Live With It


Episode #707

Date November 16, 2015

Run Time 1:06:36

Amber Nelson, Byron Bowers and David Koff share about getting through tough times.

Song: RISK! Theme by Wormburner and John Sondericker

Song: City in Ruins by Mascaras

Live Story: The Social Graces by Amber Nelson

Interstitial: Hot Dog Disco Balls by Jeff Barr

Live Story: My Father’s Son by Byron Bowers

Song: Hero by Frank Ocean, Diplo & Mick Jones

Live Story: You Are Going to Die by David Koff

Song: Long Ride Home by Patty Griffin



Download: MP3

Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
M J Harrow
8 years ago

Thank you David Koff for your bravery and honesty. On Christmas day at five o’clock in a morning 2011. I got a phone from my sister telling that our Mum was in a coma. She died December 30th. Things haven’t been the same for everybody in my family. David is right about letting these hidden experiences out. I could go on for a long time about this subject but I’ll finish by saying that I’ve been listening to the risk podcast for a month now and it has become my favourite one. Keep up the good work everyone.

8 years ago

Amber Nelson was difficult to listen to. I don’t know if she was really nervous, or that is just how she emotes, but I could live without hearing one of her stories again.

8 years ago

MJ: Thank you so much for your kind words. And I’m honored that you would share about your loss publically here in response. I think talking about death openly, boldly and – yes – even comedically is one of the few tools always available to us as humans who cope with this greatest of all mysteries.

David Koff

8 years ago

Nerdy – I agree – that was painful to listen to. Some of the storyteller’s laugh at what they think is funny, but never seems to be and then some of the audience seems to laugh in awkward places, like they think they should be laughing so they just do.

For David – yes, let’s talk about death! Bravo to you for sharing!

8 years ago

I thought Amber’s story was not cool. I thought it was not very sensitive to people with Down’s Syndrome.

8 years ago

Another voice here to say that Amber’s story made me feel major discomfort. It verged on mocking a young man with Down Syndrome, and at the end, to say that she “got fucked by a Down Syndrome kid” – that wasn’t true. She didn’t get fucked by him. To say that and use it as a joke is…so very very wrong.

The other two stories were, thankfully, fantastic and took my mind off Amber’s.

M J Harrow
8 years ago

To all the people who are getting upset over Amber’s story. She was pulled into a pool and assaulted in front of people. She was the one who was attacked, the fact that attacker has got Down Syndrome means nothing. He was still aroused when he saw her breasts and when he became aroused he jumped her. She is the victim in the situation not the Down Syndrome kid. Fuck that kid, he’s just another prick how has a lame accuse to hurt people. Before everyone starts on me, remember that there are plenty of people with Down Syndrome who don’t hurt anyone. The condition is not a accuse for violence, especially of a sexual nature.

8 years ago

I’ve loved Risk! for years, and I am well aware of how bold it can get. I’ve heard nearly every episode. This was the first one that made me feel likeI could stop listening. What I’ve always loved is that, although Risk is full of humor about people from all walks of life (transgender, gay, homeless, alcoholic), the jokes are always from that specific group ABOUT that specific group. I doubt a heterosexual person making casual jokes about a transgender or gay person would be tolerated. And it should not. Amber saying that the boy with Down syndrome is “living the dream” by being a bag boy is so hurtful. What he did to her was truly terrible, but the fact is that it’s possible he doesn’t even understand what happened or why he should be ashamed. It is Amber’s right to tell her story, of course, but I don’t think it’s fair to so openly pick on someone who isn’t even close to being on her mental level. For some reason comics still seem to think Down syndrome is hilarious and it’s fair game for the butt of a joke. I could tell by her emphasis on the words that she thought just saying, “Down syndrome” should get a laugh. It was a rare showing of true cruelty on a show that usually seems so open towards all people. I’m so disappointed.

8 years ago

It’s hardly “picking on” the young man who assaulted her to factually explain how she was assaulted. This was an event that was deeply humiliating in her young life at a time when an experience like that can hurt the worst and Amber should be respected for speaking on it and trying to make it into a comedic, relatable story (and not every Risk story is comedic or supposed to be). Her laughter, and derision, is almost totally reserved for her younger self in the story. I agree that the bag boy comment and the “I got fucked by a Down syndrome kid” line are less than sensitive. But the “Down syndrome kid” isn’t the butt of the joke in her story—she is. She was the one who was victimized and humiliated. People with disabilities are still people, fully capable of being judged on their actions appropriately. This kid was talked about on a podcast—not arrested or otherwise penalized. I think that’s more than fair for sexual assault.

8 years ago

A podcast that’s a been champion for often-marginalized groups (gay, trans, ethnic minorities) featuring a story that milks laughs from a kid with Down Syndrome? Not to mention another story that ends with a married woman becoming sexually subservient to the storyteller to feed her crack addition?

