Little did I know that I was among giants that night

I was cleaning out some files and I stumbled upon this:

The program from my first Moth GrandSLAM champion on October 17, 2011 at the Highline Ballroom in NYC.

At the time, I was a rookie. Clueless and naive. Stumbling my way into the venue, not knowing what to expect.

I did okay, that night, finishing in third place. The winner was Erin Barker, the only woman in the competition that night. As we gathered on the stage at the end of the show, she famously turned to her male competitors and said, “Suck it, boys.”

I remember thinking that I really like this woman. She told a brilliant story, and she seemed to possess a competitive spirit that I admired.

Little did I know that eight years later, I would be proud to call Erin my friend.

As I look at the names on the program, I’m astounded. Little did I know that night that I was in the presence of some of the best storytellers who I’ve ever know. Titans of the storytelling community.

At the time, I thought that they were all like me: First-time winners wondering what to expect and just hoping to survive.

But not true.

Erin Barker went on to win another Moth GrandSLAM - the first woman in history to do so. She co-founded The Story Collider, an organization dedicated to bringing the stories of the scientific world to the masses. She produces shows all over the world and also produces a weekly podcast. She makes her career today as a storyteller.

David Crabbis a Los Angeles-based author, performer and storyteller. His 2013 solo show Bad Kid was named a New York Times Critics' Pick. His memoir, Bad Kid, was released in 2015 by Harper Perennial. He is currently is a host of The Moth and RISK!

Brad Lawrence is a storyteller, solo show performer and teacher who has performed to sold-out crowds around the United States and in the UK. He was the first storyteller to win back-to-back Moth GrandSLAMs, which led him to becoming a host of the Moth and a regular on Moth Mainstages around the United States.

Jeff Simmermon is a storyteller and standup has won multiple Moth StorySLAMS and a GrandSLAM. His stories have appeared on This American Life, The Moth's podcast, and in written form on The Paris Review Daily.

At the time, Jefferson was the curator and host of the popular Bare: Stories of Sex, Desire, and Romance, and he was producing shows and performing regularly in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Joshua Blau has won multiple Moth StorySLAMs has been featured on The Moth Radio Hour. If he didn’t have five children - including a set of triplets - I suspect I’d see much more of him. He’s brilliant. Hilarious and vulnerable and so sweet.

Steve Zimmer is simply the best storyteller that I have ever seen. He is the Platonic ideal to which I aspire.

That leaves two people - Michael Cannillo and Michael Sorviero - as the only two storytellers who I don’t know.

And who knows? Maybe they’re also killing it somewhere.

Looking back at this program, it’s so odd. I had no idea I was in the midst of storytelling royalty that night.

The absolute masters of the game.

It makes me wish I could go back to that night and better understand what was happening around me.

Better understand who was performing and competing alongside me.

Better appreciate how fortunate I was that night to share a stage with such talented, brilliant performers.