The Moth: Mmm-mmmh! Good story!

The Moth, an organization that's been dishing up old-fashioned storytelling like literary comfort food for a decade, makes its long-awaited debut in Austin

Jonathan Ames wings it for the Moth.
Jonathan Ames wings it for the Moth.

A good story, well told, is like the best home-cooked meals: simple and satisfying in ways that few things are, that can leave you contented in the core of your being. The Moth understands that, and that's the secret to the success of this New York-based organization that's been dishing up good old-fashioned storytelling like literary comfort food for 10 years now. In monthly programs that routinely sell out, a half-dozen tales on a common theme – say, compulsions or families or the creative process – are shared with a live audience. The storytellers may be notable notables on the order of Lili Taylor, Moby, or Frank McCourt or just plain folks with fascinating lives: an astronaut, a voodoo priestess, a pickpocket, or an Austinite (our own Kelley Caleb Hunt won a national storytelling competition sponsored by the Moth earlier this year).

Until recently, you pretty much had to be in New York to savor the narrative delights of the Moth, but last fall the organization embarked on its first national tour, taking what it's calling Out on a Limb: Stories From the Edge to 10 cities across the land, and Austin is one of them. In each city, a Moth regular hosts the show, but a couple of local heroes are recruited to share their stories. When the Moth lights here next week, national StorySLAM-competition-winner Kelley Caleb Hunt and author and filmmaker Turk Pipkin will be spinning yarns with Moth regulars Edgar Oliver, East Village playwright and performer; Ophira Eisenberg, writer and stand-up comic; and Jonathan Ames, the author of What's Not to Love? and Wake Up, Sir!

Despite the newness of the Moth on the national scene, tour dates in other cities have been selling out, with Los Angeles drawing 1,500 people. "We've been blown away by how warm and generous the audiences have been," says Catherine Burns, artistic director for the Moth. She thinks people are drawn to the fact that the Moth is not merely a show but "a community of people who care about connecting with other people. I came to the show years ago and was instantly transfixed and just wanted to be there any time they did anything, which is ultimately how I ended up working here. When we talk about the Moth, I joke that I think of it as something separate from me. It's like the Ring, and we're Frodo, and we just have to take care of it. We're the keepers of this great thing."

Out on a Limb: Stories From the Edge takes place Thursday, May 3, with drinks and conversation at 6:30pm and storytelling at 7:30pm, at the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown, 409 Colorado. For more information, visit

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The Moth, Catherine Burns, Kelley Caleb Hunt, Out on a Limb:Stories From the Edge, Turk Pipkin

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