When Moses Storm was a young boy, one of six children reared by missionary parents, he watched Conan O’Brien by recording episodes over Christian learning tapes. It was one of the few pleasures of a very difficult life that he has turned into a stand-up comedy routine that resonates with his audiences far and wide.
His hard knocks life, including living in a converted Greyhound bus, is a big part of the stand-up comic’s material, and the rising star is evidence that sometimes – even in the tough world of comedy – dreams can come true.
The 31-year-old stand-up comic, actor, director, content creator, executive producer, and overall creator is celebrating Trash White, his one-hour comedy special on HBO Max, (produced by O’Brien), that is garnering a great deal of attention from fans and the entertainment industry.
The special is truly a one-of-a-kind ride: whip-smart, outrageously funny, and visually striking. It’s a heartbreakingly honest (yet hilarious!) portrait of what it feels like to grow up poor in America.
Among his myriad of plans and projects, Storm is also touring around – including an upcoming gig on Feb. 24 through 26, at Philadelphia’s Helium Comedy Club — to work on and massage new material for his second HBO Max comedy special.
In addition, Storm is gearing up for Everything’s Trash, a Freeform pilot with Phoebe Robinson, He just wrapped filming on the upcoming CBS/Paramount series called Players, and he has been a series regular in the NBC/Hulu comedy Sunnyside.
His credits are extremely impressive; he has also appeared on Arrested Development, I’m Dying Up Here, and This Is Us.
For those who want easy answers to the key to success, Storm reveals that unfortunately there aren’t any. “People want you to think that there’s a formula or that you have this grand plan and that there’s some absolute proof to it all, especially in an information age where everyone is onto social media clap backs and zinging each other and division,” explains Storm.
“I think we’d be in a lot better position if people just admitted that they don’t know what they’re doing, And, we’re also okay with that,” he continues. “It’s definitely a two-parter in that, yeah, you have to know that it’s fine to not know what you’re doing.”
I’m excited that you’re coming to perform in Philly.
Moses Storm: I’m excited to be back. The last time I was there performing at The Helium Club, it was during the election, the whole eyes of the world were on Philly to count votes. I think the Saturday I was doing shows was the night that everything was announced about the election, so it was a wild time to be in the city.
Why is Philly a good comedy town?
Moses Storm: Philadelphia is a good town for comedy because it’s filled with real people. Philly is filled with good, hard-working people. If they don’t like something they will let you know. It’s an honest response, and it’s a city that wears its heart on its sleeve. If you’re a true comic, you love that. You love a crowd to tell you exactly what it is and not have them sugarcoat anything or play it up. There’s a great appreciation for theater and stand-up in Philly, and you pepper that with people that have real jobs and are real people; it’s a comic’s dream.
What dates do you currently have set up?
Helium Club Philadelphia, Thursday, February, 24 through Saturday, Feb.26.
Caroline’s Comedy Club, New York, NY, Friday, March 4, and Saturday, March 5
Comedy Attic, Bloomington, Indiana, Friday, March 25 and Saturday, 26,
Why do you encourage my readers to come to see your standup?
Moses Storm: Well, this is a great time to come because it’s a truly live show. Meaning I just put out an HBO special, so you have to start from square one. What’s the point in doing old material that people have seen? I’m in the process of building part two of the special. I’m being told it’s one of the rare stand-up specials that leaves a cliffhanger, and I’m on the road right now touring part two. Essentially finish the story that part one set up. And the only way to do that is to get in front of people. It’s this really exciting time, it’s a little nerve-wracking where, yeah, I have to start from square one. That means relying a lot on the audience, audience participation, talking to people.
Overall, is there a clear path to becoming a stand-up?
Moses Storm: Absolutely not. I think unfairly our generation says to follow your dreams; you can really do everything. And you really can’t. You can do things but yeah, life is going to be pretty hard. No, there’s never stability, and even now having released my one-hour HBO Max special which I think is every comedian’s dream, and being able to tour to just support myself on stand up alone, there’s still always that worry that everything could go away. Or what’s next? And how do I sustain this? There’s no clear path and there’s no class that you could take, and there’s no mentor that could automatically give you a career.
Because even if you have the biggest celebrities in the world bring you out on stage and say, ‘This person’s great,’ the audience will only give you five seconds of goodwill before it’s like, ‘Okay, well you better make me laugh.’ The only way to do that is a lot of work on the road and then maybe having some talent might help. So, there’s no clear path.
If I’d have told you when you were starting out that you would have been on This Is Us, Arrested Development or had Trash White, your HBO Max special, would you have been shocked? Was that your dream?
