The Moth is a non-profit group based in New York City dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling. Founded in 1997, the organization presents a wide range of theme-based storytelling events across the United States and abroad, often featuring prominent literary and cultural personalities. The Moth offers a weekly podcast and in 2009 launched a national public radio show, The Moth Radio Hour, which won a 2010 Peabody Award. The 2013 story collection The Moth: 50 True Stories reached #22 on The New York Times Paperback Nonfiction Best-Seller List.
The Moth was founded in 1997 by poet and novelist George Dawes Green, who wanted to recreate the feeling of sultry summer evenings in his native Georgia, when moths were attracted to the light on the porch where he and his friends would gather to spin spellbinding tales. Green and his original group of storytellers called themselves "The Moths", and Green took the name with him to New York. The non-profit organization now runs over 500 different storytelling programs a year in more that 25 US cities (including New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit) and four international cities (London, Dublin, Sydney, and Melbourne) offering the unique perspectives of both average, everyday people, and literary or cultural personalities.
The Moth's live shows fall into several tiers of production, but each is dedicated to the art of unscripted, first-person storytelling. Every show has stories based on open-ended themes (Such as "Hot Mess," or "Conviction").
The Moth Mainstage is their curated flagship program, which is a "staple" of the literary scenes in New York City and Los Angeles and regularly tours around the United States and the world as The Moth on the Road. Storytellers at the Mainstages include renowned personalities, past StorySLAM or GrandSLAM winners, and average people who may have submitted their stories through The Moth Pitchline.
The organization also hosts The Moth StorySLAM events, which is an open mic storytelling competitions open to everyone in cities across the United States, including but not limited to New York City, Detroit, Chicago, Louisville, Ann Arbor, Pittsburgh, Cambridge, and Los Angeles. The format was inspired by and is similar to poetry slams.
For the StorySLAM, ten participants are chosen at random from a pool of volunteer storytellers to tell a true story (without notes) in the five to six-minute range. Storytellers are scored based on the content of their stories, and their storytelling abilities, by three teams of judges—selected from audience members—on a scale from one to ten. The storyteller with the highest score wins the StorySLAM.
After 10 StorySLAMS have occurred in a city, the 10 winners then advance to The Moth GrandSLAM, which draws crowds of hundreds (or thousands) and as a result is held in a larger venue than the monthly StorySLAMs. The same rules apply to the GrandSLAM as in the StorySLAM.
In addition to live performances, The Moth conducts a variety of community, education, and corporate workshops that teach the art and craft of storytelling in various regions and communities.
Since 1999, the Moth’s Community Program strives to encourage the art of storytelling in communities typically under-represented by the mainstream media. They teach and inspire budding raconteurs to effectively tell their stories to those who are both willing and unwilling to listen, and they often feature workshop members on The Moth website and podcast.
The Education Program works with students, teachers, and professors from high-school through college to promote stronger community bonds within the student body and the administration. The overall mission is to prepare students for the world ahead of them by teaching crucial aspects of language and rhetoric, and to allow students and teachers to experience one another in a more intimate setting. In 2012 The Moth launched the High School Slam program, which brings StorySLAMs to public high schools in New York City. They currently hold SLAMs at twelve high schools in three boroughs, and an All-City SLAM that allows for inter-connectivity between students in all the boroughs.
The Moth’s Corporate Program conducts private workshops and custom shows for a variety of corporations (such as NIKE, Google, and Ford). Private workshops teach employees to utilize the power of storytelling to promote their business goals and ideas, while custom events to highlight the voices and mission of an organization in a unique setting.
In August 2009, the organization launched a national public radio show, The Moth Radio Hour, produced by Jay Allison and distributed by Public Radio Exchange. In the fall of 2009 The Moth Radio Hour was licensed by more than 200 public radio stations, and it later won a 2010 Peabody Award. Now, more than 400 public radio stations host The Moth Radio Hour, which has over 1,000,000 weekly listeners.
The Moth offers a weekly podcast, which provides free audio of curated stories from live Moth events. The podcast has over 500,000 weekly downloads; in 2015, the podcast was downloaded over 30 million times.
On September 3, 2013 Hyperion Books published The Moth: 50 True Stories, a collection of stories from the group's performance history. In December 2013 it reached #22 on The New York Times Paperback Nonfiction Best-Seller List. A second book, All These Wonders: True Stories about Facing the Unknown, was released by Crown in March 2017.
The organization's annual fundraising event is called the Moth Ball. William McGowan of The Wall Street Journal called the ball the "hottest and hippest literary ticket" in 1999, and more recently Jen Carlson of Gothamist called it "NYC's Best Gala". At this event they present the Moth Award, celebrating the art of the raconteur. Past awards have gone to Garrison Keillor, Salman Rushdie, Anna Deavere Smith, Calvin Trillin, Spalding Gray (posthumously), Martin Scorsese, and Albert Maysles.
As of Fall 2016, over 18,000 stories have been told at The Moth. Storytellers include: