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'Mortified' Is The Hit Show That Takes You Down Memory Lane
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'Mortified' Is The Hit Show That Takes You Down Memory Lane

Picture of Ellen Frank-Delgado
Updated: 4 January 2017
Mortified, the hugely successful live show, documentary and podcast, offers a unique opportunity to take a trip down the memory lane not many people are brave enough to revisit. We spoke to founder Dave Nadelberg about why he thinks everyday people around the world are signing up to read their childhood diaries, love poems, and songs in front of an audience of complete strangers.
Mortified Nation Documentary | Courtesy Mortified
Mortified Nation Documentary | Courtesy Mortified

In order to understand how Mortified began, flashback to 13 years ago. It’s 2002 and Dave Nadelberg has found an utterly embarrassing love letter to his high school girlfriend. Instead of throwing it away as fast as humanly possible, as most would, Nadelberg decides to share the love letter with his friends. After several readings and countless laughs, friends of Dave inspired him to reach out to others in the hopes that other adults had equally as embarrassing works of art from their angst-ridden years. They did.

The first Mortified Live! show launched in Los Angeles with Nadelberg, among others, performing in the debut show. Quickly, Mortified Live! spread to the east coast with a show in New York, and then back to the west coast with San Francisco. Now, flash-forward 13 years to 2015 and what can only be described as a Mortified movement has completely taken over stages in over ten cities. Those ready to expose their darkest, most confusing and twisted years may sign up to perform at Mortified Live! in cities such as Boston, Chicago, and Austin. The Mortified movement has even spread across the pond to stages in Mälmo and Amsterdam, with Dublin and London shows on their way as well.

Performer with childhood photo at Mortified Live | Courtesy Mortified
Performer with childhood photo at Mortified Live | Courtesy Mortified

After speaking with Nadelberg, it is easy to understand why Mortified has been so successful. While Mortified provokes just as many laughs as a traditional comedy show, it is also an environment that inspires people to be proud of who they were. With that, self-loathing is completely absent at these shows. Rather, Mortified is a cleansing experience both for the performer and the audience. From ad executives to financial advisers, people are given the chance to share their autobiographical excavations with audiences who can easily relate to the stories being told.

At the latest San Francisco show, speech language pathologist Annick Tumolo spoke of her childhood infatuation/creepy obsession with singer Jonathan Knight from boy band New Kids on the Block. Acupunturist David Blatt shared with audiences how he could never understand why so many of his relationships with high school girlfriends didn’t work out, until he finally couldn’t stand seeing ‘one more hot dude on the street’. In between performers, improv/freestyle hip-hop group The FREEZE summarized each excavation in an equally hilarious rap. The atmosphere was truly inspiring, with audience members made up of performers’ family members, co-workers, and complete strangers nodding their heads as they remembered their own teenage years.

Actor Eric Stonestreet of Modern Family at Mortified Live | Courtesy Mortified
Actor Eric Stonestreet of Modern Family at Mortified Live | Courtesy Mortified

Mortified Live! also offers many different specialty shows. From Women of Mortified, to Men of Mortified, to Jews of Mortified, there is a show out there for everyone. Although Mortified’s Doomed Valentine’s show is the biggest show of the year across stages, others like Lordified and Morti-Pride are true crowd-pleasers. In fact, Nadelberg’s favorite specialty show is Morti-Pride because although he cannot relate directly, Nadelberg firmly believes that these shows are the most moving.

The Mortified movement does not stop at live shows. Mortified enthusiasts can also indulge in the documentary Mortified Nation (available on Netflix) and two anthologies. While on Netflix watching clips of Nadelberg’s own performance, also be sure to check out The Mortified Sessions. Although not an adaptation of Mortified, The Mortified Sessions is a talk show by the creators of Mortified for Sundance TV. Additionally, Mortified has recently conquered podcasts with The Mortified Podcast by Radiotopia and run by PRX. The podcasts are a continuation of the film and new recordings are available for free. The podcasts are similar to Mortified Live! with curated pieces being read, but also provide a Q&A after each episode with the one performer. In a recent episode, entitled ‘Brooke: I Was A Teenage Witch’, Brooke endured questions such as: did you really believe in the power of the stones? The podcast will no doubt have you awkwardly laughing to yourself alone on your morning commute.

In San Francisco, the next upcoming Mortified Live! is the Summer Sexy Show. When asked to describe this show, Nadelberg simply remarked ‘raunchy, slutty slutty diaries, love letters, lyrics, poems’.