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A deep dive into the life of Moses Storm in new HBO Max special ‘Trash White’

Moses Storm tells the audience in his new HBO Max special “Trash White” that he is not trying to teach anything. This isn’t something that’s intended to be important in the vein of Hannah Gadsby’s “Nanette,” but instead to be an actual comedy special. I would say that he half succeeds in this endeavor.

Storm’s special is a deep dive into what it is like to grow up in poverty. He was one of five children his mom raised alone. A portion of his life was spent living on a bus, but when they had a home, they still struggled. He shares stories about how food stamps were unable to adequately feed his family, so they spent time Dumpster diving for food. He talks about how he grew up dyslexic, but because he was poor, he only recently discovered this, because the assumption is that if you’re wealthy and have trouble in school, you have a learning disability, but if you’re poor and have difficulty, you’re stupid.

The stories he shares are absolutely funny, but throughout the show, he uses them to highlight how they are all a result of growing up poor. He has an excellent bit focused on how his mother tried faking bloopers so their family could win $10,000 from America’s Funniest Home Videos, and he uses this to underline his main thesis: crazy beats fear.

He says that his mother was never lazy, but she also spent time and money on schemes that often lost more money than they gained. He believes she did this because it was easier for her to focus all of her energy into something huge and exciting rather than a minimum wage job that would likely also not be enough to dig her out of poverty. That the fear surrounding caring for five children alone could only be beaten by creating an elaborate hoax where a kid “accidentally” dropped a bag of flour on his sister’s head.

The visuals in this are quite good, particularly for a comedy special. He uses props on the stage, and the stage itself to aid in the storytelling. In a bit where he is talking about breaking into a local pool, huge bursts of color bloom across the stage, adding a striking element to a funny story. The stark white stage is brought to life with brightly colored lights just often enough to have a strong impact, making the bits stand out.

I said at the beginning that he half succeeded. I say this, because even though it was not his intention for me to walk away from his show saying that it was important, I still did. Yes, it is primarily a comedy show, and I didn’t have a wrung-out feeling like I have after some modern comedy specials. But his experiences with poverty are real, and through a really funny special, I think he can make them real to you as well.

ALISE CHAFFINS is a Morgantown writer who loves movies and sharing her opinions. Find more at MacGuffin or Meaning on Substack.