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“Foreign Soil”: More Storytelling at The Moth

March 6th, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon

In 2003, back before online dating was remotely acceptable, I met a woman from Perth, Western Australia over the Internet. As many of you know, I ended up selling all my stuff and flying across the planet to meet her in person. It was pretty much the adventure of a lifetime, and even though parts of it were really hard, I don’t regret a moment of it.

This is me, telling that story recently at The Moth:

If you’re just here from BoingBoing, you can see other stories I’ve done at The Moth here:

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I do a lot of talking about The Moth on here, and very little explaining. Here’s how it works.

The Moth is a nonprofit group that puts on “story slams” (much cooler than poetry slams) in New York City once a week, and once or twice a month in Los Angeles. They publish a theme for the evening ahead of time. You have to prepare and perform a 5 minute story based on that theme. Hopeful storytellers put their names into a bag, and ten people are drawn at random from that bag.

If you’re picked, up you go.

From my friend Jim’s piece in the New York Times:

The group has grown steadily since its start, but in the past year, storytelling has exploded in New York. The Moth, which was already selling out events, vastly expanded its reach in March when it started podcasting stories from its archive. The podcast has more than 45,000 subscribers and 600,000 downloads each month on iTunes, and has lately been expanding its audience at a faster clip than a big brand like NPR’s “This American Life.”

The lines for these storytelling events, held at places like the Bitter End in Greenwich Village and the Players club at Gramercy Park, now stretch around the block. Last month, at the Moth’s first show in Brooklyn, about 50 people had to be turned away from Union Hall, a Park Slope nightspot with a capacity for 90 people.

Such is the new hunger for live storytelling that a satellite circuit has sprung up — smaller shows that usually feature a curated lineup of veterans from the Moth. The stories are true, as at the Moth, but those shows are missing one of the things that keep the Moth king: the thoroughgoing randomness with which it brings people onstage, with the pick of a name from a hat, and the Cinderella effect of that.

At the Moth, three teams of judges, all drawn from the audience, hold up scores to tell you whether you’ve triumphed or bombed or done something in between. It’s like figure skating, only with raconteurs instead of steely teenage girls.

It’s not exactly standup, it’s not exactly theater, and it’s not exactly a literary reading. It’s sort of all of those. It’s difficult and nerve-wracking and I’m completely hooked.

I won the night’s competition with this story, which tickles me to death. I’ve spent a year trying to do it, and finally nailed it. This means that I’m competing against 9 other story slam winners in a final face-off on March 25th at the Highline Ballroom. I’m nervous and excited and preparing like hell.

Hope you can make it …

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