The Moth StorySLAM at Southpaw: You’ll laugh, you’ll cry.
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1. Diana and Mali, both writers and undergrads at Columbia. Diana says she comes to the Moth because she likes hearing how people’s lives overlap, which is kind of like reading missed connections on craigslist. 2. Moth StorySLAM winner, Steven Berkowitz, with the evening’s host, Ophira Eisenberg.
On the occasion of the eve of the election, last night’s theme of the Moth StorySLAM was Red State/Blue State. Ten storytellers took the stage at Southpaw in Park Slope to tell stories to a packed house of rapt listeners. Each five-minute story is judged on relationship to the theme, adherence to a time limit, and the quality of the narrative. Or, as Ophira Eisenberg, Canadian comic extraordinaire and the host of the evening put it, “Did we go on a journey with you where shit didn’t work out, or did workout?”
Ophira said she looked forward to how the storytellers would “internalize the theme.” In the end, not all of them bothered. One storyteller tenuously connected her otherwise well-told tale to the theme by singing a chorus from Okalahoma! (a red state, she noted), while recalling a plane ride in Mexico.
But, on the upside, even the stories that neglected the theme were entertaining. By my count, 9 out of 10 stories were engaging, moving, funny, sad, interesting, etc. Only one of the 10 stories was, in my opinion, insufferable. (The judges didn’t seem to notice.) And to use a tactic storyteller Johanna Clearfield employed to protect the identity of a certain black civil rights activist who slept with her white aunt to procreate a mixed race child, believing, in a utopian haze, that such a child could create a post-racial society, I’ll tell you who it was if you pay me a dollar.
1. Moth Media Intern, Brandon Echter, slung merch and told a story about Bill Clinton visiting his college campus to stump for Hillary. 2. Cody, an MFA student in fiction at NYU, said, “Some sad men go to the Moth alone, just for the stories.”
Other stories included run-ins with the KKK in Philadelphia, Mississippi, a delayed emotional reaction to the casualties in Vietnam, how to handle jocks telling racist jokes on a bus, what you learn from fielding over a million calls at an answering service, being a camp counselor for 150 sixteen-year-olds during the Lebanon war, and a pot-smuggling dad.
The winner of the night was Steven Berkowitz, who told us what it’s like to be a gun toting liberal, and what we’re up against if the tea party starts an armed revolution.
During the intermission, I talked to Ophira and Jenifer Hixson, Senior Producer at the Moth. Ophira said that her favorite part of hosting the Moth is the questions posed to the audience, which she gets to riff off of. Jenifer pointed out that the audience questions could save the host’s ass when she has to be funny after someone’s dead baby story. (No dead baby stories tonight, fortunately.) Choice responses to tonight’s question, “What is your most conservative or liberal belief?” included, “Freedom of speech for some, tiny American flags for everyone else.” And, “I don’t see why siblings and cousins can’t marry, as long as they adopt.” Are these ideas liberal or conservative? Sure makes you think.
–Halimah Marcus is pursing her MFA in fiction at Brooklyn College, and is a new contributor for DISH.