A line of New Yorkers throttles a Greenwich Village block. It's hard to tell where the queue ends, but it's clear that anyone who arrived less than an hour early won't be among the 250 who fit in The Bitter End. The bar once provided a stage for Bill Cosby and Bob Dylan, but now settles for run-of-the-mill singer-songwriters and bands. Occasionally, however, the bar's old magnetism is revived, like with tonight's appearance of "The Moth." There's no celebrity name on the marquee, no up-and-coming band on showcase. Instead, a few names will be drawn from a hat and the winners will come forward to tell true first-person stories.
In an age of flashy technologies and star-studded stages, The Moth—real people telling real stories to a live audience—has not only revived the old tradition of raconteuring, but turned it into a cosmopolitan pleasure. While similar storytelling organizations are launching throughout New York in numbers that seem to rival the city's stand-up comedy scene, the nonprofit organization has developed a national following, with storytelling events in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, and Detroit, and has plans to open in five more U.S. cities and possibly even in Europe within the next year. About 21,750 people attended a Moth storytelling event last year, including 11,250 at New York's 48 shows. Meanwhile, the organization has launched MothUP, a satellite program encouraging fans to start mini-Moths in their own living rooms—85 of these groups launched in 2010, from Britain to South Korea. The Moth's online audience is even larger: an average of 1 million recordings from its shows are downloaded each month, putting it consistently at the top of the iTunes most-popular podcasts. The Moth Radio ...1