[joe-frank-list] Re: RE: Ira Glass etc (Steve Schneider)

Sam Holland sam.holland at gmail.com
Tue Feb 20 10:30:08 PST 2007

I don't think Ira Glass could fairly be called derivative except in
the broadest possible sense, but his show is much less interesting
than Joe Frank's. I often have conversations with people who are fans
of This American Life--I don't know anyone who listens to NPR who
doesn't at least claim to be a listener--and they're always very
enthusiastic, and they want to talk about the show, and talk about
what a visionary radio producer Ira Glass is. And I always tell them
that I think This American Life is boring by comparison.

TAL is "safe" in the way that NPR is "safe." At least--and I might be
completely wrong on this--the way I perceive it: that even when
addressing dark or unsettling subject matter, I never lose the sense
that I'm listening to the voice of reason, the authoritative tone. Am
I talking out of my ass? And on Joe Frank's show, anything could
happen. Reason is abandoned. I might be listening to an entire
episode's worth of lunatic ranting. The only thing I'm really sure of
is that it's going to be either sixty or thirty minutes long. I don't
get that from Ira Glass. And I don't really feel that Glass is an
artist so much as an editor or curator, presiding over the
storytelling equivalent of Sound and Spirit.

> ------------------------------
> Message: 4
> Date: Sun, 18 Feb 2007 15:49:47 -0500
> From: "Steve Schneider" <scs1 at theavocadopapers.com>
> Subject: RE: [joe-frank-list] Ira Glass etc
> To: "'Joe Frank Mailing List'" <joe-frank-list at armory.com>
> Message-ID:
>         <200702182049.l1IKnuCo018370 at svcstatl08.hotspot.t-mobile.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
> Re the last few posts about TAL and Ira Glass: This American Life is a
> fantastic show.  I don't know what "edgy" even means (or "abstract," for
> that matter); what I do know is that, like Joe Frank's work, TAL is
> ground-breaking radio.  But they're utterly different!  I have never, once,
> sensed that Glass was trying to emulate or rip off JF.  TAL seems to me to
> be essentially a magazine: two, three, or rour features reported on by
> various producers, with the occasional fiction thrown in (e.g. D. Sedaris
> reading a short story).  JF's shows are simply nothing like that, and I'm
> referring to any of his formats: the "reality" shows such as the Karma
> series; the improvised, highly edited radio dramas; the fictional
> monologues; the non-fictional monologues such as "No Show"; and so on.
> I have seen Glass credit JF at least twice (which is nice, although I'm not
> entirely sure that he owes much artistically to JF).  When JF has mentioned
> Glass, there has been a tinge of annoyance or jealousy, and frankly I'm not
> sure why.  As far as the "God, I really hate David Sedaris and Ira Glass,
> those two miserable geeks, those wretched freaks.  They should move in
> together, adopt children, leave the country, maybe go to mars. What do you
> think?" quote, which I believe starts off the women-police-officer show: are
> we really supposed to take that 100% seriously?  Especially in a show
> devoted to getting a rise out of people and especially women (by suggesting
> that women are not fit to be police officers)?  In another, he complains
> about the phenomenal (by public-radio standards) success of TAL, but in that
> piece, he seems to me to be complaining mostly about the lack of support
> that his show gets (from KCRW, I guess).  I've never sensed any real
> animosity towards Glass from JF.  With most of JF, a lot is open to
> interpretation, of course...
> Look, I basically spent half of 2004 and most of 2005 working through the JF
> shows -- to the extent that I didn't even read many books during that time.
> I must have listened to some of the shows 30 times.  I'm a huge admirer.
> But only on a JF mailing list could Ira Glass be seen as a sell-out, or as
> being too mainstream.  (Not that this post is, necessarily, saying that, but
> I've seen a lot of bitterness directed towards Glass -- which is funny: I
> doubt there would be any of that were it not for the coincidence that IG was
> an intern for JF long, long ago).
> I guess what I'd like to know is, what do people think that Glass "stole"
> from JF?  What things?  Specifically?
> -- Steve.

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