For the uninitiated "Don't Tell My Mother!" is a monthly story-telling show which which was created by producer Nikki Levy, and contains tales of love, sex, and well, how our moms somehow had a hand in forming or damaging us. The show takes place at Busby's, a fantastic bar in Hollywood with pretty solid drinks and food. But I digress, this isn't an ad for the show or Busby's but a description of what a great experience the entire show was.
When I arrived at Busby's the show was just setting up. I had gotten there entirely too early and was given a short tour by the show's producer Jake Webb, who had literally been in London that morning and was somehow still standing awake and energetic that night. The room for the performance was pretty sizable, with plenty of seating that would later be completely filled with roughly 200 audience members.
The cast began filtering in: Glozell Green, Ben Gleib, Mary Hollis Inboden, Michelle Tea, and Dani Klein Modisett.
How did you guys get involved with the show?
Ben Gleib: Nikki reached out to me, I think a couple of years ago asking me to do the show. We've been trying to coordinate it for a long time, we both forgot about each other for a while and we recently reconnected and we were finally able to find a date that worked.
Oh wow so this has been in the making for a long time!
Ben Gleib: It has been in the making, yes!
Glozell: Well, Nikki contacted us as head of scripted over at Dreamworks TV and I'm part of that family through Awestruck and that's how we were connected. She's a fan of the color green so we just hit it off, you know!
Mary Hollis Inboden: I got a call from Nikki, and I guess she had gotten in contact with my management team, and I've been looking to do a few more storytelling-type gigs and this was just right up my alley. We're sisters in that we've known each other since we were kids, so I felt very comfortable doing the show.
Is your story really a story that you wouldn't tell your mother?
Ben Gleib: I would not tell my mother all of the the details of it, in fact my parents dropped me off here tonight and wanted to come in and I said that I would prefer if you don't.
Glozell: This is about my mother. She'll never have to know but she'll read the book [Is you okay?] and find out about it anyway so.
Mary Hollis Inboden: Oh my story is not a story I would tell my mom but the funny thing is I actually called my mom because my mom knows almost every other story that she shouldn't know about me. We've got a very open relationship. She sometimes wishes I didn't tell her as much as I did. So I called her and asked her "Mom, what's one thing that I've told you that you wish I hadn't told you?" She gave me some ideas but I eventually went with one she has not heard before.
A quick toast and a shared serenity prayer and the show began.
Despite the large room filled with 200 or so strangers, Don't Tell My Mother almost had a magical feeling as soon as the first story began. Levy led the show, spinning the tale of her experience as a "lipstick" lesbian and the struggles she had with her own identity. Her opening story set the tone for the rest of the show, relaxed, funny and no judgement.
After Levy came Dani Klein Modisett who honest to god sounds just like Wendie Malick. The evening had a soft theme of back to school, and Modisett expressed the sheer joy of watching her own children return to school, and then transitioned this into a rip roaring story about the difficulties of becoming a mother.
Modisett was followed by Glozell, whose tale had everyone in stitches. I've seen a lot of YouTubers perform live, and Glozell felt less like she was performing and more as though she regaling a hysterical story at a bonfire among friends and family. Good god did she slay, and she did this despite being completely exhausted from her 5 week old baby keeping her up every night this week. Her story ended with a catch phrase spoken by her mother that will forever stick in my mind, "Oh! I know what to do!" (spoiler: she does not, in fact, know what to do).
Up next was Mary Hollis Inboden, who delightfully told the the story of her first time, the details of which cannot be repeated in this article for fear of Google flagging it as inappropriate. Same goes of Michelle Tea's motherhood extravaganza which was coupled with the adorable story of how she fell in love with her girlfriend Dashiell.
Ben Gleib also told the horrific yet highly entertaining story of losing his virginity which as he put it earlier, his mother knew of but did not necessarily know the details. Out of kindness to both of them, this author is not going to share this tale of hilarious woe. Just trust me when I say that it was a level of awkward that even American Pie can't touch.
For how large the show is, and it is large, it has a very close, familial, intimate feel to it. Each story is funny, serious, happy and sad. There's a strange sort of connection the whole audience feels not just with the performer but with each other has well, an awkward bonding through the cringe. At the end, you can feel the palpable relief sweep through everyone despite stories which may have not had the happiest of endings. Even without a joyful resolution, you could still see the person onstage is okay and has survived whatever incident they've shared.
The next show is on October 7th, and sometime in the winter it will travel to San Francisco (check the website for details). If you're in the LA area, come and check it out! If not, have no fear, Don't Tell My Mother has a podcast on iTunes and a YouTube channel so you too can join in the fun!
You can find Glozell Green on her channel, Awestruck, or check out her new book "Is You Okay?", Ben Gleib will be back on GSN for the next round of his show "Idiotest," Mary Hollis Inboden can be seen on the show "The Real O'Neals" as Jodi O'Neal, Michelle Tea's book Black Wave will be in stores soon, and you can pre-order it on her site here, and finally Dani Klein Modisett's book "Take My Husband, Please!" is out for everyone to enjoy!
All Photo Credits: Ashly Covington