The Moth Now Streams its Brilliant & Quietly Addictive Stories on the Web

The Moth, a New York City-based sto­ry­telling orga­ni­za­tion, is a rare crea­ture indeed. Found­ed in 1997 by poet and nov­el­ist George Dawes Green, The Moth was orig­i­nal­ly Green’s attempt to re-cre­ate sum­mer nights in his native Geor­gia, when friends would gath­er on the porch and tell each oth­er stories—a south­ern tra­di­tion Green missed in the north, sym­bol­ized by the moths he remem­bered as part of the scene. From its begin­nings in Green’s New York liv­ing room, the orga­ni­za­tion has grown into a mul­ti-media phe­nom­e­non, with live sto­ry­tellers on stage in New York and Los Ange­les, and on tour around the world, a pod­cast, and The Moth Radio Hour, air­ing on over 200 sta­tions nation­wide.

So who tells sto­ries at The Moth? An amaz­ing range of peo­ple, from actors, authors, and musi­cians, to every­day peo­ple with some­thing to say and the courage to say it in front of a crowd. In fact, if you feel like you belong in that last cat­e­go­ry, The Moth invites you to pitch them two min­utes of your sto­ry and sub­mit it for a chance to tell it live. Oh, one oth­er thing: The Moth stip­u­lates that all sto­ries must be true sto­ries and must be your sto­ries, not some­one else’s. How do they know? I sup­pose they’ve just got fine­ly-tuned BS detec­tors after 15 years in the sto­ry­telling busi­ness.

To give you an idea of what a Moth sto­ry is like (I almost wrote “a typ­i­cal Moth sto­ry,” but there is no such thing) have a look at the video above, with Neil Gaiman telling a dri­ly humor­ous sto­ry from his teenage years. Gaiman’s pre­sen­ta­tion is sub­dued, in his under­stat­ed Eng­lish way, and replete with delight­ful digres­sions and asides. An exam­ple of a more impas­sioned, urgent Moth tale comes from come­di­an Antho­ny Grif­fith, who tells the sto­ry of his rise to com­ic fame with his Tonight Show appear­ances while he was also nurs­ing his young daugh­ter who had can­cer.

As I said, there is no “typ­i­cal Moth sto­ry,” and that’s the appeal. Every­one who takes the stage has some­thing to say that no one else could, because it’s theirs alone. Both of the videos above are avail­able on The Moth’s Youtube chan­nel, which fea­tures dozens more live sto­ry­tellers (I’d rec­om­mend Dan Savage’s sto­ry among so many oth­ers).

Oh, but wait, there’s more! (Can you tell I’m excit­ed about this?). The Moth is now stream­ing audio of recent sto­ry­telling events on its web­site, with some avail­able for free down­load. Some here are not-to-be-missed. For instance, you should drop what­ev­er you’re doing (read­ing this sen­tence, I assume) and lis­ten to Damien Echols’ har­row­ing sto­ry of his 18 years on death row as one of the wrong­ly-con­vict­ed, and recent­ly freed, “West Mem­phis Three.” Still here? Fine. Then you must imme­di­ate­ly go away and lis­ten to play­wright A.E. Hotch­n­er tell his sto­ry about watch­ing a bull­fight with his friend Ernest Hem­ing­way. If nei­ther of these appeals, you’re prob­a­bly hope­less, but hey, what can it hurt to scroll through the exten­sive list of sto­ries stream­ing on The Moth web­site and find a few that speak to you? Invari­ably, this will hap­pen: when you start lis­ten­ing to Moth sto­ry­tellers, you’ll find it very hard to stop. It’s a pret­ty great non-prof­it rack­et they’ve got going: bank­ing on the old­est and most durable form of enter­tain­ment and human con­nec­tion.

Josh Jones is a doc­tor­al can­di­date in Eng­lish at Ford­ham Uni­ver­si­ty and a co-founder and for­mer man­ag­ing edi­tor of Guer­ni­ca / A Mag­a­zine of Arts and Pol­i­tics.

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