3.01.2009

The Moth

Note to performance artists: Spreading mayonnaise on your face to protest your history of child abuse is a selfish way to obtain attention. Therapy is much more direct. In fact, you'll need a few extra sessions to get over the fact that you spread mayonnaise on your face. In public. And don't even get me started on spoken word.

Angelenos and New Yorkers, if you want to have a beer while being intellectually stimulated, you needn't endure people slathering themselves in fatty condiments. There will be no more of that screaming over your Sam Adams pretending to have a real conversation. It's high time you discovered The Moth. What started as a simple storytelling phenomenon in New York City is now booming in LaLa Land.

It started small on the West Coast, with a group of about 15 insiders gathering at Tangiers in Los Feliz to share stories. But just last month, hundreds of people crammed into El Cid to take in the Love Hurts-themed stories. Was it the subject matter that drove in the crowds? Everyone has a story to tell when it comes to broken hearts. "Except the ones who are dead inside," noted M.C. Brian Finkelestein. He then rethought the statement to the standing room-only crowd. "No, even if you are dead inside, you've got a story."

People from all walks of life grab cocktails, throw their names in a bag, and hope to be one of the ten people picked to share their personal story. There's a five minute limit on stage, and stories must follow the evening's theme. The encouraging audience sits rapt and judges rate your story from one to ten. Any preconceived notions of pretentiousness are quickly dissolved. Since none of the storytellers are allowed to do stand-up or character pieces, every story, whether good or bad, is real. The nervous speakers endear themselves to you. The laughter is often, the tears are occasional.

The sudden boom in popularity is not surprising. Los Angeles is a town doling out broken dreams on a daily basis. Everyone from disgruntled actors to unemployed philosphy professors have taken the stage. But this is no soap box for the downtrodden, most stories are a celebration of the everyday absurd. Even celebrities have caught the bug. Molly Ringwald has been a judge. Margaret Cho, Ethan Hawke and Moby have been storytellers. Prairie Home Companion legend Harrison Keillor and actor John Turturro recently hosted the annual Moth event.

If you're looking for more substantial, dare I say reflective, entertainment that goes above and beyond watching drunk blondes riding mechanical bulls on Sunset, it's high time you experienced The Moth.

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