No thanks. Risk has had episodes that have made me consider no longer listening, but I’ve never reached that point until now. I feel bad about myself and the world after listening to this. This is the episode where Risk turned into a bully. I’m done.

8 years ago

There was never a time that RISK! was not being attacked for being insensitive. I have always told others in the arts, “the more sensitive your work, the more you will be yelled at for being insensitive.” In six years, we have never been decried by conservatives, just those in our own tribe. Is there really a person on this page who thinks Amber Nelson ACTUALLY means harm to people with Down Syndrome, or that “punching down” at people with Down Syndrome was even ONE of the points of her story? Is there really a person on this page who thinks that Byron Bowers was ACTUALLY defending or promoting his behavior with the woman with a crack addiction at the end of his story? The people complaining on this page truly feel that the intention of two of the stories on this week’s episode was to bully people? Really?

Many of my friends who are “public figures” say they will never ever appear on this show. They say they won’t be able to help but to choose every single word with extra care so as not to step on any lines. We don’t air 70% of what we record for the podcast. We censor about a minute from most live stories we run. If you don’t get that what we have worked so hard to produce is a safe space for human beings to let words come out of their mouths the way that human beings actually let words come out of their mouths when they’re NOT being recorded, I don’t know what to tell you.

A friend of mine told me of an experience she had recently sharing a story at a story show on a college campus. In the story, she took us back to a time she felt especially vulnerable and was hurting. She said something like, “When I was little, my sister was so pretty, but I felt so dejected when I was around her, because I was chubby.” A guy in the audience yelled at her, “YOU’RE FAT SHAMING! YOU’RE ATTACKING PEOPLE!” I know how she felt.

There is a popular storytelling show out there. The storytellers who do that show are constantly comparing notes with one another about what might be too inappropriate to say out loud there. The producers have been known to make their storytellers send in written drafts. And to edit the written drafts to remove all the parts that might make anyone from any walk of life uneasy in any way. And to add in text to make crystal clear anything that might be in any way taken the wrong way. And to make the storytellers memorize and then rehearse in front of them the watered down versions of their life experience so that nothing unexpected comes out in the final recital of the script. If that’s what you’re looking for, then yes, you should not be returning to RISK!

8 years ago

I support Amber. Her story was totally within limits and it was hilarious too! The “living the dream”-comment at the end had several kind of contradicting dimensions (none of which where hateful towards Down’s syndrome in general) to it so you haters can just go and get yourself a little thicker skin! Maybe you should also consider what you would have done and felt in the same situation…

I also support Byron. He was clearly not happy about much of his life, and I thought his closing comments were funny. They were truly sad, but funny.

Seriously, the Risk! comments section is not the right place to clamor for more political correctness that guilt-trips people away from saying how they really feel.

david koff
8 years ago
Reply to  Owly

it’s funny: as the other story teller in this particular episode — my first ever — it’s been very fascinating to read everyone’s comments, particularly about amber’s story.

while kevin’s response is very eloquent about what to expect from RISK! storytellers and show overall, my request to all of you is this:

unless you know what it’s like to share a difficult or painful story in public and then have that story distributed to the ENTIRE WORLD for total strangers to hear: be careful about judging what is and isn’t appropriate for those who are brave enough to come forward and share.

those who come forward to share difficult and painful life experiences with the entire world are taking a huge leap of faith. at the very least — whether you’re offended or not — i’d ask you to remember how challenging making that leap can be.

8 years ago

In my humble opinion, I thought all the stories this week were fantastic, especially David’s. People who take offense to Amber’s words are overreaching and hypersensitive. For every one of you who will stop listening to the podcast because of your own social hangups, there will be one more person who discovers this show and loves it for what it is, not for what I’d like it to be. I encourage everyone I meet to listen to this show because it’s edgy and not your run of the mill talk show or podcast that plays it safe. Thanks to Kevin and all the storytellers for what they do and I look forward to a new show every week!

Lisa Boban
8 years ago

The show is called “Risk”. The tellers take risks by sharing. And listeners take risks by listening. I might hear language that offends me. Or shocks me. Or saddens me. I’ve heard stories that open old wounds for me. And, once or twice, I’ve had to stop a story.

But I want these stories to be told. I want the tellers to keep taking the risk of telling. And I will take the risk of listening. Because, in the end, its worth the Risk.

M J Harrow
8 years ago

So I’ve never heard of Poppers before, tried it for the first time yesterday, with my girlfriend. My god, it made me and my girlfriend unbelievably horny, for around ten minutes. However it led to a very long night of fun. Kevin you sure you want to give it up? Moderation in all things that way you can do everything, that’s my motto. Has for people still being upset by Amber and Bryon’s story. Guys you have to remember that they’re not stories, it’s a life experience that they are sharing and life has it’s ups and downs. I think The Risk is a wonderful podcast and I’ll recommend to all my friends and Poppers too.

