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Adrien Behn

Adrien Behn is a seasoned world traveler, writer and comedic performer. This self-proclaimed “Jill of all trades“ ventures into new countries, all alone, seeking out total strangers to listen to their stories.

How To Tell A Great Story
How To Tell A Great Story

How To Tell A Great Story

Ep
83
May
18
With
Adrien Behn
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Traveling the world in search of great stories.

Adrien Behn is a seasoned world traveler, writer and comedic performer. This self-proclaimed “Jill of all trades“ ventures into new countries, all alone, seeking out total strangers to listen to their stories. She then reports back about the most daring and interesting ones via her own podcast, Strangers Abroad.

In this episode, Adrien and Chris discuss what makes great storytelling, the power of vulnerability and they allude to an unforgettable travel story that led to an audience member fainting mid-show. If you enjoy a good story or want to be a better storyteller, then you better not miss this one.

Adrien has always enjoyed being different. With an entrepreneurial father, and artistic mother, she inherited both qualities from her parents to be the out-of-the-box thinker that she is today.

Her curiosity has led her around the world, starting in Prague when she studied abroad for the first time, all the way through Latin America as a solo female traveler.

Adrien is fascinated by what connects each and every one of us, despite speaking different languages and geographically separated. Her podcast, Strangers Abroad, highlights the unique stories from people she’s met all over the world, giving listeners the chance to discover that we all have a story to share.

If you check out her website, you’ll see that Adrien identifies as a ‘triple-threat storyteller’: she writes, podcasts, and performs the stories she collects from all over the world.

Her zest for life is evident in the way she speaks, and her passion for connecting with others is truly inspiring, despite what others may say about living a life on the road.

We hope that by the time you finish this episode, you’ll first check out an episode of Strangers Abroad, and that you’ll start to look at the world outside of your own.

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Episode Transcript

Adrien:
When you go out and travel the world is so incredibly kind and welcoming to you and in America, especially and especially being a solo female traveler, there's a lot of fear mongering around. Like, oh, we're going to find your body like, floating in the Panama Canal filled with cocaine and it's like no, actually. Like we could get through Latin America totally fine without any issues. And so I really wanted to share those stories.

Greg:
Hello, and welcome to the Futur podcast. I'm your producer Greg Gunn, and I hope you are keeping sane, safe and thoroughly entertained in the strange times. Speaking of entertainment, today's guest is a seasoned world traveler, a writer and a comedic performer. The self proclaimed Jill of all trades ventures into new countries all alone, seeking out total strangers and listening to their stories. She then reports back about the most daring and interesting ones through her own podcast called Strangers Abroad. She and Chris talk about what makes great storytelling, the power of vulnerability and they keep alluding to an unforgettable traveler story that led to an audience member fainting right in front of her. I am literally going to go listen to that episode as soon as I'm done here. So without any further teasing, please enjoy our colorful conversation with Adrien Behn.

Chris:
So for people who don't know who you are, can you introduce yourself please?

Adrien:
My name is Adrian Behn, and I am the creator of the Strangers Abroad podcast. It is a narrative travel podcast. So my first guest season, I interviewed all of the wonderful and weird strangers that I met while I was traveling and it really ignited my love for storytelling. Like I've been traveling for such a long time, but I was really disappointed with how poorly I was documenting all of the conversations that I had with all the wonderful and weird people that you meet along the way. And so from that, I really got into storytelling and now I'm a writer, I'm a podcaster and I do live stage performances of my stories as well. So I'm a little Jill of all trades.

Chris:
Now, somebody is going to be listening to this, like, how does one get this kind of job that you just described? You're a writer, you do podcast and you do live stage performance. How did this come to be?

Adrien:
Oh my God, Chris, do we have like four more hours for this? Because this, it is an odyssey in itself. So I have an acting background. I did it all throughout middle school, high school and in traditional college fashion, I gave it all up when I went to university and I got psyche degree, because I was like, I want a new identity and like oh college kids. And so but I had this itch, I had this performative itch that really wasn't being satisfied. And although I love my psyche background and it is so influential to how I write and tell my stories like that performer always needed to like, she was looking for ways to break out. And so I had been traveling for a while just trying to figure out... I was a creative, lost to herself, like I really couldn't read the writing on the wall that I was a creative and so I kept traveling because I just felt super lost, because it's really I think if you're an artist, it's sometimes really hard to admit that you're an artist because we don't really live in a society that encourages people to be artistic.

Adrien:
It's like you got to get that nine to five job and, you need to be practical with all the things that... With how you want to be living your life. And I was trying to fit myself into that world, and I was just so unhappy doing it. So when I was 24, I had a little quarter life crisis in traditional millennial fashion and booked a one way ticket to Mexico City and that's how I started the podcast because, I realized that it was a way for me to become a little bit more performative and for me to document my travels and really just show people that when you go out and travel the world is so incredibly kind and welcoming to you and in America, especially and especially being a solo female traveler, there's a lot of fear mongering around. Like, oh, we're going to find your body like floating in the Panama Canal filled with cocaine. And it's like no, actually. Like we could get through Latin America totally fine without any issues.

Adrien:
And and so we really wanted to share those stories and that's just how I started becoming a storyteller is realizing that all of us have really incredible stories inside of us. But we're so numb to them or we think that only celebrities are like really big names have incredible stories, but I really think that we all have incredible stories inside of us, we just need someone to excavate them. And that kind of what I've been doing.

Chris:
Wow, there's so much there to unpack and I want to dive into some of this right? Okay, first of all, do you speak Spanish?

Adrien:
Now I do.

Chris:
Did you at the time?

