Zoe Yellen at April’s Truth Serum show
“Horny! Horny! Horny!” comes the roar of the crowd at Truth Serum, the monthly comedy game show at Q.E.D. hosted by the boisterous Zoe Yellen. A comedian who performs regularly with the sketch comedy troupe Face for Radio at The Peoples Improv Theater, Yellen assembles a motley crew of drunken contestants for a raucous evening of trivia and dares that can include anything from the number of staircases at Hogwarts to a striptease accompanied by the Schindler’s List theme song. The crowd is invited to add their questions and vote for a winner by placing money into solo cups that is eventually donated to charity, and each night’s “Drunkest Audience Member” gets the honor of competing in next month’s show.
In between the game show rounds, Truth Serum highlights a wide variety of stand-up and sketch comedy. On the one side of the spectrum was Jack Pinsky telling jokes about awkwardly trying to sell a “g” of drugs in New Jersey, but unsure of whether that stood for a gram or a gallon, whereas as Aaron LaRoche’s deadpan served as a vehicle for jokes that riffed on how to avoid getting shot by the police, dead black fathers, and the sexual assault allegations against Morgan Freeman. The sketch troupe Mortals featured a dead-beat dad trying to impress his daughter by coming to her birthday party as “blender man” and a woman getting hit on by an HR rep while launching a #MeToo complaint.
I sat down with Yellen to learn more about the evolution of the show and what she loves about hosting shows in Astoria. Below are highlights from our conversation.
How long have been doing this show?
I started Truth Serum about two and a half years ago, but when I originally started, it was a talk show. It was me and one other person, and what we would do is it would be like a drinking game and casually get drunker…I would have one guest, and we would start out the beginning, we’d take a shot. And then there were certain rules to drinking, and basically the idea was that it would start out with kind of easy get to know you questions, and as we drank more it would get a little more ridiculous and a little more revealing. And in between the rounds I would have improv and stuff—and that was honestly mainly to get people there. At this point in this version of it, I feel like game shows need a break in between. I like having standup in between because it’s kind of like a palate cleanser. And so I did the talk show version of it for a while, and honestly it was just too much drinking….and it was podcast for a while. I’ve been doing it at Q.E.D. in this form since September or December.
And what’s your favorite part about working with Q.E.D.?
I like that they’re a community spot. First off, I love that it’s a 15-minute walk from my apartment. But even more than that, I love that it’s like—a lot of the people there and a lot of the shows are people from here, doing it for people here. I go here all the time for local events. So it feels almost like a home.
And how did you get into standup?
I started doing standup in college. I have since then not really done it very much because it is very time-consuming and I’d rather focus on other things. I just don’t think I am good enough to do it every so often. And then I started doing improv, and now I do sketch comedy and I like hosting, because it’s almost like the same high that standup gives you, but I don’t have to create a set, I can kind of just be myself and present something.
What do you think makes this show unique?
I’ve never seen anything like it—it’s something that I started cause I thought it was fun, and other people thought it was fun, and I just kind of kept doing it. It’s just kind of like a bunch of people hanging out and being loud and drunk together—but in a contained environment. There was one standup a couple of months ago who made this fantastic note about it. He was like, I saw this rowdy crowd and I was really nervous to go up there, and then as soon as the standup started you guys just kind of sit down like this. Everyone’s well-behaved when they need to be and rowdy when they need to be. And it just kind of feels like I’m having a fun night with my friends. It feels like a fun game night with my friends. (more…)