Ira 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!