Adrien:
Not at all, actually. So I had like maybe seven years of French under my belt I went to my Mexico city. And I didn't know any Spanish. But when I landed, I was like, well, I should be speaking a different language. And I kept speaking French. And the locals just looked at me like, do where you are right now? Like this is not French. So but actually, because I love talking to strangers, I'm trying to make a career out of it. And one thing that I did a lot was, I basically taught myself how to speak Spanish by talking to taxi cab drivers all throughout Latin America because, they typically don't speak English. So it really forced me to use whatever Spanish that I knew at the time and I love languages so much like I wish that the American school system invested more in languages. Because if I could, I would speak Mandarin and Arabic and Spanish and French and German Like I want to learn all languages just so I can talk to more people.

Adrien:
And because it's actually... This is like a little tangent, I traveled throughout Southeast Asia last year for the first time and it was only, it was a quick trip for me. It was only six weeks your audience can totally roll their eyes at that. And I was so crestfallen because it was so hard for me to speak to locals. Like I really do try to learn at least how to say hello, how's it going? And it took me like three weeks to be able to make the same sounds, it's like, to say hi in like Thai. It's like the phonetics of that language are so and the way that their mouse moves is so wildly different from English that I was like, there's... I could think try to say it and I'm still going to butcher it and they're still going to look really confused. And I was so sad because, there were so many things that I wanted to hear and I wanted to say to locals and there was this wall between us.

Adrien:
And it's kind of incredible that like, the human voice has so much range and potential to make sounds. And it's incredible that we're able to communicate the way that we are. But at the same time, it's so the thing that... And language is like one of the most beautiful things that humans have created, but at the same time, it's also a barrier. So the thing that helps us connect because there's so many of them also, like isolate us from each other. So I was just like, so I don't know, I felt like my there was a tongue depressor in my mouth the whole time. It was like I can't, I want to talk to you, thanks so much but I. We don't understand each other and it makes me really sad thinking about it. So it's a long, long way of saying, I wish I knew how to speak every language.

Chris:
It's so true that the sounds that you could make it seem to become more limited as you get older. So if you're introduced to the sounds, at least in the beginning, even if you don't learn to remember the entire language, but at least then you could still make those weird sounds with your tongue in your mouth, right? Yeah.

Adrien:
I think if you learn a language before at age 12, roughly, you will speak it without an accent. So you could learn a few different languages before the age of 12 and at least sound and have it ingrained in you as if you are a fluent speaker. And I'm like, why was I raised in upstate New York? Like wouldn't just speak English? I'm so frustrated. So yeah, it's just like, being able to communicate has absolutely fostered so much of my travels. And I just like, I want to talk to everybody, because I think that everybody has some fascinating stories within them.

Chris:
Right. And I definitely want to spend a good portion of our conversation talking about storytelling, how you do it, how you get people feel comfortable in the kinds of questions you asked. But before I go there, I want to kind of stay in that formative state where it sounds to me like you're very different, you're that square peg and trying to fit in a round hole. You don't fit in quite to anything expectations, even the normal definition of like being you a working professional. Now, did your parents encouraged this? How did you find your way through all of this kind of, where people are still figuring out their lives and you're like, "I'm going to go to Mexico City. I'm going to do this thing. I'm going to travel." And I read in your bio, it's like you've traveled to over 30 countries. Where does that come from?

Adrien:
Oh, my God. Great question. I feel like I'm exactly half of my parents. My dad made his own business. He horticulturist and then my mom is one of the most incredible artists that I've ever experienced, like ever met. And the universe was basically like, let's take this entrepreneurialship and artistic passion and put it in one body. So I don't know, I've just always enjoyed being different. And even when I did a study abroad program, which is the first time that I left the country, I was like, "I don't want to go somewhere basic like London or Paris." Like that's too I just couldn't do it. So I went to Prague because I have always really enjoyed being different. And I think one of the reasons why I love traveling is because I just want to know everything that I don't know. And the differences are what like keep me going. And I just kind of I love just endlessly learning all the things I didn't know. I mean I think at a certain point, like, I don't know, I just turned 30.

Adrien:
So there's something about being 30 where you're like, Oh, I feel so much more settled than who I was. But it was definitely like a loss. My early 20s I would never relive again, like I was just so confused and lost and I definitely did want to find that like this... I really did try to morph myself into that square, but I just like... I think the only way to explain it is that I just knew that traveling was the only thing that felt right. And I put myself in a lot of different situations and in different job careers so I was like, maybe it'll be this, maybe it'll be that. But it just like have always, there's been a... I think I'm very lucky that I have a very clear communication between my intuition and my feelings and my brain. And I've always been very in tune to that, and have really listened to that. And that's kind of what's like me to be here. It's like if it's not, and I'm not saying that every decision has been like 110%, like, yes, ureka strike. But just by listening to like, what really made me unhappy was as important as listening to what did make me happy. So yeah, I don't know, I just feel very lucky that I have really good ear to my intuition.

Chris:
Wow.

Adrien:
If that makes any sense.

Chris:
It does. Sometimes I read phrases like this, and I'm curious how this may or may not apply to you which is, people see change. Sometimes we think we're running away from something, but more often we're running towards something. So in that context, do you think like you were going or getting away from something and were you clear your mind at that age, what you were moving towards?

