An important dimension of linguistic variation is formality. This study investigates the role of social distance between interlocutors. Twenty-five native Dutch speakers retold eight short films to confederates, who acted either formally or informally. Speakers were familiarized with the informal confederates, whereas the formal confederates remained strangers. Results show that the two types of interlocutors elicited different versions of the same stories. Formal interlocutors (i. e. large social distance) elicited lower articulation rates, and more nouns and prepositions, both indicators of explicit information. Speakers addressing the informal interlocutors, to whom social distance was small, however, provided more explicit information with an involved character (i. e. adjectives with subjective meanings). They also used the word and more often as a gap filler or as a way to keep the floor. Furthermore, a small social distance elicited more laughter, interjections, first-person pronouns and direct speech, which are all indicators of involvement, empathy and subjectivity.