Ghosts, Angels and Motorcycle Rides - Joan Buck

Photo by Renee Rosensteel

Ghosts, Angels and Motorcycle Rides

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The top editor of French "Vogue" rents a spooky flat in Paris; a man takes his ailing wife on a motorcycle ride; rapper Darryl "DMC" McDaniels confesses his Sarah McLachlan obsession; and a high schooler is put to the test when he comes out of the closet.

Stories in this Episode

The Ghost of Rue Jacob

by Joan Juliet Buck

After landing her dream job in Paris, Joan Juliet Buck, the new editor of French Vogue, is haunted in her dream apartment.

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Franny's Last Ride

by Mike DeStefano

Mike struggles with how to give support to his wife, who is dying in hospice.

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by Darryl "DMC" McDaniels

An angel brings a hip hop superstar back from the brink.

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Last Laugh

by Terrence Buckner

A Brooklyn teen meets resistance from his family and community after admitting he’s gay.

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Extras From This Episode

Joan Juliet Buck

Joan 465X310

Joan telling her story at The Moth. Photo by Denise Ofelia Mangen.

Mike DeStefano

A Tribute to Mike DeStefano

By Catherine Burns, Artistic Director of The Moth

“I used to be a drug counselor, and before that I was a drug addict, and before that I was ten.” – Mike DeStefano


Mike DeStefano performing at The Moth in 2007.

Mike DeStefano was a thoroughly original person. He was a brilliant comic, but his comedy was not for sissies. Much of his humor came from talking about the years he spent addicted to heroin. You can hear many of his best sets on his YouTube channel.

I first met Mike Destefano in 2007 at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colorado. It was our third year at the festival, and I got a call from Kirsten Ames, who had done a brilliant job casting our shows there in the past. She had a knack for knowing which comedians would be willing to drop their comedy acts, show their vulnerability and tell a real story. In past years she had identified the then up-and-coming Mike Birbiglia, whose story eventually became the Off-Braodway Hit My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend; and Anthony Griffith, who told the devastating story of his young daughter’s death.

She told me she had a feeling about this new guy. His name was Mike, and he was from the Bronx – a real tough guy. He had stories I wouldn’t believe, if he was willing to tell them. He had never told them on stage before.

He called me ten minutes later, and by the time we hung up he had told me not one but two stories that we Mothies would call “mainstage worthy”. I called Kirsten back and asked if the festival would be willing to give Mike two slots, one in each of the shows we were producing from them that year. I have never asked for anything like that for a storyteller before or since. He was just that good. She said yes.

He closed our first Aspen show that year, sharing the stage with some heavy hitters including Marc Maron, John Oliver and the actor Billy Baldwin. From the moment Mike took the stage, telling a story about taking his dying wife, Franny on one last motorcycle ride, he owned the show and the crowd. It was one of those moments where it felt like the entire audience was holding hands under the table. There was an intense stillness to the listening, but also a sense that the quiet energy he was giving out might just blow the roof off. You can see that performance here:

Two days later, he told the story we’ve come to call The Junkie and the Monk, which was a sort of sequel to the motorcycle story and which you can hear on this episode of The Moth Radio Hour. It was another home run. Mike went on to tell many more stories at The Moth, and even hosted a few live shows.

Part of what I loved about Mike as a storyteller is that he didn’t hide behind his comedy. He made you laugh out loud, but didn’t shy away from the depth and seriousness of the story for a second. He was just a guy who saw humor in everything telling you about the most important events of his life, many of which were heartbreaking.

Mikeand Franny

Mike DeStefano with his wife, Franny.

He was one of the kindest and most generous people I’ve ever known. Behind that gruff demeanor was a man with a huge heart. In rehearsals he was always encouraging the others, especially the first time storytellers for whom taking the Moth stage involved great risk. In his last Moth show he shared the stage with John Dau, one of the famous “Lost Boys” of Sudan. John was nervous about talking about his more traumatic experiences, and Mike was very encouraging. Mike knew first hand how terrifying facing your darkest memories could be.

Recently his career had really taken off. He was a finalist on the show Last Comic Standing, appeared on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and in his own Comedy Central special.

On March 6, 2011 Mike had a massive heart attack and died. He was 44. Mike was one of the Moth’s greatest voices, and we mourn him and the stories he had left to tell.

Darryl “DMC” McDaniels

The song DMC created in collaboration with Sarah McLachlan.

Terrence Buckner

Watch Terrence tell his story live at The Moth.

The music in this story