As I said, we trekked to the Tulsa Cinemark to spy This American Life – Live! on Thursday. Sam was excited; I was more excited. We generally catch Ira on the weekend in the middle of some story about cannibal squirrels or middle-aged gymnast hopefuls. At these times, during the odd music break, Sam will clockwork “What is this?”
“This American Life” I will reply.
I vaguely recall listening to TAL when if first emerged. NPR was the standby station for my mother and growing up, I was not too fond of talk radio. Like most people, I wanted music to sing along with. Mom wanted Carl Cassel’s smooth baritone reading the news.
Alaska, among the sea of horror I found there, delivered me into Morning Edition’s arms. Galena has but one real radio station and it is an NPR affiliate, so I soon discovered ME and quickly turned junkie. I still prefer it to All Things Considered. Morning radio shows on the FM dial are generally hilarious which limits my listening at times. Unless I can manage to get up early.
I caught TAL a few years ago and was enraptured by Ira’s voice. This guy could be on the radio? How excellent. This was before I could download podcasts reliably, so I would often make my weekend plans around the Grand Rapids’ broadcast so I could listen. TAL provides the maximum driveway moments per capita of any show I hear on NPR. This is despite the fact I have the podcast every week.
I was worried that the radio show asthetic would be diluted on the big screen, but it did not disappoint. The show had an excellent curve of visual interpretation to accompany its vocalized stories.
There was a cartoon that didn’t make much sense; the lowpoint of the experience for me. Ironic as that was the most visually planned event from a planning standpoint.
As I stated, Mike Savage’s piece contributed the most from a visual standpoint. And it lacked the props and pictures of the other speakers. Both were good. Savage’s face portrayed the raw emotion he was feeling as he talked about his dying mother, and it added far more to the story than if we’d just heard it broadcast.
Ira was quite fun to watch. He seemed to make a bit of a show as he pushed his buttons and read his script. I knew going in that it was a live “show” with a few things thrown in, but was surprised when he went through all the “This is This American Life. Our show in five acts…” There was a surreal feeling to it.
Ira talked to the audience a bit about when the show would cut to a station break and commented somewhat on the strangeness of the things he had to say. It was interesting to see. The experience gave him a chance to show the audience the opening to the Showtime show – an introspective on the life of seven men named John Smith. None related, but all at different stages in life – birth to death. It looked extremely interesting. Interesting enough that if billed as “This American Life – Feature Film For Theaters” I would go watch. A cleaned up, slicked hair Ira appears in the opening as well, and it is this Ira that fit the vision in my brain. Ira (Mr. Glass) looks a slightly older version than what I imagine him to be. His voice has a very youthful sound to it. The job he has is one I would love to be a part of.
I wish I could have been in New York and seen it right on stage in front of me. That is my only caveat. I suppose mention should be made of Joss Whedon and his hilarious commentary song for Dr. Horrible. There. it’s mentioned. It was entertaining. Not the highlight, though. Whedon is awesome and funny, but the show was amazing along with him.
I was very happy to have gone and look forward to it again should they do it next year. As it is the second year in a row, I think the chances are good.