Elysha and I attended the Moth StorySLAM in Boston last night, and I was fortunate enough to squeeze out a victory by a tenth of a point over two worthy competitors for my fourth StorySLAM victory. It was my first time telling a story in the state where I grew up, and it was a lot of fun.
I told a story about my realization as a child that hard work, effort and creativity cannot always overcome the material shortfalls and economic disadvantages associated with of poverty.
At its heart, the story was about the time when my childhood friend received a new ten-speed bike for his birthday and my subsequent realization that I would never defeat him in a bike race again, no matter how hard I tried, as long as I continued to ride my ancient, knobby-wheeled Huffy hand-me-down.
I managed to defeat two outstanding storytellers who both told hilarious and compelling tales from their youth as well. One told a story about how be became a vegetarian for five years just to win a bet against his older brother. The other told a story about the way in which Quentin Tarentino helped her try to win the heart of her high school English teacher.
Both stories were equally deserving of the win.
Thoughts from an evening:
1. This was my third attempt to attend a Boston StorySLAM. My first two trips were canceled due to a blizzard and the marathon bombing, so when hail the size of acorns began pelting our car on the Mass Pike, I began to wonder the universe was urging me to stay away from Bean Town.
Thankfully, we make it to Boston safely, though I thought Elysha was going to kill me when I refused to pull off the highway in the midst of the storm.
2. Attending The Moth in Boston was a lot like attending my first StorySLAM in New York back in July of 2011. I stepped into The Oberon not knowing a soul, much the same way I entered the Nuyorican Poet’s Café on my first night of storytelling almost two years ago. When I attend a StorySLAM in New York today, I always have friends in the audience. Many are fellow storytellers, Moth staff and producers, but there are also audience members who recognize me as a storyteller and make me feel at home. As loud and crowded and seemingly intimidating as a New York Moth event may be, it’s also a warm and inviting place for me to tell a story.
I was a complete stranger to the Boston audience. In truth, it was the first StorySLAM for most of the people in the audience last night. The Moth opened its doors just six month ago in Boston, and though their shows are consistently selling out, the audiences are still new to the format, and they are just beginning to build a base of regular attendees.
3. As the show began, there were only seven names in the hat. Unlike a New York StorySLAM, where there are always at least ten names in the hat and almost always many more, producers encouraged audience members to put their names in the hat at intermission to fill the ten storytelling slots for the evening, and they did. The number of names in the hat eventually swelled to 13, and in many ways, the second half of the show was much stronger than the first.
4. Even though it was my first time in Boston, I already started making friends with my fellow storytellers. It’s quite remarkable. It’s the only thing I’ve ever done in my life in which I want to absolutely destroy my competition while at the same time hope they do exceptionally well.
Winning a StorySLAM is an amazing feeling, but losing to great stories doesn’t hurt so much.
At the end of the show, I found myself chatting with storytellers onstage, sharing insight and advice when asked. Storytelling is new for many of them, and upon learning that I tell stories in New York, many were eager to pick my brain for tips. Unlike any other competitive situation, I gave willingly.
5. My name was the fifth drawn from the hat, which is much better than first or second but still a tough spot to be with such strong storytellers in the second half of the show. Of the four times that I have won a StorySLAM, my name has been drawn tenth, second, ninth and fifth.
6. During intermission, a guy sitting next to me asked if I was feeling more relaxed now that I had told my story. I said no. I explained that I truly love telling stories onstage, so when I tell my story during the first half of the show, my favorite part of the evening has come to an end.
While I am always grateful to have my name chosen at all, I often find myself sitting through the second half of the show thinking about what my next story will be for my next StorySLAM.
In short, when I’m finished telling my story, I already can’t wait to get back onstage again.