What happens when you combine puns and pies? You get a Pun-kin Pie, of course!
All jokes aside, visitors got together over a slice of pie for an evening of stories and stand-up at the High Line's "There Will Be Pie!" event in June. The event featured some of New York's best storytellers and comedians, including The Moth's regular Elna Baker and The Daily Show correspondent Hasan Minhaj. Oral history and local narratives also took center stage with NPR's The Kitchen Sisters, as well as historian and filmmaker Suzanne Wasserman, who provided clips from fact-based films and radio programs. To keep with the pie theme, each storyteller performed a piece having to do with food – which brought a ton of laughs (and some surprises)!
The evening kicked off with a hilarious introduction from hosts and fellow storytellers Maeve Higgins, a comic and writer from Ireland, and Jon Ronson, bestselling author of nonfiction novels such as So You've Been Publicly Shamed and The Psychopath Test. Former teacher-turned-comic Chris Duffy kept the ball rolling by reading some fictional yet amusing reviews from the food column of "fifth-grade student Gary Sherry."
The evening continued with Suzanne Wasserman, who presented a clip from her award-winning film Meat Hooked! Wasserman's documentary, which examines two hundred years of butchering, featuring three current butchers in the New York area. The clip chosen included a scene interviewing butchers in the meatpacking district of Manhattan, the High Line's neighborhood.
Melissa and Chris, two visitors from Houston on their first trip to the High Line, shared their appreciation for Wasserman's film. "I really loved the history of the meatpacking district," Chris said. They were also moved by the Kitchen Sisters radio interviews. "We're from Houston, so the last piece about the Civil Rights movement and the Southern connection hits a nerve for us. Growing up in the South, there's a lot of that culture of feeding you which this audio demonstrates. There's a lot of emotion tied up in food that people often don't recognize."
Next to grace the stage was Elna Baker, who recounted a hilarious yet heartwarming story about identity, navigating change, and finding herself on a family trip to Europe. Kaitlyn, an audience member who is familiar with some of Baker's work, shared her reaction to Baker's story: "I've seen some of her other performances, but nothing like this," she said. "I loved how real she was. She said things that were really true about life, people, and feelings, about feeling weird and awkward. I was completely captivated."
Note: the top three things not to say to Elna are: (1) Tina is the pretty one, (2) You're not funny, and (3) Good job.
A monologue by host Jon Ronson transitioned us over to The Kitchen Sisters, Davia Nelson, and Nikki Silva, the producers of James Beard and du-Pont-Columbia Award-winning series, Hidden Kitchens, heard on NPR's Morning Edition. The Kitchen Sisters shared a few of their incredible stories that evening, the most notable being a piece on Georgia Gilmore, an unsung hero of the civil rights era who baked and sold pies to help fund the Montgomery bus boycott.
"Some people look at a pie and see a pie. Some people see a pie and see a weapon for social change" –Davia Nelson
Following the Kitchen Sisters, there was a brief intermission for the main attraction – pie! Bubby's High Line, located just across from the High Line entrance on Gansevoort Street, provided delicious strawberry rhubarb pies for the event. The audience wasted no time gobbling it up!
Maeve Higgins gives us a tip to prevent overeating: "Pretend that Michael Fassbender is watching you eat."
Audience members also received a chance to participate in the event through their own stories, which were gathered and read aloud by Maeve Higgins at this point in the evening. The audience voted on which story they thought was the best, and the top three amateur storytellers received a prize!
Once everyone's bellies were full, it was time to continue the evening's festivities. Comedian Hasan Minhaj had everyone shaking with laughter with his stand-up on friendship and middle school lunch memories.
The storytellers capped off the evening by recounting a New York Times piece on coffee's influence on American history, entitled "How Coffee Fueled the Civil War." It was an exciting ending to a captivating night.
Afterward, Houston visitor Chris let us in on why she and her daughter Melissa chose to attend the event that evening: "When you go somewhere you want to feel like a local – this was something really local that we felt we could take part in."
Photos by Rowa Lee