Ira Glass and the Art of Storytelling

Ira GlassIra Glass is 55 today. He is my generation’s Studs Terkel, except that Studs Terkel is also my generation’s Studs Terkel. He is something I’ve never quite understood: consistent. He was an intern for NPR at the age of 19. And 36 years later he is still there. (Technically, he is at PRI: Public Radio International.) Of course, his career has evolved over time. And, of course, it all came together in 1995 with the creation of his long-running show This American Life.

The show is probably the best thing on National Public Radio. At its best, nothing touches it. At its worst, it is still better than most shows. And I say this as a fan of most of what NRP has on offer. What is great about the show—at least from my perspective—is that it is mostly just a single person telling a story. There really is nothing more powerful than that.

When I go to see some action film with my brother, I am amazed at just how little the experience moves me. So much of these films are just filler anyway. Is it really necessary to watch the good guy and bad guy fight for ten minutes, when we already know what the conclusion will be? But when someone tells you a story, there is none of that. The only reason they would include details about a fight is because something unusual happened. Otherwise, the story is just being padded.

That never happens on This American Life. The story is king and the telling of it never gets in the way. I highly recommend going over to the This American Life website. But here is Ira Glass on the nature of storytelling, which I assume is from a live episode of the show. It is really compelling and I totally agree:

Happy birthday Ira Glass!

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Ira Glass and the Art of Storytelling

  1. I have always loved Ira Glass, even though I’ve had my little issues here and there with This American Life throughout the years. Of course the issues are very minor, and Ira has always been one of my major boy crushes, along with Jonathan Goldstein from "Wiretap". (I don’t know why I am so attracted to nebbishy, over- thinky, glum, Jewish men, at least in theory. Maybe because inside I am one?)

  2. @Kristen – I’ve been told that we Catholics are half Jewish, so that may have something to do with it. I came upon something Glass said about his religious beliefs that really resonated with me. It was about how he just [i]is[/i] Jewish in a cultural sense. But that he’s tried believing in God but it just didn’t take. I understand that completely. I would love to believe what so many of my fellow Americans seem to believe. But it all seems so silly. But if I could will myself to be a Christian, I would. Or a Jew. Or a Muslim. Whatever. Buddhism is open enough that I could probably fit into that one. But its not a "believe and be rewarded" religion. In fact, I’m not sure it’s even a religion. Rats!

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