Anyone can be a liar, but not everyone can be a champion liar.
Bil Lepp, who calls himself a champion liar, is coming to the Orem Library on Monday, Sept. 17, at 7 p.m. to present “Mining Town Diaries: Stories from the Dust Bowl.” The event is part of Orem Reads series and is free and open to the public. Lepp is an award-winning storyteller.
“I tell humorous tall-tales,” Lepp said. “The main purpose is just to make people laugh.”
Lepp grew up in and currently resides in Charleston, W. Va.. He said his stories on Monday night will draw from his experiences of growing up in a mining town.
“Even though my family didn’t mine, living in that community we were affected by what happened in the mine and the mine politics,” Lepp said. “I’m going to talk about how being here in this place has shaped who I am.”
Lepp’s storytelling career launched with his participation in the West Virginia’s Liar’s Contest. The contest judges storyteller’s abilities. Lepp’s older brother entered the contest for a number of years so Lepp participated too because it looked fun, he said. Lepp has earned the title of champion liar five times.
“It definitely gets people’s attention,” he said. “If you say you are a a champion liar people giggle and it sparks interest. The contest isn’t much known outside the state of West Virginia so it’s kind of a badge of honor.”
Even though storytelling is his primary career, Lepp did not start out with that idea in mind.
“I’ve always wanted to be a writer,” Lepp said. “You can ask people to read something, they may read it or they may not. If you learn to tell a story, people have to listen to you unless they can outrun you. It became a nice way to write my stories and to share them also.”
Storytelling became Lepp’s career after attending a storytelling festival in 1996 in West Virginia. At the convention, he met someone who was a professional storyteller.
“I didn’t know you could be a professional storyteller,” he said. “As soon as I figured out you could do it as a full-time job I pursued it pretty vigorously.”
Jon Fox, a senior studying humanities, has never seen Lepp perform in person but has seen some of his YouTube videos. He encouraged people to go see Lepp on Monday.
“I think that we give so much money to books and movies because we want to hear a story,” Fox said. “Going to hear a storyteller is the same thing; it’s just a little bit of our time.”
Spencer Olsen, a senior studying illustration, attended one of the Timpanogos Storytelling Festivals that Lepp presented at. The storytellers, including Lepp, impressed him with their talent, he said.
“The storytellers in the storytelling festival are quite amazing,” Olsen said. “Storytelling is a way of communicating and it’s a way of teaching lessons. It’s also entertainment and in a way entertainment is a lesson in itself, to enjoy life.”