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Appearing on ‘This American Life’ This Week Or Maybe Next, It Depends On A Lot of Factors

July 8th, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon

So, it’s as official as it gets. I just heard from the producers today who confirmed it as a “go,” with the caveat “anything can happen, but we’re looking good.” I’m going to have a story on this week’s episode of “This American Life,” and I couldn’t be more thrilled about it.

It’s a new version of a story I performed at The Moth’s GrandSlam a few months ago. I pitched it to This American Life with that video, and they brought me into the studio for an interview a few weeks ago.

And here’s the REAL dirt on Ira Glass:
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Depression, Grace, and Killing Carl’s Army

June 6th, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon

Carl’s evil army dies a little more each week. Fast-moving doctors toppled the heart of Carl’s vicious empire and now the stragglers are huddled in their bunkers reading the tarot to make the simplest decisions and waiting for orders that aren’t likely to come. Perfectionist that I am, I’m not going to be happy until the last lonely soldier scratches out a suicide note with its nerve-chewed nails and gargles a muzzle full of lead.

My doctors are a hard-hitting unit of Inglourious Basterds that are willing to drop in and detonate at the slightest hint of an insurgency which is harsh and excessive, but come on — this isn’t 4-square in the schoolyard here.

For those of you that are rolling your eyes and thinking “Jesus, easy on the hooptedoodle, Simmermon”:

Now that my cancerous non-seminoma is out, the markers it releases in my blood have dropped dramatically, and continue to decline each week. My doctors refuse to take chemo off the table, which is smart both from a scientific and legalistic ass-covering perspective. I’m recovering pretty well from the actual surgical procedure, but it’s a three-steps-forward, one-step back kind of thing.

Some days I can walk fine and hang out a little bit. Other days the incision burns and everyone on earth is a complete barking bozo and everyone needs to just SHUT UP, JESUS CHRIST.

And then there’s this …
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Now or Never: Sibling Love is A Voltron of Wolverines

May 28th, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon

Those of you that know me well know that my sister and I love each other with a love that is tremendous, powerful, and savage. Like if Voltron were formed up out of grizzly bears and wolverines with killer beehives for hands.

I told a story about our relationship at The Moth’s GrandSlam a few months back — hope you enjoy it:

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Roasting, Shaving, Freaking Out

March 23rd, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon



Luna Moth

Originally uploaded by thahawk

On Saturday night I lovingly sauteed a pile of mushrooms with garlic and half of an onion. Then I chopped up some carrots, rubbed about 5 pounds of beef with sea salt (after browning it in a hot iron skillet) and put the whole thing in the oven to roast.

After that, I made a huge pile of chard — again with garlic and onions — and washed up all the dishes and swept the floor. I took a long shower during which I performed my weekly head-shaving ritual.

Then I yawned and started freaking out for real.Those yawns were the voice of God intoning through my body, using my skeleton like a tuning fork to say “YOU HAVE DICKED AROUND LONG ENOUGH.”

All that cooking and showering and shaving was just the elaborate and stylized Kabuki ritual that I perform whenever I’m supposed to be working on a story. They’re all a big deal for me, but this particular show is a bigger deal than most. I’ve worked for about a year to be in it.

I’m performing in The Moth’s Grand Slam this Wednesday at the Highline Ballroom along with Adam Wade, Peter Aguero, Laura Leu, Cyndi Freeman, Andy Christie, Courtney Fenner, Matt Mercier, Boris Timanovsky and Steve Zimmer. Dan Kennedy, author of the book Rock On will be hosting.

I wrote the story a month ago, tested it out with the BTK band, then let it marinate.

Marinating is important. You’ve got to let the details settle, let the over-explanation filter out. I tested the thing on Jim and (my two close friends and storytelling superheroes) and they helped me sandblast it a little more.

But Saturday was when the real polishing had to happen, and it almost happened too late. Which is the way these things always happen. I can’t do a damn thing unless the deadline is dangling right between my eyes.