Moses: Storm: Yes, I would have been shocked. I would have thought that when I first started that I was done.; meaning,’ hey, no more work, you’re good, you’re set now.’ But it’s not really the reality of it. You want to sustain; you want to keep going and do bigger and better things. I love to stand up and I love performing in general, and sometimes acting roles feel like stand up, just get that performance work out I think you have to genuinely love it to keep yourself going because there are so many days where you are never performing in an ideal situation as a comedian.
What are the difficulties in doing stand-up?
Moses Storm: Making a spontaneous reaction happen from people; making them laugh. And for people to stop and listen to you because we barely listen to each other in conversation with people we are talking to, let alone have people listen to you for an hour during a show; it’s a big ask. If you’re able to do that, you’re very, very lucky. The quarantine exacerbated the issues and made them even less ideal. I’ve done everything from stand-up shows on Zoom to drive-in stand-up comedy shows. That’s where if people like the joke they honk at you; that’s not every comedian’s dream.
Tell me about your HBO Max special and how did Conan O’Brien become involved?
Moses Storm: It is a chance encounter that it’s not lost on me how insane it is that the only comedian I watched growing up. Because I had very religious parents, we weren’t allowed to watch TV. The only thing I would watch when I could sneak TV was Late Night with Conan O’Brien, his NBC show. I secretly recorded at-night tapes over homeschool tapes and then watched those back the next morning, hovered over the TV with a blanket over it ready to switch channels.
When I started doing stand-up, that was always the dream. When I finally got on the show in 2017, I was just happy to be there even if the set didn’t go well. And it went great. I didn’t really know how great it went until a couple of days later. It was the first video that I’ve seen positive comments on YouTube; which never happens. Conan invited me back to the show to not only do stand-up but be a guest on the show. Then he took me on a national tour with him which was the most people I’d ever performed for; there were 4,000 people in a theater. It was surreal having essentially my comedy hero bring you out on stage.
How did your HBO Max special come about?
Moses Storm: When it came time, he started a relationship with HBO Max and they asked him what he wanted to do. And he said he wanted to invest in young stand-ups to give back, and I happened to be one of those opportunities. He’s been a mentor to me and someone I really look up to, so I’m overjoyed. I don’t know, it still felt like a dream that I was going to be able to do a special. I was all ready to tape a special and the original shoot date was going to May 6th, 2020. But then things happened and it all put on hold for the past two years.
Then I still had to find a way to safely tour and still work on material. We had a new normal. I did all these Zoom shows and drive-in shows in outdoor, unideal situations, back of a pickup truck. You name it, I’ve done it. All to set up the special. I knew that I wanted to be involved in every step of the special, I had a very specific vision for it. This is why I asked HBO Max if I could co-direct it. I helped build the set, design the set, the physical set, edited all the graphics for it and videos for it, and even helped edit the entire special. I was incredibly hands-on because I had a very specific vision for it.
What else is on the horizon?
Moses Storm: Well, I’m very excited to start filming a TV show called Everything is Trash with Phoebe Robinson, another hilarious comedian who created the show and writes the show. It will air on Freeform. We move it to New York for that. Not to be confused with my special, Trash White. I understand I have a lot of things that have trash in the title. I’m excited to start that show because not only is the writing on the show great, but I also get to move to New York which is a great place for stand-up because you get to do more sets a night because of the density of the city. I enjoy that you get to bounce around and I think it’s really going to accelerate part two of the HBO special. I’m really focused on getting part two in shape to tape.
Do you know when you’re taping your second HBO comedy special?
Moses Storm: I don’t know yet. I won’t tape until the show is ready. Even if an offer came tomorrow, it’s just not ready right now. The time is not the issue, it’s just the quality of the show is when it’s time to tape when I feel like it’s as bulletproof as it can be.
Do you have any other comics, mentors in your life, other people that you looked up to or you’ve gotten to know along the way?
Moses Storm: Roy Wood Jr. is someone that helped me out a lot, he’s another comedian. He was the first comedian that I ever met, and he’s someone that said the best/worst advice because you don’t really want to hear it but it is the truth. I just asked him 10 years ago when I started, ‘How do I do what you do?’ And he said, “You just have to get on stage and start failing.” I think I was looking for almost an easy answer at the time or some leg up. But it is the truth, unfortunately, that you just have to get on stage, try things out, fail, do well.
So yes, that’s someone that has been a mentor to me as well and has helped me out. Even as far as something as puts up the special, the stories that I wanted to cut and maybe not divulge as much personal information. But Roy Wood Jr. is someone that encouraged me to do that. If Roy says you should do something, you should definitely do it.
Lastly, what is your overall philosophy?
Moses Storm: I wish I heard this before from performers and people that I looked up to, but it is that I don’t know anything and that’s okay. It’s okay not to know.
How do we get in touch with you for further tour/show updates?