Person of interest: Alan Olifson, host of Moth StorySLAM

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At age 16, Alan Olifson started doing stand-up comedy in his native Los Angeles. In his 20s, he toured the country, supporting himself through stand-up. In his 30s, he moved back to L.A., taking a stab at professional comedy writing. And at 40, he moved to O'Hara with his wife and two small children to live the suburban dream, working as a software developer by day and comedian by night.

Mr. Olifson, now 42, hosts the monthly Moth StorySLAM at the Rex Theater, affiliated with the national The Moth organization and radio show. The show, held the first Tuesday of every month, features real people telling real life stories about a given theme, with one story per month chosen as the winner. In recent months, shows have sold out, with as many as 100 people turned away.

On May 31, he will bring the WordPlay show that he launched and produced in Los Angeles to the Bricolage Theater on a quarterly basis, during which writers will read essays paired with a soundtrack from a live DJ.

He also works regularly as a stand-up comedian -- he'll do shows May 10 and 11 at Latitude 40 in Robinson. Last year, he performed a one-man show called "ManChild: My Life Without Adult Supervision" at the Bricolage. Stories from his blog of the same name ( have been featured on the Post-Gazette's PlayGround parenting blog.

It must take a lot of confidence to decide you're funny enough to be a stand-up comedian: I started when I was 16 -- I was too young to realize what a terrifying thing it is. Also, the time I grew up, it was just one of those heydays of comedy. For me it just seemed kind of natural.

Why move across the country to Pittsburgh from Los Angeles? Los Angeles was expensive, I was spending a lot of time in the car, and every time I came back to Pittsburgh [where his wife grew up], I just loved it. I fell in love with the city.

And how's the move turning out? I love it here. It turned out exactly as I hoped. I'm performing multiple times a month, which was not the case in Los Angeles. I'm still getting used to the winter, and still getting used to the size of the bugs. I open my screen door and it's something out of a Stephen King movie. I have this big backyard and I'm scared to go into it.

Your favorite story from the Moth StorySLAM (suitable for a family newspaper): There was a high school kid who won, who did a great story about being anxious, losing sleep, not eating, fitting into clothes that hadn't fit him for years. He was growing backward, like Benjamin Button.

Three things always in your refrigerator: I have kids, so that's string cheese, milk and yogurt squeezers. We're very heavy on dairy.

Your favorite spot in Pittsburgh: I'm partial to PNC Park in the summer.

Pet peeve about Pittsburgh: I have a very bad sense of direction. I'm used to missing a turn and being able to go around the block. Here, you miss a turn and you're over a river and through a mountain before you can turn yourself around.

Best piece of advice I've ever received: To have a back-up plan. My parents gave me that advice, and it's allowed me to keep on doing comedy and also have a life.


First Published March 24, 2013 4:00 AM


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