the Alberta Street Pub, with an impressive lineup of guests, including Emme Lund, Smile Pile’s Zach Markezich, Andy Jones, Shawna Pair and Jamie Carbone (to sign up for an open slot, email email@example.com with “VARIETY” in the subject line).
From its origins as a literary magazine to its current status as a hub of comedy, music, poetry and storytelling, the Banana Pitch Variety Show is a great story unto itself. Kicherer spoke to WW about how it all came together.
WW: What was the initial inspiration for the Banana Pitch Variety Show?
Michelle Kicherer: Banana Pitch started as a literary magazine back in 2014. People would pitch title ideas and writers would write a story around that title. Then illustrators would come in to illustrate each story. We had a few online issues come out before we went to print, then started performing the readings at literary salons. Pretty quickly it turned into a curated open mic, where we’d have featured readers, comics, musicians performing all sorts of stuff.
What do you enjoy most about bringing artists together for a single experience?
It’s empowering to see someone tell a story for the first time to a live audience then go right into an act by a super well-known comedian or musician, and to curate a crowd energy that’s supportive and engaged with each act.
The interview component (the “Mini Ini”) is probably where things get most kooky and memorable. We get to hear stories and insights from these artists they haven’t shared elsewhere and usually it’s super entertaining. We have a running joke that goes, “Guaranteed fun or your money back, questions asked.”
How long has the show been going on? And what are some of the most unique stories you’ve heard there?
The live show started happening around 2015 and then took the classic COVID-related break. This September will be our first time back on stage and it’s gonna be so solid.
One of my favorite stories was someone reading entries from their middle school notebook, in which she was kind of stalking this dude. Her delivery was just so funny and the energy in the room was really exciting and welcoming.
Another night, this dude was telling a story that turned into a poem that turned into him rapping with his face pressed into the floorboards. It was epic and the room was both silent and buzzing. You never know what’s gonna happen on the Banana Pitch stage and...we encourage that.
What are you most excited for people to experience this Monday?
We’re extra stoked to get to see a solo performance from Zach Markezich, who plays in the band Smile Pile, and a reading by Emme Lund, whose book The Boy with a Bird in His Chest has taken on a life of its own and keeps popping up in best of lists around the country.
SEE IT: The Banana Pitch Variety Show will be held at the Alberta Street Pub, 1036 NE Alberta St., 503-284-7665, albertastreetpub.com. 7 pm Monday, Sept. 18. $10.