Field Trip: A Night at The Moth Ball

In 1997, novelist George Dawes Green was homesick. Back in his native Georgia, on muggy, cricket-filled nights, his friends used to gather outdoors on the porch to spin stories to one another, chatting into the night while moths gathered overhead, bumping into the lightbulbs. Green, determined to recreate those gatherings in New York, founded The Moth, a non-profit literary organization dedicated to just that.

Over the past decade, The Moth sponsored live storytelling events in communities across the country, as well as launching a Moth podcast and public radio show, featuring heavyweights like Malcolm Gladwell and Salman Rushdie. Last night, The Moth had its annual fundraising gala at Capitale in Manhattan. Wry comments, feather boas, and vintage ballgowns abounded, and literary rock stars — like host Jonathon Ames and honorees Calvin Trillin — mingled with past Moth contributors. Check out our photos and read some of the best quotes of the night, after the jump.

Hosts Mike Birbiglia and Jonathon Ames pose with honoree Calvin Trillin. The Moth has become, according to Birbiglia, well-known enough that he’s been asked to tell a story at a Potbelly’s sandwich restaurant before. “It’s so popular that even douchebags like it. And that’s a real mark of success.”

Both Birbiglia and New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik delivered stories alongside The Moth’s previous slam winners. Birbiglia’s focused on his experiences with Catholicism growing up: “It always struck me that priests got huge laughs on jokes that just weren’t that well done.” Gopnik told a story about his daughter Olivia’s imaginary friend, Charlie Ravioli, who was always too busy to play with her. This prompted a struggle about whether he should stay in New York to raise his family or move “to Connecticut, where all writers go to become alcoholics and write bad autobiographical plays.”