Truth be told, her lies are the size of Texas
Shayne Larango is a very, very good liar.
How good? She recently won the “Biggest Liar in Texas” trophy at the 30th annual George West Storyfest, one of the premier storytelling events in the state, held in the namesake town about an hour south of San Antonio.
The festival features a host of speakers spinning yarns in the grand old style of Texas storytellers. But it’s the liars competition — a seemingly fitting coda for the recent mid-term elections — where things truly go off the rails.
As a raconteur, Larango could hold her own against even the slipperiest political prevaricator. She’s the perfect fabulist for our post-truthiness era.
“You just take a kernel of truth and then you stretch it,” said the grinning, exuberant redhead who spent some time with family in Floresville after the contest before heading home to Dallas.
The corn analogy is apt, in more ways than one.
Larango’s ridiculous but lively tall tale involves a woman who accidentally knocks her husband unconscious with a can of shoepeg corn. (For the uninitiated, shoepeg is a white corn valued for its sweetness.)
The 10-minute story follows the woman as she’s wrongly arrested and held overnight in jail, where she’s surprised to discover the seriousness of her crime lends her a certain vaunted status among the female check-kiters and traffic-ticket scofflaws.
Once her husband wakes up at the hospital and clears things with the cops, the woman is released — to her unexpected disap-
Seems the jail birds were going to teach her how to paint pictures using the dye from colored candy shells, “which would have been a great craft for the next vacation Bible school.”
Dressed as her stage persona — red hair teased to the rafters, cowboy boots, black dress, pearls — Larango delivers her whopper of a fib with a delicious Texas twang and a flair for the preposterous that clearly impressed the judges.
“There were several stories that stood out from the rest and it was a very close contest,” said judge and Storyfest founder Rob Schneider. “Shayne had just an edge on believable absurdity.”
The liars contest, held for the 14th time on Nov. 3, is open to the first 10 people to enter. As the rules pointedly state, no politicians are allowed. Perhaps the judges feel they bring an unfair advantage, given all that practice.
Larango, 50, comes by her storytelling skills, well, honestly.
She grew up in Kaufman, a town 30 miles southeast of Dallas, and used to linger with her relatives at the barbecue pit and kitchen table and listen to the men spin tales. The women told stories too, but they weren’t near as much fun.
“The men told stories about tall tales and adventure,” she said. “The women’s stories were more honest and factual.”
She listened to the albums of Jerry Clower, an American comedian who told tales about the rural South and was known as the “The Mouth of Mississippi.”
About three years ago, while caring for her ill mother, Larango needed a creative outlet. She took part in a workshop based on “The Artist’s Way,” a book about fostering creativity.
Having spent her professional life in the corporate and academic consulting world, she’d always loved writing. The workshop prompted her to try her hand at oral storytelling.
Larango created a ghost story, which she would perform at the 2016 Texas Storytelling Festival in Denton. So impressive was her performance that she was named one of a handful of “Rising Stars” at the festival.
“I was just hooked,” she said. To prepare for the liars’ contest, Larango attended another workshop, this one put on by the Tejas Storytellers Guild in Waco and tailored to creative ways of stretching the truth.
“To tell a good lie you have to have specifics,” she said. “Add as “You don’t want to start believing your own BS. Then we’re all in trouble.” Shayne Larango, about telling tall tales in th real world many true details as you can. You’re creating a world that people can just slip into with their imaginations. People just want to be entertained.”
These days, she performs at festivals as well as weddings, bars, private events, open mic nights and just about anywhere people want to be beguiled by what she calls her “10-gallon Texas tall tales.”
One of the best compliments she received came from a man who approached her after a show and said her performance reminded him of Jerry Clower.
“I mean, who even knows about Jerry Clower?” she said.
Larango wasn’t aware the Washington Post keeps a running tally of the false or misleading statements made by the president since he took office two years ago. The most recent count: more than 6,000.
She did raise an eyebrow about it, saying it’s all fine and good to conflate reality with fiction on the stage. In the real world, not so much.
“You don’t want to start believing your own BS,” she said. “Then we’re all in trouble.”
Shayne Larango won the Biggest Liar in Texas award at the 30th annual George West Storyfest. She learned storytelling by hanging around while the male members of her family told stories.