Risks & the Riskers Who Took Them

At Happy Ending, the readers are required to TAKE ONE PUBLIC RISK. This means they must do something on stage that they have never done before. On Stage. Here are some of the risks people have taken.

 If you don’t see your name or your risk here, please email us at amanda@amandastern.com, tell us who you are and what you did and we will add it asap.

Jayne Anne Phillips sang “America,” with the Broadway cast of HAIR

Julie Orringer played “2 second animal,” with the audience, a game she made up on an airplane

Ryan Harty breathed fire

Sarah Manguso read her intake form from the hospital

Andrew Sean Greer swapped entire outfits with a female audience volunteer, onstage!

Jonathan Caouette announced his home address and telephone number

Colson Whitehead read pop-culture Haikus he wrote

Tanguy Viel recreated his junior high graph that charted his friendships

Roy Kesey waxed his legs

Manil Suri did a Bollywood dance number in full costume

Paul Harding read his one star Amazon reviews

Paul La Farge ate a tub of wasabi

John Wray revealed a new “tattoo” across his back that read, “MICHIKO 4 EVAH”

Arthur Phillips lived out his dream to be a matador in full costume and with a mechanical bull

Laurie Sandell read her unbearably pretentious college essay, aloud

Brian Selznick recreated a song and dance number from a high school play

Jonathan Ames kissed David Cross on the mouth

David Cross kissed Jonathan Ames on the mouth

Colum McCann recited, from memory, the last page of “The Dead.”

Paul Rudnick spoke publicly for the first time about his mother who had passed away three weeks earlier

Nathaniel Rich played recordings of the band he had at age 9, “2 Live Moo”

Stephen Elliott made out with a stranger from the audience

A.M. Homes speed-dated 4 members of the audience

Richard Price told a personal story about his family

Peter Rock did a most excellent stage dive into the audience. If memory serves, they carried him from one end of the bar to the other.

Dave King pulled anti-fan mail out of his underpants, then read the offending portions of his novel out loud.

Nelly Reifler learned and sang Happy Birthday to me (Amanda Stern) in sign language.

Ian Chillag had a legally blind audience member cut his hair onstage

Douglas Trevor held a Shakespeare trivia contest (Reese’s Pieces tossed at the head of the winners).

Janice Erlbaum read an old spoken word poem from the 90s with her stomach revealed

Benjamin Percy bench pressed the host, Amanda Stern

Marty McConnell made out, on stage, with her lover and then, her husband.

Kate Braverman sang her stories while her husband played backup guitar.

Rattawut Lapcharoensap taught the audience Thai cheers.

Darin Strauss broke a wooden board in half with his fist.

James Salter read from his journal circa 1972-1975 during the time he was writing Light Years.

Jim Shepard read aloud all the pet names he has given his dog.

Amy Hempel read aloud all the pet names she has given her dog.

Julia Slavin generously matched the amount we raised for Hurricane Katrina relief and donated it to an animal shelter.

Craig Clevenger read emails from an old lover.

Jonathan Katz (Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist) did a power point presentation.

Todd Barry and Jon Benjamin read a book they wrote in order to be able to read something at this event.

Aimee Bender improvised a story telling session, by telling a fairy tale in the style of Mad Libs. She used the audience members as the part of speech participants.

Rick Moody sang acapella a song he had written recently.

John Lurie played harmonica for the first time on stage in 35 years.

Danzy Senna took volunteers from the audience to act out scenes from L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology manual.

Rene Steinke folded her laundry. The first opportunity she’s had since having her baby.

Dan Menaker sang Take Me Out to the Ball Game out of key and with the words in the wrong place, perfectly.

Lisa Selin Davis played a ukele and sang songs she wrote when she was younger.

Audrey Niffenegger read tarot to a stranger.

Michelle Herman sang a song with her old best friend.

Steve Almond read aloud evaluations his students had written about him. Not too many endorsements.

Emily Raboteau read her top ten list of required needs in a man.

Elizabeth Crane showed off items of clothing she has worn unironically in the 80s.

Ken Foster showed off his scars


Kelly Braffett did a handstand.

Jonathan Ames chose a female volunteer to come up onstage, hug him, stroke his hair and coo, “everything will be all right.”

Molly Jong-Fast handed out the candy, Peeps.

Anthony Schneider and John Marks interviewed each other. Marks as a German interviewer, Schneider as a take-off of Ali G.

Matthew Sharpe read a fan letter he had written years ago to Wayne Koestenbaum who just happened to be the next reader.

Ben Greenman read aloud his pin codes and credit card numbers


Samantha Hunt read aloud a poem. Backwards

Tom Bissell played Bluegrass banjo after post on stage picking-panic attack at a Believer event.

Lowell Handler told Tourette jokes

. Lowell Handler has tourettes.

Anne Landsmann brought in her son’s pet reptile

John Rowell donned a sailor cap and sang a song from a musical

Bryan Charles called his stepfather to tell him he loved him like he was his real father

Therese Svoboda showed us her belly

Erin Cressida Wilson read when she was about a year and a half pregnant

Julian Rubinstein made a whiskey robber

Rick Moody sang with his band

Wendy Spero read her landlord’s egregiously embarrassing newsletter

Tom Perrotta read some of his college diary

Marc Nesbitt redramatized a scene from Barton Fink using his hands as characters.

Mike Daisey started a literary feud

 with Neal Pollack, the next reader of the night.

Neal Pollack participated in a literary feud

Amy Sohn sang a song from a musical

Darin Strauss told a story about pooping in his swimming suit in the pool (or was it his friend who pooped?)

Tara Bray Smith demonstrated the proper way to crack open a coconut.

Thaddeus Rutkowski sketched an audience member.

Joanna Hershon speed french-braided her hair.

David Rees did a power point presentation


Derek McCormack (not straight) felt up a girl for the first time 
(Rachel Bussel Kramer) who also happens to be (not straight)

Jesse Ball taught everyone how to steal books from Barnes and Noble

Laurie Anderson did a Power Point presentation