On Saturday night, the wife and I ambled up to Chautauqua Auditorium in Boulder to hear Ira Glass speak.
If the name isn’t familiar, Ira is the creative force behind and the host of the NPR show (WBEZ in Chicago, technically) This American Life.
If you’ve never listened to the show before, you probably won’t be interested in reading much further.
Same goes for if you’re fundamentally (fiscally, morally, politically or otherwise) opposed to National Public Radio.
In all the years I’ve considered it, I’ve yet to figure out how any thinking person could be opposed to the wonderfully original and in depth content found so easily on NPR, but I’m told such persons do, in fact, exist.
By the same token, I personally have a hard time believing that Fox News actually gets to take up airspace and people willingly watch it and consider it “fair and balanced”, so screw me if I can’t take a joke, right?
I guess the good news is, the media world is broad enough that just about everyone’s needs can be served.
But seriously, in terms of thought provoking entertainment value, Ira Glass would kick the holy hell out of Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter even if he were wrestling with a 9 day head cold and a nasty case of ring worms.
So, the wife was actually most curious to see what Ira Glass looked like, having listened to his voice for so many years.
Given how visible just about everyone is these days, what with the onslaught of social media and, you know, google search for gawd’s sake, I found it really hard to believe that she had never seen a picture of him before. But she’s like that, sometimes, the wife is.
Turns out, Ira Glass is a shortish fella with a solid head of dark bushy hair and oversized round spectacles that tend to make a person look either smart or hopelessly out of touch. In Ira’s case, it’s a little more the former. A little.
His talk at Chautauqua featured excerpts from past episodes of This American Life and a rambling, funny, honest, introspective, empassioned, energetic, and intelligent jumble of thoughts about how the show is created and why, in a world of 24–7 cable news and fingertip digital information, a “throwback” program like This American Life even exists.
Even though Ira Glass and I are coming at the medium of radio from completely different angles, I can’t say enough about how strongly his message resonated with me. (And, apparently, all the other middle-aged, left-leaning white people with large foreheads and pseudo-hipster eyeglasses gathered at Chautauqua.)
My 4 takeaways:
- There is tremendous value in the human voice even when there is no visual picture that goes along with it. In fact, there might just be MORE value to the human voice when the audience is forced to use their own creativity to fill in the picture themselves. Especially true when that human voice is making its most sincere attempt to communicate honestly.
- There is tremendous value in a well-crafted story. Maybe, as we’re so often told, people really don’t read anymore. But whether we recognize it on a conscious level or not, our human history is one of stories. Everyone loves a good story. Probably even Bill O’Reilly. Probably.
- No matter what you’re interested in: media, business, sports, technology, you CAN find a place in that arena to innovate and create even if it feels like “it’s all been done before”. Even if a whole bunch of people line up to tell you that whatever you’re thinking of doing won’t work. But first, you gotta have the passion.
- For a somewhat nerdy looking intellectual guy with oversized glasses who majored in Semiotics (look it up) at Brown University, I bet Ira Glass gets A LOT of action. And I do mean A LOT.