The Moth Storytelling - A Must See Event!

While in Los Angeles this week, my sister and I went to a live show of The Moth storytelling. I know most people don't know what this is (the cool people do), so let me help broaden your world.

From their website (I've bolded the keywords for those of you too lazy to read it all. You're welcome):
The Moth, a not-for-profit storytelling organization, was founded in New York in 1997 by poet and novelist George Dawes Green, who wanted to recreate in New York the feeling of sultry summer evenings on his native St. Simon's Island, Georgia, where he and a small circle of friends would gather to spin spellbinding tales on his friend Wanda's porch. After moving to New York, George missed the sense of connection he had felt sharing stories with his friends back home, and he decided to invite a few friends over to his New York apartment to tell and hear stories. Thus the first "Moth" evening took place in his living room. Word of these captivating story nights quickly spread, and The Moth moved to bigger venues in New York. Today, The Moth  has brought more than 3,000 live stories to over 100,000 audience members.
The screen around Wanda's porch had a hole where moths would flutter in and get trapped in the light. Similarly, George and his friends found that the characters in their best stories would often find themselves drawn to some bright light—of adventure, ambition, knowledge—but then find themselves burned or trapped, leaving them with some essential conflict to face before the story could reach its conclusion. So George and his original group of storytellers called themselves "The Moths". George took the name with him to New York, where he hoped that New Yorkers, too, would find themselves drawn to storytelling as moths to a flame. They did. With no advertising, through sheer word of mouth, every show to date has sold out in 48 hours or less.

EVERY show for over a decade has SOLD OUT. Does anyone know anything as popular as this? No, no you don't.

**On a side note, George Dawes Green wrote a book that I reviewed last year! I had no idea he was the founder of The Moth!**

Anyway, I have been listening to The Moth podcasts for a few months now on my mp3 player while I walk the treadmill. I've heard some really great stories, here are a couple I really enjoyed:
Jessi Klein  A story about going to her sister's wedding at Disneyland (this is an adult-content one, but really quite funny!)
Brian Finkelstein: An American man goes in search of Thanksgiving in Ireland. (one of my all time favorite stories!)
Mike Birbiglia: Procrastination leads to devastating circumstances at the Walla Walla Washington La Quinta Inn  (actually this might have adult content too...)
I have listened to probably 40 or so podcasts now and there aren't very many that I don't like, and there are a LOT that I really love!! Sometimes there are celebrities telling stories-like Margaret Cho, Dan Savage, Lewis Black, Tim Gunn, Ethan Hawke, Julia Stiles, Salman Rushdie, Colin Quinn, Moby...the list goes on and on. And there are a lot of comedians who write for shows you love who just stand up and tell their funny story.

I knew they taped shows in LA and NY, so when I found out I was going to LA for work, I looked up the schedule and sure enough-there was a show happening the day before my training!! I knew I had to go to experience it live.  And it was a lot of fun! As expected. It's actually held in a room in a bar, which is cool. It is quite cozy, like being in a nightclub but the music is replaced by stories.

The theme of the night was Fathers, so all stories had to be about Fathers in some capacity. And they have a time limit of five minutes (which doesn't hold true for all shows I think because some of the podcasts I hear are definitely longer). And you can't have notes-you just walk up to the microphone, in front of a crowded room of strangers, and tell your story.

Very intimidating.
This is what it looks like from the rear of the room where we were sitting:
When you come in, you throw your name in the bag if you want to tell a story. They select one person at a time to get on stage and tell their story. You get about two minutes from the time they pull your name to the time you are actually standing in front of the mic. I don't know why more people weren't really nervous, but there was just one guy who stumbled a bit in his story. And did I mention you only get five minutes? That's not a lot of time...
Soon after my sister and I had found our seats, the producer of the show came over and asked us if we wanted to be judges for the night. Um, hello? Of COURSE we did!!! So she gave us the rules and our judging flipcharts and a very brief chat and then we were set-very exciting! They pick two people to be on a judging team and they have three sets of judges.  We had to pick a name for our judging team, something with the theme of Father. We picked Papa Don't Preach. Another team was Hi Ho Daddy-io. And the third team was The Mamas and The Bastards (a play on the Mommas and the Poppas) - however, that teams' real names were Annie and Jerome and the host of the night (some comedian I think) made fun of them the entire night, talking about how Annie is such a sweet innocent name and Jerome is a bad guy name. And so when they would call out for the judges scores, it went something like this:
"Papa Don't Preach - what's your score?  9.2 - great......Hi Ho Daddio, your score?  9.1- okay....and Little Red Robin Hood and Satan - your score?"  He made up a different name every time-it was really funny. 

We took our job very seriously - considered all the criteria for judging and did our best to give the fairest scores possible. There was only one time where we got a bunch of dirty looks for the score we gave someone.
Nobody received this score! They were all over 8.0.

The winner was Bill Ratner - who I didn't realize was famous-in-a-somewhat-famous-kind-of-way.

The guy that got second place I am pretty sure is Kevin Bisch, who is the writer of Hitch and a new movie being made with Hugh Jackman.. I'm not kidding! It was him!!! We should have made an effort to talk to other people....

Kevin and Bill both were standing next to us while we waited for the doors to open and that was our celebrity encounter and we didn't even know it!

If you live in New York or Los Angeles, you are failing life if you don't make some effort to attend one of The Moth events at some point. They have some shows on the road sometime, but not often. Check out the event calendar and do what you have to - it is an interesting night and you are guaranteed to hear some interesting stories!  If you don't live near one of the events - you can download (for FREE) the stories here.  I can't wait to hear about how much you love The Moth!!!


  1. Brian Miller said...:

    that sounds way cool. defeintely checking it out...i might like to play!

  1. unmitigated me said...:

    I am a big fan of Mike Birbigs, and my daughter "treats" us to endless podcasts with Dan Savage (love him, but his callers seem like dopes). Thank you for this link, I can't wait to dig in!

  1. Pam said...:

    That sounds like loads of fun. I would be the same way. Have a celebrity encounter and have no clue.

  1. krista said...:

    i listen to the moth religiously but have yet to go to a show.
    and i live in la.
    i'm a loser.

  1. Debbie said...:

    That sounds incredible! I would so love to go.

  1. Heather said...:

    That was pretty cool to be judges and to have celeberty encounters. Sounds like a lot of pressure to tell your story in five minutes. I can't even do a blog post in that little of time.


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