Stories from a social distance: ‘The Moth’ podcast

The poster for the "The Moth" podcast is pictured. via Apple Podcasts

As we approach our collective second month quarantinaversary, many of us are craving human connection. With everyone more-or-less trapped in their own spaces, we’re searching for those precious people-to-people bonds in places we never thought we’d look (if you didn’t have TikTok downloaded before, you certainly do now). Yes, we have Zoom and Houseparty and the unofficial revitalization of Club Penguin Online, but a date at the Pizza Parlor with PenguinPatty101 doesn’t feel quite as special as dinner at Oath with your housemates — even if your date does have the cutest puffle.

This is why “The Moth” (2009–) is such a spectacular light. “The Moth” is a storytelling podcast featuring storytellers from across the world, some amateur and some veteran. The podcast includes short stories — around five to 10 minutes — and long stories — usually around 20 minutes. The shorter stories generally come from the podcast’s story-slam events, where anyone in attendance can put their name in a hat and hope they’re chosen to take the mic. The longer stories are curated, and come from individuals — authors, celebrities, lawyers, teachers, etc. — who have worked to perfect their story with a member of “The Moth” team. These stories are told at “mainstage” events and recorded for listeners. The podcast can be found on SpotifyiTunes, NPR and the podcast’s own website.

The podcast’s stories are about anything and everything. Storytellers tell of life’s big events, the ones that you’d describe as “turning points” while playing hot seat during a pre-orientation. But they also tell of life’s little moments, the ones that seem mundane and insignificant, little moments that stack on top of each other like Lego pieces and create the people that we are. The stories dig deep into the human experience to expose our strengths, our flaws, our fears, our senses of humor and just about any other human characteristic in the book. They are raw and relatable, and each story feels like the whisper of a human secret: how to deal with an embarrassing moment, the death of a family member or the feeling of being an outsider.

“The Moth” helps foster the human connection that being stuck in quarantine so painfully lacks. When we hear the story of a stranger, we see those same thoughts, feelings and emotions reflected within ourselves. It’s a holding of hands that transcends the six-foot distance. The podcast’s stories induce empathy and understanding, making us feel close to each other across space and time.

I’ve listened to just about every “Moth” episode Spotify has to offer, and still it’s hard to pick favorites. There’s Elizabeth Gilbert’s story — author of “Eat, Pray, Love” (2006)about her partner’s terminal illness. Told with her magically soft voice and covert sense of humor, she illustrates in bright colors her partner Rayya’s “Alpha Wolf” personality and how she dealt with and found community in her passing. Then there’s Danusia Trevino’s story about her experience with jury duty, which is as funny as it is moving. As a rebellious 30-year-old, Trevino’s life is forever changed by the openness of her seemingly conservative fellow jurors. In another story, “Blue’s Clues” host Steve Burns hilariously reveals how his role on the show seeped into his romantic life when a date with a Playboy model went horribly wrong. And finally, there’s Jessi Klein’s story about her quest to find the wedding dress of her dreams. Her story is about a dress, but also about the pressure to conform, friendship and finding your way. Though these descriptions contain mild spoilers, each of these stories — and every other story on “The Moth” podcast — is worth a listen.

 Of course, “The Moth” is no replacement for real-life relationships. But as our current reality elicits loneliness and fear, stories of humanity bring comfort. The podcast’s stories remind us that we’re never alone. So on your daily walk around the block or while you’re “being productive” and “cleaning your room,” fill your ears with stories. Let the laughter and the tears and the mistakes and the reconciliations remind you that we’re all in this together.

Correction: A previous version of this article misattributed the authorship of this piece to Ryan Eggers. The article has been updated to reflect the correct authorship. The Daily regrets this error.