For an author famous for horrifying tales like “The Shining” and “Carrie,” Stephen King’s demeanor is oddly warm.
The 67-year-old author took to the Lisner Auditorium stage Nov. 12, just one stop on a book tour for his 68th book, “Revival,” which he said spans the topics of “addiction, obsession, religion and rock n’ roll.”
But King didn’t delve into those heavy topics at the outset of his hour-long discussion — instead kicking off the talk with a slapstick joke.
King explained that he googled tips on public speaking before the tour because he’s “terrified of crowds” and many sites suggested using humor to loosen up the crowd.
“So two jumper cables walk into a bar,” King said, beginning his one-liner.
But King wouldn’t be a good horror writer if he didn’t stay true to his suspense-filled genre, and left the joke without a punchline, promising he wouldn’t leave the auditorium without finishing it off.
In the meantime, King illuminated the audience with stories of his personal and professional life that fans would have only dreamed of, from the encounter with a rabid dog that inspired his bestseller “Cujo” to his relationship with his wife and son.
Dressed in jeans and a plain red T-shirt, King circled his podium, recounting stories and passing on words of wisdom as if the audience members were his closest friends.
Fans donning Stephen King T-shirts clutched their smartphones to snap shots of the iconic author, ignoring ushers’ requests to hide their phones.
The raucous crowd applauded after nearly every sentence the author spoke, so much that an elderly woman in the front row stood up to yell at the audience to stop clapping.
In between the applause, King offered advice to aspiring writers, though maybe not the advice fans expected.
Inspiration for stories can come from anywhere, but that doesn’t mean writers should pursue every idea, he said, explaining that he has learned to come to terms with the ideas that don’t pan out.
Actually, King has had his fair share of failed ideas, like a short story titled “The Ladies’ Room” he attempted to write after waiting for his wife outside an airport bathroom. In the story, every woman who enters the ladies’ room never comes out.
“I always tell people, if you can finish [The Ladies’ Room], go ahead,” he said, laughing. “Let me know and we’ll get it published as a collaboration.”
But even the dozens of successful stories King has published, most didn’t go as planned.
King said he originally thought the iconic family in “The Shining” would die halfway through the story. And “Carrie” – the book that launched King’s career – was only ever published thanks to King’s wife, who fished the manuscript out of the trash.
“I thought, [Carrie] is about a skinny white girl having menstrual problems. They’re going to hate it,” he said.
King also urged aspiring writers to break the boundaries of their reputation and push into other genres like he did when he wrote uplifting titles like “The Shawshank Redemption” and other titles he wrote for six years under the pen name “Richard Bachman.”
King also read a passage from “Revival,” a copy of which each attendee received with their ticket, before answering fans’ queries that ranged from which character he most enjoyed writing (Annie Wilkes of “Misery”) to the advice he would give to budding writers (read as much as possible).
Finally, it was time for King to tag on the much-awaited punchline to his opening joke.
“Two jumper cables walk into a bar,” he said. “The bartender says to them, ‘I’ll serve you two, but don’t start anything.’”
The audience erupted in laughter, rising to their feet to give King a standing ovation as he appeared to walk offstage.
But King, notorious for his tangents, had one last thing to say:
“Now go get your damn book!”