8 years ago

The beautiful thing about Risk! Is that it’s a safe place for everyone to share true stories. Sometimes, as the listener, you might become uncomfortable. However I don’t think that is enough of a reason to come on here and criticize the storyteller and the podcast.

This is a place where people share “true stories they never thought they’d dare to share in public.” That is exactly what Amber did, that is exactly what everyone does, and that is what makes this podcast that rare diamond of a program.

8 years ago

I agree with everyone that there should be a place that is a safe space to come to terms with difficult things. As well, it’s extremely hard to share these defining moments sometimes.

Amber was sexually assaulted and humiliated, this we can all agree on. She’s deflecting it with humour, but the nervous laugh is something of a tell. I think there’s a way to tell her story WITHOUT using Down Syndrome as the point of a few cheap laughs. It takes away from the overall impact of it. I think it would be more powerful, anyhow.

If we were in a workshop, and I gave that feedback, is it “criticizing”? Genuinely curious.

I still love listening to Risk but also believe that being aware of our own biases towards marginalized groups is actually helping to make it a safe space for everyone. Saying whatever you want and expecting people to always understand your intentions is kind of the opposite.

I do, however, also believe that people are led too easily to outrage and then feel the need to drag folks through the mud. It would help us all to be more empathetic.

With all that said, David’s story was absolutely brutal in an honest and a real way. I’ve been dealing with a lot of grief and I completely agree the way we talk about death is dishonest.

8 years ago

What Dee wrote, above, is brilliant and wise and just about everything I was going to write. Here’s all I have to add:

While Risk! is a podcast that gives voice to stories that might not get heard in other arenas, they still are, by their nature, performances – they’re in front of an audience, be that audience live, or over the airwaves – and they’ve been shaped, written, edited, crafted, worked on by their tellers (to varying degrees). That means that those tellers have the opportunity to push themselves to find that perfect intersection between being authentically true to their story, AND choosing words, phrases, descriptions that don’t alienate the audience or make the audience “check out” of the story. And it seems pretty clear that that audience alienation happened in Amber’s story, for a segment of listenership.

I don’t think Amber had to lose our empathy and connection — I honestly think that she absolutely could have done one more edit of this piece that would have kept us on her side and that would still have honored her reality, and expressed how violated and embarrassed she felt, without going into iffy territory regarding ableism, marginalization and other-ing. I think there are lots of ways she could have done this — Kevin’s workshops talk a lot about looking for the “so what?”, and peeling back the layers of the story to ask “why did I do that?”, “why did I feel that way?”, “what truth am I still afraid to tell here?”, etcetera. Self-deprecation is another great tool — being really intentional about being as irreverent towards yourself as you are towards your tormentors.

Anyway, point being, I don’t think Risk! is a place of “either/or” storytelling — “You can be honest, OR you can censor yourself to keep the audience happy and RUIN your story’s authenticity!” I think any of us, all of us, can be honest AND find ways to keep the listeners connected, simultaneously. That’s what great storytelling is.

8 years ago

David, your story had me weeping at my desk. My dear father died at 67 when I was 32 from a heart attack, and I then became the sole caregiver for my poor mother, who had Alzheimer’s. I solely took care of her for over six years, until I just couldn’t anymore. I completely broke down mentally from it, and she died, mercifully, in a nursing home, as a shell of a human being, just a writhing thing that somehow kept going until then. Not the beautiful mother I had known. I lost my sister a year later from a horrible, lingering disease. I never had children, but my husband and I also love and rescue animals. Within a year I lost three of my beloved cats. The death of one particular cat was so sudden and so incredibly painful I still can’t talk about him too much. And yesterday I found out that the aunt I loved as a second mother, but was estranged from due to a stupid fight, is dead.

This type of trauma is hard to deal with. It’s like getting knocked down by waves, over and over and over. I still talk about death, with anyone who will listen. Somehow it allows me to process it all, and keeps me going. But it is getting better. You are right – you come to accept it. Although you are sad, you find new life, in children, animals, and the family and friends who love you. And having a wonderful spouse, as we both do, is such a blessing.

I wish you a long lifetime of good memories. Thank you for your story.

david koff
8 years ago


Thank you for your kind words. And we obviously share a lot in common given our respective stories. You’re very brave to share what happened to you here and, I hope, you’ll find a way to not only start talking about that one cat’s death but, also, to use your creativity and humor to share you story without fear, shame or embarrassment. We give permission for others to do the same when we first give that permission to ourselves.

Congrats on taking the first step,

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x