So I had a couple belts of Scotch-laced espresso (wakes you up but calms the nerves) and stayed up until 5 AM writing, editing, fretting, obsessing. I copied the whole thing out on a legal pad with a magic marker just to learn it a little better, lips moving like a slow-witted sixth grader just to burn it into the synapses more.

And I’m still worried it’s not enough.

Last time I told a story onstage I forgot the critical part, the two sentences that made the whole thing hang together and make sense. It got some laughs, got a few compliments, but you can tell immediately if something hits or not. If it doesn’t, that walk back to the chair is a fricking DEATH MARCH.

So now I’m antsy. If I can think of something to do to prepare, I have to do it. Immediately.

I jumped out of bed at 3 AM to make some edits that came to me in a dream last night. I’m rubbing my script on the subway with my fingertips. I fingered its yellow pages gently this afternoon while I walked on the stage at the Highline Ballroom this afternoon, just getting the feel for the place. I’m testing the thing out at Stories at the Creek tomorrow night — Tuesday, March 23rd.

If I seem nervous, it’s because I am. I’m tense and a little gassy and I can’t think about anything else.

But my God, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Living at the edge of your own ability, half-sick and terrified because something beautiful’s about to happen … that’s how to do it. Screw all that Buddhist bullshit about eliminating desire. I want to make art and bash myself against the bulb until I’m burning up and then start all over again. Feeling nervous is a sign that I’m on the right track.

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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:

Royal Quiet Deluxe, Chicken Band: Now the Story is Told on Video
Reverend Al Sharpton Hates Royal Quiet Deluxe, Chicken Band

I do a lot of talking about The Moth on here, and very little explaining. Here’s how it works.
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Circling Turds With a Heart Full of Hope

January 12th, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon

There were two good things about my apartment in Virginia:

The rent was only $175 a month, and Brad the landlord never came over. Ever. Or so we thought. This seemed ideal at the time, as I was using the living room as a painting space in addition to training live chickens to play keyboards in the living room. The less company, the better.

But like so much else in the world, the good and bad parts of that situation were horribly entangled.

We’d moved into the place in a hurry in the dead of an unusually cold winter – which served to keep the smell down.

But along with spring rains came this smell. This creeping, gnarly smell would wind its funky hand into the house and right into our nostrils like filthy phantom fingers picking up a bowling ball. It reeked of sloth and despair – powerful and pungent and musty all at once, like manure without any of the fertility or any potential.

You’d think you’d drowned it out or think it went away, but it was just always there, a brown undercoating that informed colors and flavors and wormed its way into your freaking dreams. Sometimes a homeless teenaged kid would sleep on our back porch under the window. One rainy morning I heard him say “Oh GOD it smells bad out here.” It happened whenever the air was especially humid, right after a rain, or on foggy mornings.

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Jim O’Grady on “Respect”

November 6th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

My friend Jim O’Grady is a Moth GrandSLAM contest winner — a great storyteller and a great guy. He’s been a reporter for the New York Times, and works for some mysterious think tank that he says is “physically located on Wall Street, but in no way associated with finance.”

The thing about these story shows is that they let anybody onstage, which gives the show its spirit and beauty. It keeps it from being the province of writers and actors and “who do you know” and lets the voice of the people come through. It also allows people to weep onstage and do some lame standup comedy from time to time. It’s always a crap shoot, and the surprises are the best part.

Jim’s reliably awesome — he has his nights when he kills, sure. But even when he’s not at his best, he’s still really really good, and whenever he gets picked to come to the stage the audience is in for a treat.

Here he is at a Moth StorySLAM this summer, on the theme of “Respect.”

