September 02, 2014

F*ck Yeah: An Open Mic Night For Storytellers

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Have you heard of The Moth before? Probably not, as it’s a big New York thing, for New York kids. Well, UNTIL NOW THAT IS!

When I first heard about this event-slash-podcast I was torn between mixed emotions of being really happy that on one hand it existed but then on other I also felt bitter and twisted that it only existed in NYC. I already have daily #FOMO about not living in the Big Apple since the explosion of Girls and subsequent digital love affair with Lena Dunham.

The premise of The Moth nights conjured up a few memories of these poetry night events I used to go to at uni with some uber-intelligent fellow classmates who would wear berets and striped jumpers from my English literature degree. Poetry nights are also a bit blah because you cannot breathe the air without smelling a whiff of pretentiousness, even if you genuinely love the poemz. Back then everyone was trying to get into the whole literature scene – but this event was the adult version of those poetry nights except this time it was with a bunch of people who weren’t trying too hard. Everyone was up for being themselves and talking and celebrating true stories. In a basement in East London.

So, until a few weeks ago I hadn’t heard of it. This incredible creation was not yet in my life. I’m not entirely sure where I read about it, but I just remember The Moth described itself as “True Stories Told Live” – this is totally up my alley. What’s not to love about that? I knew that I needed to go. This was a combination of my favourite things: stories, storytellers and meeting new people. And to my utter delight after some Googling I realised that the first EVER Moth event was coming to the UK, to London. The first ever UK #StorySLAM and I knew I had to go, and be a part of it. Some things you know you just can’t miss.

Since I went along to my first Cringe night in which I read from my teenage diary in a pub in London, in front of 35 strangers, I longed for that same sense of excitement again. Not knowing what anyone would read, how you would respond to it, and what you might be inspired by on the night. It’s that feeling of people just coming together and connecting through real life experiences without any egos or judgment or airs or graces. Basically something I like to get away from occasionally, especially working in an industry with a lot of pretence attached to it. Sometimes you just want to say “we’re all the same, so quit the ego and just have fun”. Hashtag no filter.

So, there are a few rules that you have to abide by at The Moth. First of all: all stories have to be true. You can’t nab someone else’s story; it’s just not cool. Don’t bring any notes, you must finesse the story to your hearts content and remember it, so that it is all natural. Stick to the theme. This week’s was “a first time that was also your last time, something you had to try once”. So in short each story has to be: on time, on topic, a story (not stand-up comedy, an essay, or a rant) and true.

There was a mixture of stories – all were brilliant. I actually couldn’t believe the high standard of the stories. These were people with brilliant speaking voices, public speaking techniques, well-rehearsed stories with a beginning, middle and an end. It wasn’t just grabbing a microphone and talking about yourself for five minutes. It was artistic. It was a mixture between entertainment and raw emotion. As The Moth founder said in the event introduction was “we are all part of the human race, and therefore, we are all clowns. We are all fools”. This was an important thing to note from the start. In that room (and hopefully in life) no one thought they were better than anyone else. It was a place to judge. It was a place to listen and respect other people’s stories; after all they are brave to be sharing it in front of strangers in the first place.

The stories were way more emotionally raw and honest than I thought they’d be. I don’t what I expected but I thought it would be a bit.. shallower, lighter maybe? Is that mean? I guess I thought it would be a funny tale of falling in love at first sight in the “grocery store” that feature heavily in nearly all American rom-coms. It wasn’t that, though. But the point is: it doesn’t matter what the story is. In actual fact, I noticed people responded most to those who were a little bit nervous.

One guy delivered a brilliant story about coming out, about his first time in a gay bar. He was nervous. His boyfriend was listening to him as he spoke to a new crowd of strangers. He told us all about he went in a heterosexual relationship with a girl, and when he came out he realized he was definitely gay – and that never looked back since that night. Another girl gave a very funny comical sketch about her first period. How the family were slightly overbearing with their excitement, telling all the names and shouting around the house screaming that she GOT HER FIRST PERIOD! How she thought that by having a period she would have a BABY! We’ve all been there with that embarrassing stuff. I remember being locked in a bathroom in Cornwall with my aunty telling me “not to come out until I’d tried a tampon” because they were “much better and I had to try one”. AHH! Another girl gave a heart-felt account of buying and losing their first ever pet – a family dog. A woman spoke about her first time being diagnosed with breast cancer. Another man recalled a memory of driving around after work and accidently getting involved with a crime scene.

It was a truly amazing night and I’m so glad to have discovered The Moth in all its glory on a random Monday night. You can download the podcast here, and I really urge you to check out the work of Lynn Ferguson who hosted the night – she was hilarious, funny, friendly, and an example of someone who doesn’t take no for an answer and had the brilliant confidence I can only try and embody myself.

  • This sounds very interesting! No question I’d enjoy listening. Telling a story – nah. Too shy.

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