The Monti got its name from my college days. I pledged a fraternity in my sophomore year, and one of my requirements was to ‘interview’ each member of the house. Monti was one of the guys in the house, and we scheduled our interview for 3pm on a Friday. When I showed up at his room, he pulled out a bottle of tequila, and we started talking.
Ten hours later, we had finished the bottle of tequila, and we emerged from his room as best friends and have been best friends ever since. What happened during that ten hours was nothing more than a simple exchange of stories back and forth. At times, a story would make us laugh so hard, it actually hurt; other moments, a story was so profound that we sat silently for several minutes. We told stories about our families, our childhoods, our dreams, our old girlfriends, and what we hoped for most in our lives. The fact that we were drinking was insignificant except for the fact that it made the stories a bit more edgy and raw. That day, for me, encompassed the complete package of what stories can do for people, and it was the first time I truly appreciated the impact of the spoken word. Monti and I used to tell each other that if professional talking were a real profession, we would have gladly gone into business together – and we’d be rich, too. But not much of a living is to be made in talking, so Monti went off to become a psychiatrist, and I earned a doctorate in genetics and then on to teach high school biology.
Late in 2007, I was reading The New Yorker and stumbled across a ‘Special Advertisment’ section that highlighted a New York City based organization called The Moth. The Moth is all about good old fashioned storytelling. People are invited from all walks of life to tell stories in front of a live audience. The response to The Moth in New York has been phenomenal. Three times a month, audiences from all over the city congregate to listen to strangers tell them stories – and they leave clamoring for more.
The Moth is proof that people love stories – it doesn’t matter how old or what demographic you are, everybody loves a good story. By starting The Monti I am essentially living out a dream – a dream to tell personal stories to an audience because I love seeing the power of the spoken word. When people relate to a story it can transform them. I love to watch people and wait for their expression to change just at the moment that I have captured them in a story. But The Monti is not just about me telling stories, although I imagine I will do plenty of that; it’s about the community telling stories to the community. I want the storytellers and the audience to have the same feelings I have when I am touched by an honest and real experience.
The name, The Monti, is not necessarily an homage to a person but to a time in my life where I learned how easily a story can affect others and how it can bring people together, like it did with two strangers who became best friends in ten short hours.
— Jeff Polish