The Moth: It’s All About The Story
The veteran NYC cop who donates his dinner to a hungry drug dealer. A sister who stops at nothing to get her little brother to the MLB All-Star Game. That guy from Blue’s Clues who finds himself on a date with a stripper. When you’re knee-deep in literature classes and roundtable discussions on narrative design, you forget the quintessential reason we are here—to tell stories. And, right now, The Moth is serving up some great ones.
What is The Moth?
Founded as a non-profit back in 1997, The Moth is the brainchild of poet and novelist George Dawes Green, who was living in New York City but wanted to recreate a Georgian summer porch. Those front-yard dens were where he and friends had gathered to swap stories (as did real life moths, attracted by the light). Very quickly, Green and his “Moths” swarmed in numbers to where they now run storytelling programs across the country, along with a weekly podcast and NPR show.
The premise is simple—a stage, a microphone, fifteen minutes, and, most importantly, a true story. But what’s crucial about that story? It must engage the audience, not through its brilliant structure or poetic language, but because it reveals an individual’s life. Through Moth-run workshops, most storytellers learn the “beats” of storytelling, including the hook, the circular frame, and even how not to sound rehearsed. It’s partly material but also in how you tell it.
Why Is The Moth So Popular?
In the Google-age spent skimming text, it’s almost refreshing to close our eyes and simply listen. Plus, The Moth creates a particular intimacy, one that only exists amongst strangers. I think about that honesty a lot when I listen. Recently, I played Michaela Murphy’s “The All-Star Game.” In the beginning, the storyteller defines what baseball meant to her family. “If the Red Sox won, pizza for dinner. And if they lost, we ate in silence. And my mother cooked.” Laughing so hard, I had to replay it. Twice. There’s nothing better than a good old story.
Nancy’s Top 5 Best of Moth Episodes
- The Moth Presents Michaela Murphy: The All-Star Game. A sister stops at nothing to get her little brother to the MLB All-Star Game.
- The Moth Presents Steve Osborne: Last Fight. The veteran NYC cop describes the last few days before his father passes away.
- The Moth Presents Elna Baker: Yes Means Yes? A young woman recounts the difficulty of being a Mormon in New York City.
- The Moth Presents Kimberly Reed: Life Flight. A woman confronts her past, and future, when she is forced to make a trip to her hometown.
- The Moth Presents Andrew Solomon: Notes on an Exorcism. When studying treatments for depression in rural Africa, Solomon has an overly intimate encounter with a ram.
Nancy Kidder is a contributing writer for Café Américain and a third-year candidate in the American University’s Creative Writing MFA program.