Episode 143

When Comedy Meets Choreography in Storytelling

I’m preparing for my 5th level Black Belt test. As part of the test, we have to create and perform a series of movements – with or without weapons – to show the Grandmaster and test board that we’re capable at this level. 

Oh, and it has to be 100% unique and created from scratch.

So this is high stakes stuff. I know I need to come up with something that I’ve never done before. Ideas start coming to me and I dismiss them one by one, like train cars passing by.

Then, it hits me! I’m a storyteller and an Improv performer. Even though this is a Martial Arts test, I need to tell a story that’s never been told before.

Now, this is already an unusual approach since most martial artists aren’t thinking about going to the mat to tell a story. Yet in my case, it needs to happen because this is how I think and who I am.

I come up with a fantastic narrative. I’m in Tokyo enjoying my tea when I go over to the window. Suddenly, intruder after intruder comes through it and attacks me! I start doing all types of maneuvers, using household items around me as weapons to disarm and dispose of the invaders.

In the end, it’s just me sipping on my glass of tea with all this carnage on the floor around me. And while I can’t prove it, I swear I see a little moisture in the Grandmaster’s eyes… and he normally doesn’t show his emotions.

And that’s the power of a great story. You know you’ve done good when your audience can feel what you (or the characters in your story) feel.

And that brings me to my special guest today, Sarah Jenkins, who is a master at bringing comedic stories to life without saying a word. In this episode of the Storytelling School Podcast, you’ll learn how she does it through choreography and imagery and get answers to questions like:

What makes comedic short form storytelling so special? Why does harder not equate to being better in story form? How can you know why an organic joke (not written on the page) lands for an audience or not? And what kind of mistake should you avoid that a lot of storytellers and speakers make?

What you will learn in this episode:

  • What it means to be “in service of the joke” in comedic storytelling
  • Why the steps you take as you tell your story don’t matter
  • What has to be in your story to make it memorable and effective

Who is Sarah Jenkins?

Sarah Marie Jenkins is a California native residing in NYC. She has been dance captain and associate choreographer for numerous shows, as well as the choreographer for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix, Mr Mayor on NBC, and Girls 5 Eva on Peacock. 

Recently, she starred as Peter Pan in the first ever remounting of Jerome Robbins Broadway at the MUNY, as well as in the Cathy Rigby version of the show (as her successor). Before that, Sarah was seen as Jennyanydots in the revival of CATS on Broadway. She has also been on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Law & Order: SVU, and performed on the Today Show and Bonnie Hunt show. 

Her national tours and musical work include Legally Blonde, Peter Pan with Cathy Rigby, Guys & Dolls, Swing!, Can-Can, Honeymoon in Vegas, and The Nutty Professor (directed by Jerry Lewis). When she’s not working on the stage or screen, Sarah has a successful photography business specializing in headshots for actors of all ages. 

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