Gastor Almonte, a comedian from Brooklyn who was recently diagnosed with diabetes, will perform his one-man show, “The Sugar,” on Feb. 25 at the Howland Cultural Center in Beacon to kick off a new series of solo storytelling by The Artichoke.
How does comedic storytelling differ from stand-up?
When I do stand-up, I’m letting you know what’s going on in my head now. Storytelling is why I think that way. It’s telling you about something that might have happened before.
Is timing innate, or something you can learn?
Timing and comedy are skills, and those who are best at it have an innate ability to do it better and get to a better understanding of how it works. It’s something you’re good at, but you can always improve. For me, I’ve been funny my whole life. I grew up telling stories I learned from family members. On Sundays, my uncle and my dad told stories to each other, and then to my cousins and me, separately. Growing up, if I was cool and funny, they’d let me hang out with them in an informal way I normally didn’t get access to.
Your stories are autobiographical. But are they embellished?
Every story I tell is 100 percent true to how I feel, but I’m not presenting a police report. For example, I have a story about my grandfather coming over to this country and buying a bunch of chickens, which then turned into 1,000 of them. As an adult, looking back, there were probably no more than 100 or 150, but for 7-year-old me who never grew up on a farm, a hundred felt like thousands. My worldview is part of it; I don’t know how to change that. My outlook is positive. I don’t look to color the stories; that’s just how I see things. I lived these stories, reflected and learned from them, and I want people to enjoy that I’m here and want to share them.
Do you use humor to cope with life’s challenging moments?
I don’t necessarily set out to write a story about everything that happens to me, but I end up having to process it and see how I feel about it. Getting diagnosed with diabetes is the first time I felt mortal. I needed to tell it out loud to a bunch of people first. Before I spoke to my wife about it, I had to tell the story onstage so I could understand how I felt about it and then tell her about it.
You seem so comfortable onstage. Do you ever get butterflies?
I feel more comfortable the second I step out onstage than when I’m just walking around. The only exception is a new thing, like my first TV taping, my first time performing in a stadium. By my third, fourth, fifth time, I felt uber-comfortable. “The Sugar,” which is my longest piece, is my new nerves challenge, but I’m gaining comfort: The nerves go away and my favorite feeling happens. I’m at ease, I know where my brain and my heart are going to go and I’m sharing it with an audience.