Adrien:
I think it was a little bit of both, if we can choose the best parts of [crosstalk 00:14:16]. Because I was definitely running away from when I went out and did Latin America, which is how I started the podcast, I was definitely running away from that convention. Because I left social work and then I was a pie baker for a while and I was leaving every job that basically didn't allow me to be my own boss. And I just knew that that wasn't right and I was so unhappy in it and travel to me is like a hydra like you chop what... Like you come in with all of these questions and when you travel, some of them are answered but then three more pop up. And I kind of loved that because I think that travel in a way expedited this sense of clarity as to who I was because, when you travel especially when you travel alone, you have a lot of time to think and really pick apart what you like and what you don't like about your life and you're also exposed to so many other different lifestyles.

Adrien:
And it's a nice little samplers plate for what you want. And I think that's probably really expedited my own self growth and clarity to a certain extent, because once I came back, that's really when I started the podcast, and ever since I did that, it's just been an insane snowball effect. And the thing that's interesting is that once I started the podcast, and again, it wasn't just like, oh my god, I found the path kind of a thing. It was like, nothing deterred that path. Like there were no major obstacles or feelings that was like you should probably stop doing this. Like you aren't good at this. This isn't your thing. Like you thing got in the way of that. And yeah, there were definitely pick ups and setbacks. But nothing in a way that the universe was like, please stop doing this. So that's just kind of what allowed me to keep chugging along.

Adrien:
And it's interesting because I like went out kind of seeking this larger purpose, and I ended up creating it myself, but I don't think that I would have found it if I didn't give myself that time and listen to my gut, which was like, please get out of here. Like you need to go traveling, you need to go do this. And I eventually by traveling like 5000 miles away, I ended up finding myself. And I think that people really should give themselves that kind of space to think about their lives. Because you think about your life so differently when you are thousands of miles away from it. Like all of those assumptions and stories that are put on you by people in your life they completely melts away, and you're able to really see yourself for who you are, who you really want to be. And it gives you this kind of unshakable confidence. Like I am not defined by my job or my work, like I have such a or like the partners that I'm with, like I have such an understanding as to who I am now. And it's not by like, it's such an internal feeling, if that makes sense.

Chris:
Yeah. So it sounds to me like when you travel, you're sorting out who you want to be. You're becoming detached to the roots that you set down, and the old ideas of you and you get for the first time to be by yourself with your thoughts and to contemplate what you want from life.

Adrien:
Yeah.

Chris:
Okay. I always think this though, I always think that people who are really good at podcasting are also amazing writers, that writers have an unfair competitive advantage to us regular folk. Did it come first? Or were you like, really Like, I got to tell these stories, I like to talk, and I want to hear other people's stories and then you get into the writing part, or does one come first in your case?

Adrien:
Oh, that's a really great question. For me the writing came second. Because I even remember I moved to New York after five months in Latin America. And I was hanging out with writers and they would call me a writer and I'd be like, No, no, no, no, no that's not. No, no, no, no, no, don't say that. And now that's like the third thing that I call myself now. Depending on who I'm talking to. And I'm in so I think that for me, it definitely started with performance. But now I realized that, I think one of the reasons why I didn't like acting was because I didn't like being somebody that I wasn't. And I realized with writing and producing my own stories, that I am my own best character. I'm like, I just want to be a slightly more exaggerated version of myself.

Adrien:
So for me, the writing came second, but it came really naturally because, I have always wanted to be a storyteller, I just never admitted it to myself. Like even when I was like a few years ago, I kind of came up to my parents, I'm like, "Mom, dad, I'm a storyteller." And they were like, "Where have you been?" Like, "Are you serious?" But it wasn't until I like really admitted it to myself that like, this is my path. And the moment I admitted that to myself, like nothing has gotten in my way. If anything, it has endlessly rewarded me.

Chris:
So I have a question. Why did wearing the label of being a writer, why was that uncomfortable for you at the beginning?

Adrien:
I think because I was still very unsure of what this whole podcasting thing was about. And I was hanging out with people who were so accomplished. And I was like, "[inaudible 00:20:04] don't listen to my podcast. It's cute, but don't." I didn't take it seriously. And I think also because, you don't have all of those, I didn't have all of the credentials of like, oh, I have an English degree and XYZ, like all of the things that would make it seem as though you are more established, so it was definitely imposter syndrome.

Chris:
And that makes total sense. Now, you sound like a very outgoing person. I'm just curious because this is probably the last question that I asked you about your past but, what was that kind of like who you were in high school? Were you the most likely to everything? Fill in the blank.

Adrien:
I definitely have had an undercurrent of ambition and me the whole time and actually, I feel like I'm right on the edge of introverted and extroverted, because I need large amounts of time by myself in order to feel very centered. I find that people, depending on the person, people can be very draining. So as I've gotten older, no but and then the other half is like I love going out, I love being on stage. And I kind of learned pretty quickly that whenever you're doing something new, it's always kind of the first 30 seconds that are the scariest. And once you kind of push through that, it's like okay, we're good. And I think one thing that travel taught me is that as long as I approach people being very kind and very friendly, that most people will receive you in a very kind and friendly way and like are curious about you and want to help you.

Adrien:
So yeah, when it comes to like getting back on stage or podcasting or traveling, I never really questioned it or thoughts that it was weird because it was whatever just felt right to me and I guess for some that's interpreted as looking like I'm a very outgoing person, which I totally am, I like want to talk to everybody. But then there are moments where I'm like, I've draining my own battery too quickly. But again, I just have kind of always followed my own intuition and that's been doing some pretty, I guess, daring or outgoing thing.

