In the old days, radios and record players were such novelties that people would sit around them and just listen. We don't do that so much anymore. But Edgar Oliver's storytelling is so much better than anything I've ever heard, his voice so thick with intrigue that it enraptures my entire attention; nothing, not even Facebook competes.
In Apron Strings of Savannah, Oliver masterfully dramatizes both the hyper weird and the mundane. Listening is like sitting on an old velvet couch my distant relative has been storing in an attic since the 1950's. Oliver’s story, like the couch, kind of made me cringe. His voice can best be described as Transylvania homeboy. Instead of letting the shock of Oliver’s voice distract me, though, I took a short pause and realized the basic fact that I’d been entranced. How did I get so quickly captivated by someone who sounded so little like Ira Glass?
Since all stories on The Moth are told live and without notes, every story sounds alive and fresh - you can tell that the storytellers aren’t reading. This allows for a certain quality of vulnerability to shine through. Whether we are actively participating in live storytelling or recording multiple takes in a sound room, sharing authentic vulnerability can make any storyteller more relatable.
One thing about Oliver is that his voice is HIS unique voice and cannot (though it's really fun to try) be imitated or copied. As Dracula-like as it may sound, Oliver's voice is reassuring to me. When I hear him I think- there's nothing wrong with my own unique voice. Yes, there are some things a voice coach can help you with, but some things are better left the way they are. And by learning to embrace your own weirdness, you can tell your own stories in the most memorable way possible.
"Once, the gypsy witch cards convinced mother to go on a banana split diet," Oliver says, his voice a mix of childlike delight and terror.
You can't do your homework and listen to Edgar Oliver tell a story. You can't really do anything but listen. And the more time you spend listening to Oliver’s weirdness, the more you’ll be able to listen to the weirdness that is inside you - that voice that’s uniquely yours.
Apron Strings of Savannah
Monologue by Edgar Oliver, performed for The Moth in 2006