'Mortified' Finds Success in Public Humiliation

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Dave Nadelberg

Mortified producer David Nadelberg reads from the adolescent love letter he wrote to a girl named Leslie. Courtesy GetMortified.com hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy GetMortified.com

A Hollywood stage show has become a hit by playing juvenile angst for laughs. Mortified features adults from all walks of life reading aloud from diaries, letters and poems they composed as teens for the amusement of total strangers.

Melissa Wolfe

Melissa Wolfe reads a diary entry about a boy next door on whom she had a huge crush. Two hundred of the 378 pages in her diary were about the object of her obsession. Courtesy GetMortified.com hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy GetMortified.com
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The concept started with producer Dave Nadelberg. About three years ago, he says, he unexpectedly re-discovered his own mortifying past when he came across a love letter he wrote to a high school classmate named Leslie.

"It tries very, very, very, very hard to impress her on so many levels," Nadelberg says. "It tries to be sweet and funny and smart, and it fails on every single level. "

Mark Phinney reads from journals he wrote at age 19 during a brief stay in a mental hospital.

Mark Phinney reads from journals he wrote at age 19 during a brief stay in a mental hospital. He'd been having a fight, as usual, with his girlfriend, Karen, when he went into the hospital. Courtesy GetMortified.com hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy GetMortified.com
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Eric Moore

When performer Eric Moore was 10, his class was assigned to write autobiographies. He reads from a portion of that assignment in which he imagines his future. Photo by David Beach hide caption

itoggle caption Photo by David Beach
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Nadelberg, now 30, read the letter to some of his grownup friends.

"It was just fun, and I thought, 'Maybe there are other people out there who are even worse writers than I am.' And it turns out that there are a lot."

Given that Mortified is staged in Hollywood, it's not surprising that many of the performers are actors and writers. But Nadelberg says that over the past couple of years, there have been more than 100 performers, and they've come from all walks of life, especially in the Mortified shows that have recently started up in New York and San Francisco.

Mortified has gotten so popular that it has attracted the interest of some celebrities, Nadelberg says. But they lose interest quickly, he says, when they find out they have to audition. Not every 13-year-old's deepest feelings and creepy confessions are interesting to other people. Nearly half of those who volunteer to publicly embarrass themselves are rejected. How mortifying is that?

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