Chris:
It seems like you have a history of doing those kinds of things. A lot of what you've done so far, at the ripe old age of 30, would scare a lot of people to travel, to travel through Mexico by yourself. And then to get on stage, I mean, people pick that as like the number one thing they're most afraid of after death. And there you are, and you run into that. So I want to talk a little bit about that. Now, most of the people that I have on my show, they're not as easily to kind of figure out as you are, because you have your podcasts, you have writing, you have your performances. So I'm listening to one of these things just right before we get on our call today, it is bananas, I have to tell you. So what I'm talking about is the best of risk episode number 16 with you. And you're on stage, I'm only at that part where something happens on stage where somebody falls over, I don't know what happened, but just even leading up to that it's nuts.

Chris:
So I have a couple of questions for you, without kind of totally rehashing that podcast but, you're on stage you're performing, and you're kind of baring your soul, you're telling all your most darkest, most intimate thoughts to a crowd of strangers. How do you get the courage to be so vulnerable and how does it feel once you let that out there?

Adrien:
That's a great question. I think the traveling has really taught me that when you are your most vulnerable, it's like a trust fall and everybody always grabs you. Like everybody always catches you and I found that when I am my boat most vulnerable, it gives other permission to be vulnerable too. Because we walk around thinking that like, either everybody else is so perfect, to have these incredible lives. And we just put all of these walls around us and it makes other people feel like oh my God, I'm not good enough and like, Oh, I need XYZ to seem so much better. And it's like, but if you're just honest about what you're feeling, oh my God, you can just hear, like a collective sigh. And I'm like, I don't have to pretend to be something that I'm not. And I found that I've gotten the most responses from the stories of when I am my most vulnerable because it gives people permission to be like, Oh, I don't have to be perfect, and that's great.

Adrien:
So I have gotten to a point now where and it helps me just like, I feel like it helps me see people. It's like don't think that I can't see whatever mask or makeup you're putting on yourself because I know that these kind of like mental monsters of doubt and anxiety and insecurity, like they all run rampant within us. And, like even Tom Hanks says that he still gets imposter syndrome and you're like, that's bananas. Like you have so much under you. And the fact that you still feel like you're not good enough, like that's some internal stuff you got to work with. So I feel like because I traveled, I worked on all of that internal stuff. And it really extracted a lot of the doubt and loneliness that I had experienced. And then once I kind of like teamed them and learn how to talk to them differently, it allowed me to own it.

Adrien:
And now I feel like I'm very comfortable talking about nearly every one of my life experiences from the horrifying to the funny and hopefully finding the funny and the horrifying at times, which is where that risk episode comes into play. And I love it. I don't know how to describe it, but I just, I love it. And I am my truest self when I am on stage and telling stories.

Chris:
Okay, a bunch of questions for you right now. So if I may voice the concerns of some people who are listening to this, they might start to feel like, gosh, where does the filter then? Is there such a thing as an overshare? Or saying something that you think later on, "Maybe I shouldn't have said that. It didn't come up the way that I meant. Or I didn't get the reaction I was expecting." And how do you resolve that?

Adrien:
Yeah, I'm more than happy to talk about anything. But a big responsibility that I bear is knowing my audience. And I'm going to tell that risk story very differently to my grandmother than I am going to tell my best friend. So a big part of that, and again, like I think that travel really taught me how to be an active listener, and it really taught me to see like, All right, who am I working with right now? And kind of gather a sense based on the information that they give me like, what is appropriate right now? Because I could easily talk about sexual assault on this episode, I'm not going to do that, because that's not what your audience is about. So a big responsibility, on my end, is to recognize my audience and think, what is appropriate to them? And also, how can I share my message with them in a way that they will be receptive to it?

Adrien:
Because I'm not going to walk up to a Japanese person and speak German to them, they're not going to understand. So it's like, how can I learn how to speak Japanese in this moment? So I can share, but you have to know your audience.

Chris:
Right. Well, I guess in this age where almost everything that you do your living in public. Something is being recorded, even sometimes without your knowledge. And this is The thing is like, I can say one thing to one audience, and tailor my message for a different audience because I'm feeling the room I know not to be inappropriate. But the fact that that other thing that you shared with your girlfriends kind of, in public or private, then is living out there in the world. So if somebody listens to that and they're not ready to hear that from you, do you ever worry about that? Because people ask me this question all the time. Do you worry that when what you say in terms of giving business advice on how to deal with clients, that a client's kind of listen to it and not hire you because of that?

Adrien:
Oh, that's a great question. I think I worried about that more when I was tutoring and working with children where I was like, well, what if one of these parents comes to a show and I'm talking about sex, I'm talking about, some crazy like hitchhiking, like and I'm around their children for an indefinite amount of months. So I think I worried about that more, but it's like as a performer, and as a comic, like I'm almost given license to push those boundaries a little bit. And I think that, as a writer, my job is to write about the truth. And if my truth is uncomfortable to you, I'm not going to apologize for it, because it is true to me, as long as I'm not lying. And I think being in the performer realm, gives me a little bit more leeway, because also when you go on stage, and when you're telling stories, you can stretch it a little bit. Again, you don't want to lie. But that is an unspoken agreement between the performer and the audience, is I'm going to entertain you, and I'm going to take some licenses with doing that.

Adrien:
Because like, the way that I perform that risk episode, like it's not... So much of that is just my own. It is a lot of action, but so much of it is just my own personal feelings. And it's like I can't apologize for my own personal feelings. And if that makes you uncomfortable, then this just isn't the story for you to hear right now. But I also think that as long as I made them feel something, that also means that I'm able to be remembered, even if that is uncomfortable. But I will say with that risk episode I have gotten a partner and a job from it. I think that it's a little bit more showing of like, when I was my most vulnerable, I was also rewarded from it. And I think that in my understanding of physics, I think that the universe rewards you when you are your most vulnerable.

