The Week in Radio: Whooping with delight as a devoted dad fights misogyny in The Moth


Click to follow
The Independent Culture

The best radio, to my mind, has to do with stories. Not just the stories of the mega-famous but of ordinary mortals leading ordinary lives. Thus, I've dipped in and out of The Moth (, a New York podcast devoted to storytelling, for several years now and although the tales told vary in mood and in content, their capacity to shine a light on our everyday lives is pretty much constant.

For me, it is best listened to late at night, usually when I've had my fill of the BBC and when my slightly delirious mind is most receptive to the lives of interesting and cool-sounding Americans. It's escapism based on other people's reality and it's really rather marvellous.

I'd almost say that The Moth was my favourite US podcast but the fact is that nothing can come between me and Radiolab, the science and philosophy show which has lately come to be a marker by which I judge people (it's simple: if you don't love it, I don't love you). But The Moth comes a pretty close second.

The podcast already has around 70,000 subscribers and averages a million monthly downloads. Five years ago it launched a National Public Radio show and a year later won a Peabody Award.

Each week yields short stories that each come with three crucial elements. They have to be true; they must be told – not read, but told – by those at the centre of them; and they must be delivered in front of a live audience.

In The Moth's most recent offering, Adam Savage talked about being a father in the age of the internet. He has twin boys whom he called "Thing 1 and Thing 2". He discussed the worries that afflicted him shortly before they were born about how best to get them to lead good lives.

His anxiety moved up a gear after they were born and attending kindergarten, a point at which they "started behaving like people I'd never met before".

Things got worse at school. "Is there anything worse as a parent than the call from the school? [Adopts officious voice] 'Er, hello, Adam. We just wanted to let you know that at two o'clock today out in the yard you failed as a parent'."

After Thing 1 was overheard talking about sex in the playground, Savage realised certain realities had to be faced and that it was time for The Talk.

A few years later in their early teens, he discovered his sons were looking at porn on the internet: Thing 1 had Googled "nudies" while Thing 2 had opted for "big boobs". "I have my children's first porn search terms," beamed Savage. "It's almost better than their first steps."

Much of Savage's dealings with his children on the subject of sex had the feel of a well-observed sitcom but there was a more serious undercurrent to his situation and that was the grim images that are just a click away, images that once seen cannot be unseen.

Amid the larks of Savage's family life he still needed to prepare his sons for the future and offer some context on what they might encounter. He had a serious message to impart and it was this: "The internet hates women."

At this the live audience let out a series of whoops and, listening in the dead of night, so did I. Savage knew how to tell a story, all right, but he was still an ordinary father grappling with an everyday problem: how to steer his sons through a world filled with misogyny. Listening to their dad talk, I knew they'd be OK.