Monday, November 17, 2008

Cool Things

I am passionately devoted to the NPR show, "This American Life". I've never seen the television show, but it's hard for me to believe that it could be better than the radio program.

If you are one of the three people in the U.S. who have never heard of or listened to the program (is that an exaggeration?), the factual description of the show goes something like this:

The host, Ira Glass, gives you a short rundown on the theme of the week, which could be anything but is usually about something pretty universal to being a human being: fear, shyness, connection, love, parenthood, childhood, envy, eating in restaurants, watching television, taking the bus, sleeping at a friend's house, etc. Then there are a few segments in which various people talk about their own experience of that particular theme. Sometimes the people are writers or comedians or experts in the field, sometimes the people are regular folks. The stories are sometimes funny, sometimes touching, occasionally devastating, but always enlightening in some small way. The show is really about how every single one of us has a meaningful story to tell, something well worth listening to - if only we had one of Ira Glass' producers around to gently pull it out of us.

What's amazing is that I nearly always come away from the show feeling more connected to my fellow human creatures, and I often have - at least for a little while - a greater feeling of compassion for our frailties and our beauty and our complexity. Many of the stories are of our less admirable, more vulnerable and even absurd moments, but the show never stoops to mockery or being clever in a way that takes advantage of the speaker. Ira's position, and that of the interviewer, is always respectful and frequently empathetic - yeah, I've been there, or at least I could have been, I've felt that way...

You can listen to all the shows ever produced - except perhaps for the one produced the week before - by going to their website at and then clicking the little teensy "all episodes" link.


Carrie K said...

I've listened to the show - hey. Now I can probably get the podcast. Oooh, technology.

Nancy K. said...

I agree ~ it's a GREAT show! I also thoroughly enjoy "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" and the other word/game show (I can't, for the life of me think of the name!) on the weekends. CRACK ME UP!

mrspao said...

Oooh - will put that on my podcast list :)