Award-winning storytellers Bill Lepp and Andy Offutt Irwin proved great stories are not confined to books at the Homewood Public Library as they weaved tales for a delighted audience at an April 20 program.
Lepp is a five-time champion of the West Virginia Liars Contest as well as the 2011 National Storytelling Network Circle of Excellence Award winner, and Irwin is the 2013 National Storytelling Network Circle of Excellence Award winner.
Fans came to Homewood from as far as Jonesborough, Tenn. to have Lepp and Irwin mesmerize them with their stories. Audience member Sherril Miller of the Tennessee Storyteller’s Guild said: “Once you see them, you’ll want to see them again.” Greg Weiss, drama teacher at James Hart School in Homewood who hosted the program, said his students would agree after they got a special presentation by the pair earlier in the day.
Lepp, who grew up in a small town in West Virginia, recited two stories from his childhood on just how confusing adult humor can be.
He began with a tale in which he asked his father why he was bald and was told it was because Rudolph licked his father’s hair off. Lepp’s father then told the boy he would shoo Rudolph away if he encountered Rudolph in the future. What Lepp heard however, was: “I’m going to shoot Rudolph, anyway,” which led to a series of comical youthful exploits in an effort to win Santa’s favor to make up for the shooting of his lead reindeer.
The second story Lepp told related to poor decisions he made as a 16-year-old boy and learning hard but amusing lessons. His storytelling style and comedic timing were reminiscent of comedian Mike Birbiglia, while his material reminded one of comedian Jeff Foxworthy. Lepp’s stories clearly appealed to the wide range of ages in the crowd.
Irwin utilized his talent for voices and sound effects to tell a riveting story about his physician aunt, Dr. Marguerite Van Camp. The 85-year-old widow is the centerpiece of the majority of Irwin’s stories.
Irwin addressed aging and being part of a close-knit community in a style similar to Garrison Keillor’s show, “A Prairie Home Companion.” The spectators laughed uproariously when Irwin told of a young camp counselor named David injuring himself during a practical joke. The counselor said to himself, “Oh gee, heavens to Betsy. I seem to have injured myself. What an inconvenience this is at this time.”
The audience chuckled with Irwin when, in the elderly voice of Aunt Marguerite, she told the counselor, “I believe you’re having trouble assessing risk.”
Irwin included some audience participation in his act, but the aged references got a loud response from the older audience members, leaving the younger members at a loss.
The audience enjoyed the show, proving Tennessee storyteller Miller right. This is a show many want to see again.