The Moth StorySLAM
Last Tuesday I stood shoulder to shoulder in a packed Martyrs’ bar listening to a middle-aged man explain why the Jaws comic book series was directly responsible for his teenage fear of sex. I laughed at a woman’s story of tricking her kids into thinking “you have to know someone” to gain entry to Chuck-E-Cheese. And later I welled up when the same woman lied to them about her cancer. The slew of stories went all night. Stuffed animals having babies. Electrocution by dog mat. It was my first Moth StorySLAM.
The Moth Story Slam happens at Martyrs’ Bar in Chicago on the last Tuesday of every month. Ten brave souls who have dropped their names in a hat at the door, are chosen to come on stage to deliver a five-minute story. No script. No stand-up comedy. Just storytelling. And it must follow theme. Last week’s theme was ‘animals’ (the reason three of the stories revolved around killing birds and vermin). Each story is then scored by a team of audience-member judges, and a SLAM winner is announced at the conclusion of the night.
Whether or not you come prepared to share a story, you inextricably play an equal role in the whole process. That’s why the Moth StorySLAM works so well — it’s the ultimate shared human experience. As an audience, we laughed together. We gasped together. And we booed the judges together when we didn’t agree with their scoring. Halfway through the performances, the stage melted away and I could have been in a living room. It was like a holiday party with friends who were just taking turns telling stories from their lives.
A little background: The Moth StorySLAM was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and originated in New York. It is now currently staged in three cities in addition to Chicago — L.A., Detroit and New York. So, why ‘the moth’? Green came up with the title because it reminded him of his porch in Georgia where his friends would gather to share stories. Moths were drawn to the light of his porch like people were to storytelling. All of the Moth StorySLAMs are recorded and people can sign up to listen to the podcasts on the website.
If you want to see this super rad performance, get to Martyrs’ early. The show starts promptly at 8pm but people begin forming a line around 6pm, and it’s usually sold out by 7pm! A great beer selection and outstanding mini-pizzas will provide ample comfort while waiting for the show to begin.
Next month’s Moth StorySLAM theme is ‘danger’. Do you have a story?