How to Entertain at a Campfire

On our life list of must-learn talents: entertain at a campfire.

   Photo: Alexander Ishchenko via Shutters

First, divorce yourself from any obligation to the truth. Southerners, though maligned for our deficiencies in other areas, are, without a doubt, the world's best storytellers. This is because we couldn't care less about facts. Truth to a southerner is as useful as tits on a boar. If you're not from the South, you're at a great disadvantage. So you need a refined technique. Have a drop of something cheerful. Slow down. People say a story shouldn't take too long. That's not true. When you know you've got the audience's interest, slow down until people get uncomfortable, until they're wondering whether you're an idiot. Then deliver the knockout. You have to deliver the knockout. You also have to be competitive. You need to steal—steal from comedians, but also from crazy people. Truly crazy people have a gift with language. They can upset expectations, which is all that campfire storytelling is. That, and doing your duty as a human at our primal gathering place. Once I was at a fire in the Himalayas. The buzzed porters started singing song after song, these gorgeous songs. They finally asked when we were going to join in with some American songs. We had nothing. It was pathetic. From that moment, I've always been ready to sing a song at a fire. People talk about the wonders of the modern world, the progress of technology. That's fine. But have your bases covered. --AS TOLD TO ABE STREEP

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