The one I visit the most routinely is an event provided by Do Not Submit. This is an organization hosting "a series of free open mics around Chicago where people from all walks of life and backgrounds can come together each month to connect through the sharing of personal stories." And that's what I like about it.
Events like those hosted by The Moth tend to be curated affairs. They don't typically welcome first time amateurs. They want polished performers, and while that can guarantee certain elements like comedic timing, spoken flow, etc., it can come at the cost of a human element. Sure, there are first timers at Do Not Submits who stumble a bit -- stage fright, choked up on emotion, hesitation to share intimate details -- yet that makes the sharing more touching in a way. It's hard for me not to be a bit cynical hearing a Moth regular tell, what is perhaps the hundredth time, their tale of woe, but when a woman gets up who has literally just a few weeks ago given stillbirth to her child share that story because she needs to tell someone, it's figuratively eating her alive, that's more powerful to me; her tears don't feel scripted. The story is less of a performance, and more a shared moment. We have so many filters these days to keep the reality of life at a distance -- we're aware of the truth without having to feel it -- sometimes that gut punch is a good wake up call.
But it's not all grim spectacle. There are plenty of humorous anecdotes. The best tend to be when someone clearly has a moment of insight mid-performance, and thinking aloud causes a laugh. See, that's something lacking in Moth shows, where the jokes are often preplanned right down to the cadence of speech.
I'm not saying one is better than the other. The Moth puts on an excellent show. However, their storytellers have mined the depths of their tales, and are ready to share that gold as efficiently and entertainingly as possible. Do Not Submit events, on the other hand, are usually more about people still trying to figure out what they need to say.
Either way, I recently managed to remember I can record things with my phone. I've been promising to do this, especially for friends who live far from the city. So here is a clip of me performing at a Do Not Submit event in Andersonville. And if you live in the Chicago area, check out the link below. Maybe this is something you'd like to try, or simply see. Whatever you chose, you're welcome.