It would make sense that ABC's John Donvan would be good at telling stories, he's one of those guys who reports the news. But Donvan is also a "storyteller," someone who uses a mix of stand-up comedy, theater and memoir to tell anecdotes before a crowd.
On Sunday night, Donvan shared the final story at SpeakeasyDC's packed Top Shelf show at the 9:30 Club, which featured the creme de la creme among D.C.'s storytelling set, with eight individuals chosen to perform from a roster of 150.
Donvan's story began as the Iraq war was beginning, in March 2003. ABC News wanted Donvan at the war. "The only catch was I was not embedded with the military, I did not have permission to go to the war," Donvan explained. "We were trying to penetrate the border, I badly wanted to get inside and I just have never been very good at that kind of seduction," Donvan said to laughs. "No, not that -- I'm talking about when you're at the velvet rope line in the club, what do you say to the bouncer so he'll let you in?"
As the story goes, Donvan, his producer James (whose voice sounds like a Muppet's, from Donvan's impression) and the crew were able to get out of Kuwait, but not into Iraq. They were stuck between the fences that separate the countries. "We had slipped through a crack in the world to a place from which there was no escape," Donvan recounted. Until, that is, they encountered a man, sitting in a beach chair, aiming a rifle at them, but then greeting them in English. "Turns out he has been studying engineering at Ann Arbor for the past several years," Donvan explained. And his job was to guard "this big [bleeping] hole in the fence," Donvan recalled the man saying.
Donvan tried exchanging pleasantries with the soldier in hopes that he would let them through, but it didn't work. "Another failed rope line moment," Donvan sighed. He plodded back to the car, but James stood back and he begged and he pleaded, until finally they were let through.
"Sometimes you just have to beg," Donvan concluded. "Alternately, bring James along, he'll get you in."