'Asking For A Friend': Chion Wolf Advice Show Takes A Serious But Fun Approach

Chion Wolf has issues.

Some are trivial, like not liking the name of someone’s dog. Some are serious, like whether a person should date their cousin. These issues keep popping up. Wolf deals with them the best she can.

Wolf, a Connecticut Public Radio personality, hosts a monthly live advice show at the Sea Tea Comedy Theater in Hartford, where she and panelists discuss people’s problems and how to solve them.

The biggest issue of all, it turned out, is what Wolf is allowed to name her show.

“I had such a good name, but someone else already thought of it and trademarked it,” Wolf says. “I got a message from the woman who owns the trademark and she said, in a nutshell, ‘cut it out or pay me a slice of your income and continue to use the name’.”

So Wolf changed the name, throwing out the challenge to her followers on Facebook. The next installment in “Asking for a Friend” is Saturday, Jan. 20, at 7 p.m.

Entertaining But Serious

Wolf chooses her monthly panelists from the Sea Tea comedy troupe and from the Hartford community. At the most recent show, the panelists were Jaleith Gary of Urban Alliance Hartford, Christian Lemp, who works at a local insurance company, and Kevin MacDermott of Sea Tea.

She wants panelists’ answers to be entertaining but well-thought out.

“I want them to have a sense of humor in how they see the world and to have different experiences in life,” Wolf says. “I want people to feel a little less alone and to think differently about the things they’re thinking about.”

Wolf is the emcee. Brief, funny musical interludes are provided by trumpeter Emily Petersen, Wolf’s partner. The panelists get most questions in advance so they can think through their responses.

“It’s hard to be funny and responsive and brilliant and insightful,” Wolf says.

After the panelists answer, three audience members are chosen to judge the wisdom of the panelists’ advice. The panelist getting the most thumbs-up is awarded “The Loofah of Truth,” a little scrunchie to use in the shower. “I chose a loofah because it’s funny to say and a cheap prize for me to buy,” she says.

Variety Of Questions

At the December event, questions were varied. One person wanted to date a cousin. One was convinced his wife married him for his money. One was afraid of flying and was dreading going to a family wedding in Pakistan. One hated a co-worker’s body odor. One hated the name his girlfriend named her new puppy. The last question was a doozy: “How do I talk to young people about race as a white person?”

The responses were entertaining and insightful. Regarding the marrying-for-money question, each panelist took a different approach. MacDermott suggested setting up three bank accounts: his, hers and theirs. Lemp suspected that the spouse with the money was really interested in power. Gary got annoyed: “Make up your mind. Either you want to provide or not.”

The puppy-name question was lighter: A woman named her dog Clarence, which her partner didn’t like because it called to mind Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Lemp suggested that privately, he could call the dog anything he wanted. MacDermott suggested thinking of someone else, like saxman Clarence Clemons, when saying the name. Gary accused the name-hater of being petty, and wondered what his name was.

At the end of the show, Gary got the “loofah of truth.”

Wolf says she created the show in the aftermath of the most recent presidential election.

“I was pretty shaken. I was anxious about the way the world was turning. I felt the need more than ever to be close to my community to try to wrap my head around this new reality,” Wolf says. “I wanted to have people who were wiser than me give me advice about life.”

Other Projects

Wolf can be seen at other events in the city. At the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, she is the host of “The Mouth-Off,” a series at which six storytellers tell 10-minute stories based around a theme. The next event is Feb. 23, when the theme is “It’s an Emergency!” The shows happen five times a year. Time is 7:30 p.m. and admission is $10. facebook.com/themouthoff/.

Wolf also has started a web series, “Recess,” in which she interviews children about news of the day. The first episode can be seen here.

CHION WOLF’S ASKING FOR A FRIEND is the third Saturday of the month at 7 p.m. at Sea Tea Comedy Theater, 15 Asylum Ave. in Hartford. At the Jan. 20 show, panelists are poet and artist Zulynette, author and educator Patrick "Rico" Williams and a Sea Tea troupe member. Admission is $15. Reservations not required. facebook.com/chionwolfie.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Emily Petersen’s name and the frequency of the “The Mouth-Off” storytelling series.

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