When The Moth (a popular storytelling series based in New York City) has a theme for one of their Story SLAMS (an open mic) that is perfect for one of my stories, I get tickets tout de suite.
Last night the theme was “Impossible” and I was going to (hopefully) share one of my best stories - how I got the Wienermobile job. I say “hopefully” because you never know if you’ll get picked. The process usually goes a little something like this.
5:30 p.m. - Leave for Brooklyn
If the show is in Brooklyn, which last night’s was, I have to leave at 5:30 p.m. to get there in time for the doors which open at 6:30 p.m.
6:30 p.m. - Doors Open
I want to get there for doors because seating is limited and if you don’t get a seat, you’ll be on your feet for about 4 hours.
8:00 p.m.* - Show Starts
The host kicks things off with fun banter, gives the audience the rundown on how the show will work and introduces the judges (yes, the storytellers are being judged by three groups of people who have been selected that night.) Then, they pull a name from the bag and the first storyteller hits the stage.
8:15 - 9:15 p.m. - First 5 Storytellers Share their Stories
When the storyteller is done, he or she picks a name from the bag, hands it to the host and the rest of us sit in agony wondering if our name is going to get called.
Depending on the host, they will announce the name right away or take care of some business and then read the next storyteller’s name. Said business is like reading slips of paper that have short audience responses based on the evening’s theme.
For example, if last night’s theme was “Impossible,” the audience prompt might be “Tell us about a time when a situation, event or person seemed impossible.”
The host reads off a few of those responses, gets some scores from the judges, banters with the crowd and then finally announces who’s next.
That storyteller takes the stage and then rinse and repeat for the next three storytellers.
Generally speaking, you don’t want to get picked in the first half because those scores tend to be lower mostly because no one knows whose name is going to get drawn and they have no idea what the other stories are going to be like. It’s not easy being a judge. Believe me, I’ve been one and it’s incredibly stressful.
9:15 - 9:25 p.m. - Intermission
You kibbutz with other storytellers, talk about the stories you’ve seen so far, look over your story (like I do obsessively), head to the loo and/or grab a drink. Whatever floats your boat.
9:25 - 10:25 p.m. - Last 5 Storytellers Share their Stories
Rinse and repeat, but now the stakes are higher. The judges have a better sense of the stories they’ve heard and the pressure is on to bring it.
Most of the time I sit there reviewing my story and hoping I get picked, but there’s no guarantee. Quite often there are around 30 names in the bag and they only pick 10, so the odds are not in your favor.
I don’t want to say it’s “Impossible” to get picked, but it can take a few visits before you get chosen. As one of the Chosen Ones, I’d like to think I have a leg up, but I haven’t been picked in a while. Then again, I don’t go as often as I used to.
10:25 - 10:35 p.m. - The Storytellers Who Weren’t Selected Get to Go On Stage
As soon as the 10th storyteller is announced, if it’s not you, then you have a few choices to make:
Stay to see who wins
Go on stage and share the first line of your story
Most of the time I stick around to share the first line of my story, but a few weeks ago, I did something I’ve never done. I left because it was going to take me over an hour to get home.
10:35 p.m. - Show Ends
When the show’s over, I could leave right away, but I usually want to say good-bye to everyone I know, chit chat about the show, hit the head and more. As someone who’s a pro at a Jewish good-bye, this can take anywhere from 10-20 minutes, but quite often, longer.
10:55 p.m. - 12:15 a.m. - Travel Home
I walk to the subway and take three trains home. I could very likely get home well past midnight.
12:45 a.m. - Hit the Hay
This is a very conservative estimate. Anything can happen with the NYC subway system and when I get home, I can’t get to sleep right away. I need to decompress.
The reason I bring any of this up is to show what a time commitment going to The Moth can be. I love The Moth and I go to storytelling shows all the time, but when you put in 7 hours sometimes at a SLAM only to not get picked, it can be frustrating.
Could I cut the chit chat with people afterwards? Of course. Do I want to? Not necessarily. It’s all part of the experience. I love the storytelling community. They are my people and it’s fun to catch up and connect with them after a show.
So what does this have to do with saying no?
Well, last night I decided to say no to The Moth. I have never done that before.
It was hard for me because I knew I had a potentially winning story and I had already paid for my ticket. I tried to sell it to a fellow storyteller, but no dice.
Now I don’t like to waste money, but I also don’t like to waste that much time either. I knew I’d be frustrated if I went all the way down there and didn’t get picked. Plus, there were other things I needed to take care of that wound up taking priority.
Did I have a little bit of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)? Sure. I wondered if I would have been chosen, could I have potentially won? Would I finally remove the self-proclaimed nickname that I’m the “Susan Lucci of The Moth?” Who knows? I’ll never know because trying to get that answer is “impossible.”
What would you have done in my situation? Do you have an easy time saying no to things? Blowing things off and taking care of your needs instead? Tell me below and if you like what you’ve read, subscribe below, too. Thanks!
*All of these times are approximate.