Teen Angst Night mines awkward years for laughs

Sara Bynoe specializes in bringing schadenfreude to the stage.

For 18 years, the Vancouver writer and performer has invited scores of people to read their worst, most humiliating works of poetry from arguably their most formative — and vulnerable — years via Teen Angst Night. 

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The end result is laughter, catharsis and some good, old-fashioned piss taking.

“I think the best laughs come from when you identify with things,” Bynoe said. “If you’re coming to this night, I think you’re already on board with the concept, so you will identify with different storytellers. Maybe there’s a bit of a teenaged healing.”

Slated for its next go-round Friday, Jan. 12, Teen Angst Night is pretty much exactly what the title suggests — bad poetry, song lyrics and diary entries written by people when they were between the ages of 10 and 19.

Outside of those age requirements, only two other rules apply: the work must be your own, and you can’t be proud of it.

“Poetry should lift you up and enlighten you,” Bynoe said. “This is not that.”

Typically somewhere five and eight people read over the course of an evening, and timeslots are usually confined to five minutes. Bynoe says women typically veer into “boy crazy” diary entries, while men opt for regrettable party antics or the need for companionship. Women typically have much more material to draw on and invariably read more often than their male counterparts.

“A bunch of guys have told me, ‘I’ve destroyed everything.’ It seems like women are more likely to hold on to stuff,” Bynoe said.

Teen Angst Night started in Calgary in 2000 and came about via two catalysts: Bynoe’s binder of poetry from high school, and lyrics from a friend who had dated musicians.

Together there was a treasure trove of terrible that eventually became Teen Angst Night’s first home: Bynoe’s pre-social media website, TeenAngstPoetry.com. Though no longer online, Bynoe was able to recover some gems from her past musings and they’re categorized like an early 2000s emo band discography: I am Alone (no one understands my pain poems), F*** You (you don’t understand me/I hate you poems), Life Sucks (and I want to die poems) and Breakups (I will never love again poems).

“You can learn a lot about someone from how they react to this, because the people who come out and say, ‘I don’t get this, I never had angst,’ I worry about them,” Bynoe said. “That person is going to have a midlife crisis and is overdue for some introspection.”

Teen Angst Night runs 7 to 10 p.m. on Friday at the Fox Cabaret. Tickets are 10 in advance, or $15 at the door. For info, see sarabynoe.com.





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