Ira Glass: now on DVD (the radio is better though!)

As an self-confessed NPR junkie I make no bones about my favorite show on radio - This American Life. The show is like the movies, except the stories are real (see old post).

Last Saturday, the show's host Ira Glass was in town. Being Ann Arbor, one the few places where if you don't listen to NPR you will be looked down by people, the local bookstore Borders was trying to restrict the audience by handing out wristbands when the store opened in the morning. In the evening, Borders did not have the executive power to enforce this and were letting anybody in. As a result, yours truly was stuck behind a pillar. This kinda of put dampener on the whole point of going there - "I came to see Ira, not to hear him!".

Ironically, Ira is on a tour to promote the DVD of his six-episode TV version of the show. Something, he said, he was reluctant to do for a long, long time. I have seen the pilot (on their website), but the radio show is better( and everyone knows it). From the straw-poll conducted at the bookstore, by Ira himself, not many people know the show from TV, which is small victory of sorts. TV or radio, the show is about real-life stories of real people.

The show is also well known for its beautifully put together music and one wonders if Ira who was born in 1959 was inspired by the music revolution in the 60s and 70s. He said that he was a nerdy Jewish-American kid growing up in Baltimore. He never heard any of the popular music while growing up. He said, "I remember a kid in my neighborhood asking me if I thought 'The Monkees' were better than 'The Beatles'. Imagine that there was a time when there was even a debate about this!. I grew up listening to Broadway musicals. The music of my people!". Musicals from the 40s and 50s, he said, have shaped his aesthetic and he tries to achieve a lot of that effect on the show.

I waited in line for about an hour to get the DVD signed. A bookshop is perhaps one of the few places in the world where I can wait in line forever. I picked up a book and 'almost read it'. Finally, it was great to meet and talk to Ira. He seemed to be in no hurry to conclude the conversation. The reason the line moved slowly was that Ira likes to talk to people, but which also made the wait worthwhile (not that I was complaining). I suggested that he should make a show on the show. There is a certain demographic to which the show appeals and, 'who really are these people?', and 'why do they listen to the show?'

Earlier, he said that for those in the creative profession most of the work is not in doing the work, but in simply finding the subject. As a young reporter, Ira tried really hard to sound like what he thought a reporter should sound like and he was terrible. He said that your best work is done when you are not trying to be what people think of you, but when you are doing it simply to amuse yourself. What does Ira do when he has all these wonderful stories from people to choose from. It isn't that hard -

Everyone has a story, but everyone does not have a story that needs to be told to two million people.
- Ira Glass

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