You can see a story by The Moth’s Juliet here:

Juliet Respects ‘Mannequin Dan’

And two of my stories here:

Royal Quiet Deluxe, Chicken Band
Reverend Al Sharpton Hates Royal Quiet Deluxe, Chicken Band

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Royal Quiet Deluxe, Chicken Band: Now the Story is Told on Video

November 3rd, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

Today is national fix-the-country day, and it’s gonna be a long one. No matter what side you’re on, you’re probably sick of the campaigning by now. As a little distraction from all the election-related news you’re sure to be drowning in, I thought I’d post a video of me telling the story of Royal Quiet Deluxe, (chicken band) at The Moth.

By way of comparison, you can read a written version of the story here.

The story links to one of our recordings, made with a primitive drum machine, delay/loop pedal, and my tireless prattling.

The following track, though, is a different sort of sound collage. We recorded it on the front porch of Tim’s parent’s place out in Botetourt County, VA, one hot summer evening. You can hear crickets and locusts in the background, something I think is pretty cool. I am playing the typewriter as percussion here, Tim is playing guitar, and the chickens are pecking and vocalizing. Tim mixed in a recording about Exotic Newcastle Disease in Southern California that was recorded over the telephone many years later, and presto — you have:

Exotic Newcastle Disease, by Royal Quiet Deluxe

There’s one more story in this saga. I’ve told it onstage at a Moth event recently, and I’m waiting to get ahold of the video so I can crunch it and post it here — and I’m working on the text version for those of you that want the full-on boxed-set experience. Suffice it to say that while the Internet has helped me find a whole new audience for this band that I never thought existed, I am 100 percent positive that the Reverend Al Sharpton still thinks the whole concept of Royal Quiet Deluxe is the stupidest thing he’s ever heard.

You can see a story by The Moth’s Jim O’Grady here:

Jim O’Grady on “Respect”

And a story by The Moth’s Juliet here:

Juliet Tells the Tale of ‘Mannequin Dan’

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‘Culture Shock’ at the Moth

May 14th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon


“Culture Shock” was the theme for last night’s Moth, and man, was I ever ready. I’d written, edited, rewritten, and I felt like I had a fairly solid story — unless someone else had also worked as a kangaroo shooter in Western Australia, I had the topic pretty well locked up. So yeah, I was psyched, that combination of anxiety and jittery and *pow* that usually makes something happen.

I was pretty tough to be around, I’d imagine, especially to a good friend who came out to support me. I couldn’t help myself, I was a rubber band ball made out of thrashing fire ants — couldn’t focus on sentences, couldn’t relax into his jokes or anything.

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Tellin’ Stories

May 13th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon




I did my first storytelling show last Monday at a small venue called the Coraline Cafe, way out in Brooklyn. I’m not sure where, exactly, but at one point I was afraid that I was going to be asked for my passport. There were only five folks on the bill, and for once, one of those people was me! After a few months of writing, rewriting, and trying to get onstage at The Moth, I finally got a chance to get up and tell a tale.

I told a story about a drunk man and a drunker pit bull fighting over some cans of Old English in Richmond, VA a few years back — astute readers of this blog will remember that story from here. And I mean, I was nervous, don’t get me wrong — but once I got up there that nervousness just kinda turned into energy, and I went with it, just kinda pushing the parts that needed pushing.

Two and a half servings of bourbon didn’t hurt, either, but I had to cut myself off at a full stop by pouring the last half into a plant. There’s nothing worse than a slurred blatherer, apart from someone who used to be fat and/or geeky in high school and isn’t over that shit yet.

But yeah, it was awesome! People laughed at the parts I meant to be funny and laughed at the stuff I ad-libbed. So I’ll take that as a good sign. The compliments felt genuine. I mean, if someone was kissing my ass because of all the pull I have in showbiz, they’re just horribly misguided.

So now, just as soon as I click “post” on this post, I’m off to the train to try and get onstage at The Moth again. I’ll post the story tomorrow for you guys, but for now, I got to keep it bottled up. I’m nervous, but the good kind. The kind that means something crackly’s about to happen, one way or another. Like one story is about to turn into another. And man, I live for shit like that.

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