Chris:
I agree with But that's coming from a brave and confident place. It really is because so many people in the creative space are so worried, like, even the slightest thing like asking the client for what they think they deserve in terms of pay, like, oh, they're going to hate me, they're going to think I'm too big for myself and we have a lot of that negative self talk. So I'm always amazed when I meet people who know who they are, who are comfortable in their own skin, not to say that you know that you're perfect or not, but you're comfortable with who you are at this moment in time. Right? And there's a big difference there. And I have more questions for. I mean, you just touched on something about this unspoken rule about this creative license that you're allowed to take. Poets do it. They change languages, or language to kind of fit what they're doing. They don't always follow the exact English rules of writing.

Chris:
Hip Hop, people do it especially and I marvel at how they bend words to either fit with the rhyme or the song or the idea they want to convey. Now I get into this with my wife, because I'll tell a story and she's like, "That's not how it happened." Like, "Honey, you're kind of stuck in reality, I'm trying to create a feeling a moment." And I changed the order, I blew up something bigger than it was. In your story, you're talking about how there was blood everywhere in the hallway and it's like, give me a second to clean off the Game of Thrones moment right? Now, it could have been a little bit of blood, or it could have been a horrendous amount of blood. The story needed it to feel that way like you had described it is in the shining, the elevator door opening and then just the blood just everywhere, right?

Adrien:
Right.

Chris:
I mean, that's part of your storytelling ability to exaggerate where you need to. So that's one tip, I think, because I know you do storytelling workshops and coaching. And the other thing that you said is, "It's important to make people feel something." You got to get them to feel and you, I think this is a Paul Arden quote from his book, that, "Being safe is risky, and being risky is safe." Especially when it comes to storytelling.

Adrien:
Wait, being safe is risky and risky, Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Chris:
Right? So you said, you went out there you told the story that for a lot of people would be too much. And you said you already got some opportunities and then job and a gig and that kind of stuff. What other kind of secrets are there to your storytelling magic?

Adrien:
Oh, that's a great question. I think that you definitely, I think like rule number one is always tell the truth. But a big part of understanding storytelling is telling the audience what you thought and what you feel. Because that's actually what we really want to know. I think that's very telling is the closest form to telepathy that we can get to. Because I can't read your brain and I can't read your mind and you can't read mine. But communication is the thing that gets us close, not perfect, but close. And if I tell a story, a story is a series of events like, this is the world, there was a change in the world, I needed to fix something, I needed to go get something. And now, there was a climax, now here's the end of the story. How is the world a little different? That's just the list. That's just a series of events. A story is telling my thoughts and feelings each step of the way. That's what makes the story. Is giving people that inside look to what you are emotionally experiencing, because that's what we latch on to. Like humans are such emotional creatures. And I mean, like storytelling is really what helped us become the apex species because we were able to transfer information in an emotional way. And when we have emotions attached to information, we remember them.

Adrien:
So, again, if you're not honest, If you don't have that clarity between your feelings and what is going on in the situation, I think that you need that in order to be a good storyteller, is to be really honest with what you are feeling at the time of each action. And then for me, I always try to be funny with it. Because good God, there is no drug like making a roomful of people laugh, like that is... And it also kind of gives people permission to relax, especially when you're telling something that's a little bit more intense. So I would definitely say like being honest and vulnerable about your thoughts and feelings is a big aspect to it.

Chris:
Time for a quick break but we'll be right back.

Greg:
Hey Greg Gunn from the Futur here. That's right. It's me again. Now the futur's mission is to teach 1 billion creatives how to making money doing what they love without feeling gross about it. Now maybe you're in school, but you feel like you're not getting what you need. Or maybe you're like me and sold all of your internal organs to pay for private art school tuition. But, it's been a while and you want to sharpen up some of those skills. Well, fortunately for you, we have a bunch of courses and products designed specifically to help you become a smarter and more versatile creative. Design courses like typographic, logo design and color for creatives go deep into the design fundamentals that you need to know and command in order to be successful. Check out all of our courses and products about learning design by visiting thefutur.com/design.

Chris:
Welcome back to our conversation with Adrien Behn. When you're on stage, do you have a couple of go to ideas or techniques that you used to get the room to like, Hey, here's what to expect for me and to loosen up so that they can have good time with you?

Adrien:
Yeah, yeah yeah. Like I will start with a little joke. And, like, I think the joke that I say, at the beginning of the IUD story is like, has anyone here ever been so lonely that they thought their IUD was their best friend? And like, that's just a silly joke, but it also plants information. And it also like, that's not even revealed until like the very like, middle the climax of the story. So I think starting off with a joke and another thing that comics do is just kind of like, comment on what they look like. So I think that like one time, I wore high waisted pants, and I was like, wow, I'm really rocking some buttness vibes right now. Like I feel like the British Empire sent me out to go collect botanical specimen in the Congo. Like you just make a little, if you start by making a joke about yourself, that is very onpoint. Again, it's like having a really clear sense of awareness, then the audience is like, okay, cool.

Adrien:
Because if you go up on stage, like, audiences can smell arrogance a mile away. But if you go in and be kind of not completely self deprecating, because I think that that's also not the... It's a little easy to self deprecating. But if you go in with a sense of like, I know what you think about me, and I see it and I get it, like the audience is automatically with you.

Chris:
Yeah, I think that's just having a level of self awareness and being good natured about what people see and think.

Adrien:
Totally, yeah, a lot of comics sees that and it's a good format. And it's a good warm up.

