On Stage

True Stories Keep Audiences Hooked at Live Bait

It’s hard to find something real in the realm of entertainment these days, which is why it’s so refreshing to take a break from escapist fare and catch a show like Live Bait.


It’s hard to find something real in the realm of entertainment these days. Much as you might prefer to remain in denial, you can assume that your favorite reality show is scripted. You can bet that the documentary in your Netflix queue, no matter how seemingly balanced, is biased. And, when you see a film “based on actual events” or a play “inspired by a true story,” you know it’s still a work of fiction.

This may leave you wondering, as Kanye West once lyricized, whether anyone makes real things anymore. Okay, Kanye put it a pinch more colorfully than is possible to do in this publication. But, you get the idea. That’s why it’s so refreshing to take a break from escapist fare and catch a production like Live Bait: True Stories From Real People.

Host Phil Goldman describes Live Bait as “a show where people come up onstage and share a true life story, share a piece of themselves, for six minutes.” Inspired by storytelling slams like The Moth, Phil created the monthly event eight years ago, and it’s been going strong ever since. Unlike The Moth, there is no competition involved – which allows for a more inclusive and relaxed atmosphere. Phil announces a general theme the month prior. Everyone who wishes to tell a tale signs up upon arrival. Phil selects the names at random and off they go.

In addition to the six-minute time cap, rules at Live Bait prohibit notes, scripts, rants, comedy routines and, most importantly, fiction. The stories must be true. As a result, each Live Bait show varies widely in content and tone. You can attend all year, every year, without hearing the same story twice. You can also attend without ever telling one yourself; listeners comprise the bulk of attendees. That said, if you want to give participation a go, Phil offers sound advice.

“Sometimes people think a little too much about a story. Over-think it, maybe. You know when something happens and you’re excited to tell a friend about it, and you tell it? You don’t think about how you’re telling it, and it comes out great.” He adds, “I think there’s something very liberating about the whole true story format. You don’t have to be good – you can just be you.”

Live Bait celebrated its eighth anniversary this past July. Given the average of ten to twelve tales per show, that milestone signifies over a thousand stories shared. Phil heard them all, and only once or twice did he think a tale didn’t ring true. He found most of the stories to be revealing, insightful, funny and touching – one even ended in a successful marriage proposal (“It was a great moment,” he recalls). And if the subject matter or delivery was ever totally off the wall, remember, it was over in six minutes.

“Petty Crimes” is this month’s theme, suggested by Live Bait regular (and three-time Jeopardy! champ) Choyon Manjrekar. For a reasonable $7 admission, you can expect authentic stories loosely tied to this theme, musical accompaniment provided by Jerry “The Professor” Gregoire – and a rather rare opportunity for connection. At Live Bait, the freedom of expression and the recognition of shared experiences make for an affirming evening. Now that’s real entertainment.

Live Bait: True Stories from Real People
September 2, 8pm • Every first Friday of the month
AS220 Black Box
95 Empire Street