Ophira Eisenberg Relates Her Traumatic Car Accident

Thanks to a link from Craig and Judy Kellem’s Hollywoodscript.com Newsletter, I recently learned of comic Ophira Eisenberg.

In a recent New York Times article, “Telling Tales With a Tear and a Smile,” writer Jason Zinoman states:

What distinguishes Ms. Eisenberg is how thoughtfully she adjusts to the form she’s working in while retaining the essence of her bleakly stylish humor. In her stand-up she cheerily describes suicidal tendencies or finding her husband’s ex-girlfriend’s severed head. (‘Oh my God, she’s prettier than me.’) When she was single, she says, she put on her JDate profile that her hobbies include ‘depression and making you guess why I’m angry.’ This same mordant intensity appears in her storytelling, but in a slower cadence with more gravitas.

Zinoman then points us not to one of her standup routines but to Ophira Eisenberg in storytelling mode. She tells her audience a true story about surviving a terrible car accident when she was a young child. In sharing this experience, “…she shows how a story can use humor but not be shackled to it, how it can be emotional without pandering, and how difficult ideas can be articulated entertainingly.”

Eisenberg has told this difficult story for The Moth,” which is “an acclaimed not-for-profit organization dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling. It is a celebration of both the raconteur, who breathes fire into true tales of ordinary life, and the storytelling novice, who has lived through something extraordinary and yearns to share it.” The clip below runs over 11 minutes and is worth your investment:

In case you opted not to watch the clip, I’ll summarize. The gist is that when Ophira was eight years old she was in a car accident caused by an 18-year-old who ran a red light. Her mom was driving Ophira, her brother, and her best friend Adrienne.

Ophira spent months in the hospital. Adrienne’s mom was one of her visitors. “And I would always ask her like ‘Why aren’t you bringing Adrienne? I want to see Adrienne.’ But, somehow, she would just change the subject and I would go with it.”

Adrienne’s mother and Ophira’s decided one day it was time to tell her the truth. “‘We think that you’re healthy enough to hear this now. But remember when you described being unconscious? It felt like you were sleeping for a really, really long time? Well, Adrienne never woke up.’ I heard what they were saying but I don’t think I got it. I mean, I don’t think my 8-year-old brain could comprehend that. I didn’t cry ’cause I
didn’t know what that meant. I just knew that I should stop asking for Adrienne.”

Eventually, at the age of 16, she found a letter Adrienne’s father had written to Ophira’s mother. “I had
never thought of what my mother went through because she never showed me her pain or vulnerability
for one second. I can’t imagine the blame she felt, the guilt, the responsibility of taking care of
someone’s else’s child and then it all going horribly wrong. But she showed nothing but love.”

“…And my dad really was a pillar of strength…I wasn’t really the strong one. They were the strong ones because they had carefully led me to this place where I could live like an absolutely normal sixteen-year-old kid and Adrienne was never going to be sixteen. It hit me hard staring at the handwriting of her mourning father and I couldn’t run off to my Barbie Dream House. And for the first time I sat down at that dining room table and I cried.”

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