Chris:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). And now in that set that you were doing, at the set the story that you were telling, There's a moment here where you're in love with this guy or in lust with the guy and you tell the story about how you're going to seduce him and you're going to just be like, so essential to his life, you're going to clean his room the guy who hasn't done certain things for you yet. And I could hear in the audience, I think it's some women who are kind of like that hissing but there's like I can feel the reaction. And I think you knew that was going to happen, but even so, did you feel that in a way and how did that impact how you're going to tell that story?

Adrien:
Oh, totally. Once the audience warms up to you and is on your side. And you feel it like there is like a temperature change when the audience is on your side. And from there, I'm able to relax a lot more. And I'm able to improvise a little bit more because I feel so much more comfortable. And I also, a big part of... So with my stories, and not everybody does this but, my stories are incredibly scripted. Like, I know the next word that is coming out of my mouth. But as a storyteller, I have trained myself to say it in a way that feels very casual, and doesn't feel scripted. And that's a whole other aspect to stage performance. But so with the scripting of it, I know how to say things to cause a little stir out of the audience. And I think that the thing that I play in that story is I play up being very naive in the moment. And kind of like having people ride that naivete with me helps them be on my side a little bit more because it's like shouting during a horror movie. It's like don't go in that house, like that house is haunted. So kind of like using those same naivete in certain circles not all of them. But with that one, especially like, I knew what to say, to make people be like, what are you doing?

Adrien:
And that causes so much more like response and laughter and then it just makes it so much easier for me. I think I actually, like in that telling of it, I ripped what is now like, one of the best lines in it. And, I have been telling that story for at least a year. And it wasn't until I was like, I know I have the audience with me and I was like so in that world so that I was able to come up with even better gems throughout it.

Chris:
That was such a very rich, clear, vivid analogy that you were making about the horror film where everybody's in on it, don't go down that hallway yet the storyteller sets that up for you so that you can feel like you're part of the story and you engage, you like you're so outraged, like, don't do that, turn around right now. And you create that moment knowing very well, like you're a character within the story and you're setting it up as the director and the actor, actress in it, and then they get to yell out at you and you're like, I got you.

Adrien:
Yeah.

Chris:
I pulled you in sucker, right? You did.

Adrien:
Yeah.

Chris:
That's great. When you said that everything that you do on stage at that point has been scripted and you've also been telling the story for about a year now. So as a person who's working on this kind of speaking myself, when you go and perform in certain parts hit really like the way that you hope, some surprise you in very positive ways and some parts kind of died, what do you do with that?

Adrien:
Oh, my God, I mean, so much of the performing is doing it all the time. And so I go to open mics and that's honestly if you want to hard audience, you should go to a basement in the lower East Side with a bunch of other people who are trying to do the same exact thing as you and try to get a laugh out of them, it is nearly impossible. So for me, a big part of it is just practicing and saying it out loud in front of people. Because you always have a time pressure and it's like you got five minutes, you have seven minutes to get through this. So there's always that little bit of time pressure so you can see how much of the story you can get through in that limit. And then you can kind of see like, okay, what do I need to edit down? Where are areas where it seems like I lost people, like it's constant testing, it's constant constant testing. And then you get those few moments of like, but what that worked. So now I know what to keep.

Adrien:
And when we were aloud to be outside, I would do open mics at least once a day. I know because and I'm very fortunate to be able to live in New York where I can do that and I even have comic friends, excuse me, that are like you should be doing three open mics a night and. I'm like, I want to have like, a nice life too. I'm not all about the Netflix special, even though that would be wonderful if you're listening Netflix. But, so for me, a big part of it is just like always practicing and then being very mindful about what works and what doesn't work. And then I'm also very grateful, I find myself to be a creative extrovert. So when I am talking my ideas out loud, that is when I tend to make my best discoveries and I have certain people in my life that I go to.

Adrien:
And they understand me and my backstory and they know my voice. And they also know what I come off as and so they're some of the best sounding boards to like, tweak jokes, or try to find a story structure. And those are like some of my closest friends who understand me on that level. And so for me, that's very important, not everybody has that or needs other people in order to find clarity in their work, but that's something that I really cherish. So that's another way that I practice and improve as well.

Chris:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). So is it part of your process that you're going to these open mics with probably some of the harshest audience members you're ever going to get? Because they're professionals, right? They do this really. And it's going to be tough and you're going to get your truest reaction there. So are you coming in with scraps of ideas? Are you improvising the whole thing? How's your process? Like, what do you do?

Adrien:
Oh, that's great. Typically, I have at least the story structure that I want. And it's like I know, for me a big part of writing a story is knowing where do I want to end. Because then I make every single decision to get to that end point. So if I'm telling a story about a time that I got deserted by my friends in Thailand, I'm not going to attention about my grandmother unless it's imperative to the ending. So I always know a good storyteller only gives you the essential information to get to the end point. Because we've all been stuck in those moments with like, someone at a cocktail party, and they've just been rambling for so long that the ice has melted in your glass, but it looks full still so you don't have an excuse to get another drink, like you're stuck there for eternity. And a good storyteller knows where to end and they set everything up so the ending knocks you out.

Adrien:
So I always try to go in with that. And the parts that I'm always working out the most are like the lame jokes that I'm trying to work on and see like, you're always like, does this work, work, work better than that one? So it's more like the jokes and the laughter. But there are definitely moments where you're like, every audience is a whole new bag of marbles, because there are times where you're like, wow, I had never gotten a response from this before. Like, I've never had someone faint in a story before. And from there, you just kind of learn, by being on stage all the time you just kind of learn how to roll with the punches. So it's constantly being up there and testing and I go in with a structure.

