Saturday, January 14, 2012

The secret life of a storyteller:

Ira Glass was excellent.

Let me tell you about it, in a selection of jumbled paragraphs.

Some of you probably know that I generally avoid gigs because I really don't like the idea of celebrity -- this concept of a handful of chosen ones locked away in an untouchable bubble. Look, admire, lust, wish, but definitely do not touch. What I hate most about that stuff is that it takes away the humanness of the person and our interconnectedness as a bunch of people all doing life on this planet. Well, there was nothing pretentious or separatist about Ira Glass. He remained steadfastly away from the pedestal while singing the praises of story and the human elements behind the story. It's what I've always loved about This American Life; it steers away from the facts and gets to the faces instead -- which is very, very cool.

The show, Reinventing Radio, began with a discussion of how Glass & Co wanted to approach radio journalism from a different angle, getting well away from the sensationalised, emphasise-certain-words-for-dramatic-effect kind of broadcasting we all know and only half listen to. But it soon switched gears and we saw Ira the preacher (are we on first-name basis now, Mr. Glass? I feel presumptuous) deliver a sermon on the power of story. He was warm, friendly, and approachable. I expected the show to be fun but I didn't expect it to be quite so funny, as well as just a little bit heartbreaking at times. Above all, I felt that Ira Glass was genuine. The little crack in his voice at the crux of Scheherezade's adventures in Arabian Nights confirmed it: this guy really cares about story.

The show was obviously thoughtfully prepared, yet also casual enough to allow for a little audience participation. Glass even managed to throw the word 'bogan' into his monologue. He needs some pointers as to exact usage, but it was a feat no less.

Glass was generous with his knowledge, experience, and encouragement. As a writer, I was greedy for more information about storycraft, and only wish I'd been able to take notes. He was real about the fact that if you want to be good at something, you have to start by being bad at it. This attitude -- the idea that starting at bad can actually lead to better -- makes the reality of storytelling more possible and more powerful. Ira Glass is testament to his own brilliant advice. He doesn't have the world's coolest radio voice. In fact, he admits himself that it's "nasally". Neither does he deliver flawless orations without skips or bumps. When it comes to the insertion of gratuitous 'likes' into the middle of sentences, Ira Glass and I are, like, total soul mates. But this is what's so cool about him. He's a normal (though admittedly more awesome than average) guy doing something that he cares about, and doing it confidently and well. Good stories told well -- that's the appeal.

One final thing: it was hipster paradise at the Powerhouse. So many slim-fit checked shirts! So many girls in fifties dresses and pixie haircuts! It made Laura and I and our mums laugh, but it was also pretty cool to realise that this thing that you and like two of your other friends love is actually something that a whole bunch of people love and have been loving steadily for quite a while. Nice.

* * * * *


Un -- :)

Laura -- that was my pre-Ira full-of-excitement post. This is my post-Ira-post. Wow. I just confused myself. Thank you for an excellent evening!

Mothercare -- indeed!

Bloss -- oh, when you have faster internet, do try again. I just know you'll fall in love with the stories, as I have :). I continue to find his advice encouraging, too. I think so often we can get bogged down or frightened away from creative endeavour because we think we have to be gifted and brilliant right from the very beginning. It's good to be reminded that there is room to grow. Caring and practicing is the best starting place. Improvement can come from there. So encouraging!
PS. <3


  1. I have heaps I want to say on this but I'll have to come back to this later. Instead I leave you with this.

    I want to print it out and put it up on my wall. If you google it, you can find lots of different ways in which people have put this quote together. I liked this one the best.

    PS the reason I had to rewrite this post is because I found the original link to this post, instead of through my pinterest account. Not because I wrote something awful and then changed my mind about posting it :)

  2. As "Meet The Robinsons" would say : "From failure you learn -from success not so much." :)


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