Jeff Moran builds community with story slam connections

The local MC and event host discusses the art of public speaking and the rewarding experience of hosting Teton County Library's Cabin Fever Story Slam.
Jeff Moran rocking out in the KHOL studios before hosting a summer edition of the Cabin Fever Story Slam on the Center for the Arts lawn. (Jack Catlin / KHOL)

by | Aug 16, 2022 | Culture, People


Jeff Moran has been the “Voice of Jackson Hole” for over 20 years. Moran has hosted and emceed countless events around the valley including Kings & Queens of Corbet’s, Natural Selection, the Figure 8 races at the County Fair, Jackson Hole Ski & Snowboard Club’s Black Tie Blue Jeans Ski Ball and, of course, the Cabin Fever Story Slam.  

Leah Shlachter, the Adult Programs Coordinator for Teton County Library, started Cabin Fever in 2014 and immediately got Moran involved as not only the host but the first person to tell his own story at each of the events to “break the ice.” 

In advance of the latest edition of the Cabin Fever Story Slam at the Center Amphitheater here at The Center for the Arts on Tuesday, August 16, Moran joined us in the KHOL studios.

The following interview transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity. This conversation was recorded on Monday, August 15.

JACK CATLIN/KHOL: You’ve hosted almost 50 different story slams over the years. What’s your favorite type of story or storytelling style in the history of those slams?

JEFF MORAN:  My favorite type of story, it’s not necessarily a type of story but it’s the way that the stories are told. [It’s when] people get up there and you can tell they’ve run through their story in their head a couple of times, maybe practiced at home. My favorite types of stories are the ones that are polished. You can make any story come off well and be engaging and funny and poignant, but if you get up there and you’re doing the types of stories that are a little bit less exciting, or the ones that are [like] ‘And then. And then. And then…’ A good story should have a beginning, a middle and an end. And so I don’t think it’s necessarily any particular style, but [I like] the stories that are a little more polished where people have practiced it a couple of times. And you know, not only myself, but everyone in attendance really picks up on that.

Like, ‘I practiced my story for like two hours before the shows because I want to make sure that it comes off well rehearsed.’ I’m not saying that that’s what everyone should do, but practicing it a few times just to have it in your head—so that you know where those transitions are in the story—makes a big difference. I would say a big thing is just being yourself, allowing yourself to be vulnerable, which I very much understand is a lot easier said than done. But I think one thing that I’m really proud of is we’ve cultivated this strong sense of community and support and I remind the crowd of that every time we do a story slam. You know, if you have the guts to put your name in that bucket and honestly not know when or if your name is going to get pulled, that alone is a huge step. And I applaud everybody who does that. I show up and I know when I’m speaking. For people who don’t really know, that’s a lot of stress for some people. So if you’ve gotten that far, then just be yourself. Don’t worry. If you screw up, just keep going. The more vulnerable and genuine you come off, and if you polish your story up a little bit, it’s going to be really well-received.

It’s wild because we have everything, you know, we have people who maybe have been coming for years and finally get the guts to put their name in that bucket and they get picked and they’ll even tell the crowd. That’s how I know that some people are in that situation and then other people thrive in it. It’s like their drug of choice, they show up and they put their name in the bucket and they’re like, ‘Yeah, pick me next, pick me next.’ And regardless of how you end up on the stage, we have amazing stories come out of the whole spectrum of people, regardless of whether or not they’re there because they really want to be there or they’re just, you know, pushing themselves out of their comfort zone and like, ‘All right, I’m going to push myself and make this happen tonight.’

KHOL: So you just touched on it previously, but I wanted you to expand on it with not only the Cabin Fever stories, but many of the other events you’re a part of. There’s a strong and obvious goal of building a connection with the community, of bringing people together. Can you touch on the importance of community, especially in this special place of Jackson we all call home?

MORAN: You know, that word I feel like gets used a lot when describing the story slam and that’s something I’m really proud of to hear other people say. [T]he event has become a big part of our community, but it also builds community. And I was just thinking about this at the last event, which was a few weeks ago at Mike Yokel Park, and the theme was ‘connection.’ After I think it’s been eight years or so now of doing these events and we’re coming up on our 46th story slam, like, you really, really get to know these people. Whether it’s their first and only time telling a story or if we have people who are coming to the story slams event after event and telling stories, you get to know something about that person you wouldn’t have ever learned about them [otherwise].

And when we do have people showing up regularly and telling stories over and over, you get to learn a lot about them. Like there are people who I know so much about and I only ever see them at the story slams. I maybe cross paths with them in the grocery store or on the street and say ‘Hi.’ So there’s this really intimate connection that gets made and you don’t have to tell a story to be involved in that connection. You can just show up and watch. Even if you’ve only ever been to one story slam, you walk away with this new connection to, you know, anywhere from five to 10 people who you may not know at all. And then you walk away knowing something potentially pretty intimate about their lives. And that connection lasts for a long time. You see them around town and you remember them and it happens to me and I hear that from other storytellers where people will come up to them just randomly around town in a store or whatever, and say, ‘I loved your story about this.’ And recount specific facts or comments that they made. So community is all about building connections and I feel like there are really strong connections that are made at the story slams.

Listen above for KHOL’s full conversation with Jeff Moran.

This coverage is funded in part with an Arts For All grant provided by the Town of Jackson and Teton County.

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About Jack Catlin

Jack is KHOL's music director. He says all music is in some way connected no matter the style and his mission is to provide listeners with a unique and memorable experience each time they tune in to KHOL or see him DJ live.

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