Adrien:
The reason I don't do comedy comedy is because I am a little codependent on the storytelling structure because it gives me so much focus. And from there, I can make that world bigger and richer. Instead of like, I don't know, I truly like I don't know how the comedy stand up brain works of people just being able to kind of riff and create these fanciful jokes. I admire it, I love it, when it happens, but I just I don't have that brain. I know how to make the world that I have existed in much funnier.

Chris:
I think you said something I can really kind of bite down on there about from a story structure part where you need to kind of figure out how you want the story to end. And then you edit, judiciously, like the elements of the story unless it drives that ending home and I love that. So in that story example, when you said there was one time where you were left stranded by your friends in Thailand, what is the conclusion of that story? Like I just want to make it more tangible like going through your mind, this is how I want to end it. What does that sound like in your mind the ending?

Adrien:
So that's a really interesting one because I tell the story of how I had plans to meet a friend in Thailand. And when I got there, they were like, "I'm actually really busy." And I was like, are you wait, what? Like, what, like, I'm still kind of confused by it. And that's a really interesting story because, and then I ended up bumping into them and having like, a weird interaction with them, and then they just like, didn't respond or hang out with me the rest of the time that I was there, like had plans to be with them. So that was a really interesting piece because I kind of had to create that ending on my own. Like the ending that I created is like, well, I don't want to be your friend anymore. Like I don't... This isn't something. So sometimes it's not this like big action, it is your own settling with the reality of what's going on.

Adrien:
But I do believe that when it comes to memoir, and when it comes to personal storytelling, there needs to be a certain amount of time to pass before you tell that story. Because if you tell stories like fresh out the gate, sometimes you can still sound very angry or bitter or frustrated and the audience doesn't like that. Audience really likes when you have a level of like self awareness to it and you process your feelings. And you can admit in the story, like I was so upset, but if you actually seem upset still, the audience is going to be like, Oh, I'm feeling really uncomfortable now and not in an uncomfortable mess that you wanted and you wanted to create for them. So I think there always needs to be depending on how emotionally intense that story is, you need to have space between it so you can process it.

Chris:
That's another great tip. So it sounds to me like even if, because in your story, there's one that you did on stage on the risk episode. It was uncomfortable, but there was a zooming in and zooming out. Like, I'm telling the story, I'm in the story, but I'm also seeing it from your point of view too, that allows us to say, it's all going to line up okay. This is all going to go somewhere versus like, what a train wreck, I just don't know where this is going. Right?

Adrien:
Yeah.

Chris:
Yeah. So I know that everybody who's listening to this probably has not, my audience is probably a bit different than your audience that I want to do some, I want you to spoil that episode, so that they have to go and figure out the rest of the story. So I'm at that point in which I think somebody faints and because I don't know what happens, it's like chaos is happening in your story. What's the ending of the story like what did you learn or what did you want to give the audience at the end?

Adrien:
Well, so if I can get a little heady. Kurt Vonnegut says that, he has this really great video about storytelling structure and kind of breaks down the most popular stories. And the most popular story he says, of all time is the Cinderella story. And it is when you start kind of low, and then you get really close to the top and then there's a deep decline, where it seems like you're lower than where you started. But then at the end, you like, shoot back up. So the underdog story, the Cinderella story, that's the one that is like the most popular. And I inadvertently, it wasn't until like I had already started writing the story that I was like, oh, I think that actually this is the structure that would be best because I start in a deep place of insecurity and vulnerability and really being like I want.

Adrien:
But the outline of this story is that I was emotionally involved with a man who was much older than me and I wanted us to be together and he was very confused, gave me a lot of mixed messages. So it kept me kind of like, stringing along. And then an event happens, that really kind of shows me like, oh, I don't think I want this. So I get really close to that top and then we go all the way down to the bottom.

Chris:
Yes, you do.

Adrien:
And then at the end, that telling, specifically is so much more because in the actual moment of the telling, an individual in the audience is so freaked out by the mentioning of blood that they pass out. And I have to continue telling the story once they have been escorted out. The funny thing about that is I have no idea who that human was and I really wanted to like go up to them afterwards and be like, I'm so sorry. I actually had a big moment of shame. In that moment, I thought that I ruined the show. I was like [crosstalk 00:54:31] to be on this podcast and the one time someone passes out, but in that moment, once I started the story again, I realized how deeply ingrained storytelling is to the human psyche, because the whole audience erupted and basically said, screw this guy, finish your story. They didn't care about his well being. They were like we need to know how this ends.

Chris:
Right, you can't leave it on that. No way. How dare you?

Adrien:
How dare you? So it does have a happy ending. A little bit cleaner. And that's definitely the journey that I wanted people to go on.

Chris:
Wow. I mean, it will kind of be hard to script it any other way. It's almost like you hired the guy to faint for you. It's like, wow, look at this, the power of my storytelling.

Adrien:
I would never go on this line. I would hope that my own storytelling skills can stand for themselves and apparently not in this case. So yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's a wild story. And I think, I don't know, I love telling that story but, I don't know if I have to retire it unless I get to like a bigger audience. But that was possibly one of the best tellings of it, so.

Chris:
That's a great one.

Adrien:
You've got to check it out.

Chris:
Yeah. So, again, to tease the audience a little bit, the part where you take off your pants. The part where you take off your pants. I think that's the journey towards the top right? Is that where we are? Yeah. Okay. What I heard you say that I'm like, "Oh my God, Adrien is figuring it out. She's going to seduce this man and it's going to be done."

Adrien:
Yep. That's the point of no return. So like, in the storytelling arc, there is like the intro and then there's like a twist where it's like, there's the point of no return, we can't go back and then it's continuous rising action. And then the climax is like when everything comes together and then everything after that is the falling action and the conclusion. So that's definitely, it's a long setup. But I think it's worth it.

Chris:
It's interesting if somebody were to tell the story from this person's, the guy in the story, from his point of view, I think he starts high and then he drops in that moment. That your stories crossover, right? Because I think of this, like if an attractive woman comes up to me, it's like throwing me two signals, even if I'm not thinking long term, I'm going to go for it, let's try this right? But he tells you like we're not right for like, I'm not looking for this. And it's like, huh, that was kind of refreshing and unexpected. And then you guys have this strangely platonic relationship where you spend so much time together where it just seems like it would be so natural for you guys to slip into something more than platonic. So it's like his story exactly mirrors yours, but that exact opposite.

Adrien:
I love that.

Chris:
Right?

Adrien:
Yeah, I love that.

Chris:
But I guess as it goes, a man can only say no so many times when the opportunity presents itself.

Adrien:
That's really interesting. I have unfortunately, I have lost touch with that individual and I have no idea if they have listened to it, but it would be really fascinating to hear that same story from his perspective. But again, I think what happened to the moment we were literally too close to it, so like, process it together and by then I was like, this is an... I don't know if I want to keep spending my time with you.

Chris:
Right right. I think-

Adrien:
I truly would love to know what his side of the story is.

Chris:
Yes. And is he permanently scarred from it?

Adrien:
So if you want the I mean, like maybe on a psychological level, but it was actually a very small cut. He didn't have any stitches. But, it's a part that he cut is an end point and fills with blood. So it was just like a lot of only because of where it was.

Chris:
Yeah. It's like, everybody who listens as story's like oh, like I'm like all clinch down as I'm really like what is going on, right?

Adrien:
I do warn people, especially now, I'm like please be sitting down. I don't want to cause any more fainting.

Chris:
Yes. I had one last little thought here before we go, which was, you said that you're really kind of addicted to the story component that you want to have laughs But you really like to tell stories. And it made me think of somebody and I'm sure who this person is. But Hasan Minhaj, he did this Netflix, special homecoming. And I just thought that was the most beautiful, funny, deep, vulnerable, revealing story that a comedian can say, because it was a lot of story. But there were a bunch of laughs put in there and he acted it out, it was wonderful. Is that the right formula for you?

Adrien:
Yes.

Chris:
Something like that? Yeah.

Adrien:
I actually, I personally think that I branded myself as a comedic storyteller. I am a storyteller, which means that I'm going to make you feel things but I ideally want to be doing it in a very funny way and I'm going to write a lot of jokes into it. And I think that Hasan Minhaj, Mike Birbiglia, these are all people that are more comedic storytellers than someone who writes just a bunch of one off shows. Like Marc Maron, or Iliza Shlesinger, all of those people who are in a more stand up way, Hasan Minhaj is definitely a comedic storyteller. So that's what I again, if Netflix if you're listening, I would definitely be interested in doing... One thing I'm actually was working on before, I wasn't allowed to go, none of us were allowed to go outside anymore.

Adrien:
I was working on a one woman show and I want to, I do a lot of travel stories and I want to string together, probably four stories that talk about travel, but talk about it in a very honest way where it's not all of these, like beautiful women in sundresses in front of the Taj Mahal kind of story. Like a lot of very showing both sides of travel. That it is actually really hard and it's really uncomfortable most of the time, but there are these incredibly rewarding moments that you can't get any other way. So, yeah, Netflix if you want to a comedic travel hour, I'm your girl. But ending with the [inaudible 01:01:27] permission.

Chris:
Perfect pitch. Netflix, if you're listening, I would fund that I would watch it. So let's get that to happen.

Adrien:
Thanks Chris. [inaudible 01:01:35] one fun.

Chris:
Hey the journey of 10,000 miles begins with a single step. That was your first step, right?

Adrien:
Beautiful. [inaudible 01:01:45].

Chris:
So, Adrien, how do people find out more about you, listen to your podcast, read your writings and you tell us where we can find you?

Adrien:
Yeah, Chris. So you can go to strangersabroadpodcast.com and you can find all my episodes there. You can also download the podcast on Stitcher, iTunes, Apple podcasts, it's like the same thing now. And Spotify and under Strangers Abroad podcast and then you can find me under the Instagram as well. And if you want to follow my storytelling, you can find me on Instagram Adrien Behn. And that's it.

Chris:
Awesome. And Behn is spelt a little bit different. It's spelled B-E-H-N for those people who are going to look this up later. B-E-H-N.

Adrien:
It's German. So the way that they pronounce their 10 is Zehn, which is Z-E-H-N. So my family's like, assuming I don't know, we came here like before World War II. So I think that that's, or no, we came here like right around the turn of the century. So we're assuming that that's how my name was pronounced.

Chris:
Fantastic. Thanks for coming on the show.

Adrien:
Chris. Thank you so much. This has been such a delight. I'm Adrien Behn and you're listening to The Futur.

Greg:
Thanks so much for joining us in this episode. If you're new to The Futur and want to know more about our educational mission, visit thefutur.com. To find more podcast episodes, hundreds of YouTube videos, and a growing collection of online courses and products covering design and business. Oh, and we spell the Futur with no E. The future podcast is hosted by Chris Do and produced by me Greg Gunn. This episode was mixed and edited by Anthony Barro with intro Music by Adam Sanborn. If you enjoyed this episode, then do us a favor and rate and review us on iTunes. It's a tremendous help and getting our message out there. And let us know what you like. Thanks again for listening and we will see you next time.

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