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

Harold Johnson harold.johnson at gmail.com
Fri Mar 9 09:08:09 PST 2007

I wanted to add to this conversation before it's brought up again in a
future post and in another context, as it most surely will.  I understand
what you're saying and I agree with most of it -- This American Life is
certainly "safe" and boring by comparison with Joe Frank's work.  Yet I
disagree that reason is abandoned in Joe's shows.  This may be a small point
for me to contest, but I sense that Joe's shows are highly-edited and
controlled environments, and I still feel "safe" within his boundaries.
(That is, within his shows' boundaries; I'm not certain I could actually
tolerate being within Joe's boundaries.  That's a joke, folks.)

I'm not trying to miss the point here; I understand you're simply
differentiating between Glass' and Frank's styles.  I just think this is an
intersting aspect of Joe's work, the sense that "anything can happen".
There certainly is that sense, the sense that you could next be listening
(or *not* listening) to an interview with a mime -- in other words, a minute
or two of dead air -- as Joe once presented us with, decades ago.  Or the
sense that we'll find a preacher arguing violently with Joe about religion,
"casting dispersions", LOL...Or that we'll find ourselves wondering if Joe
is saying goodbye to his work in a show titled "Goodbye".  Yet all this is
still contained within a "safe" environment, thankfully -- a higly-polished
and produced work of art that never completely lapses into an anarchistic
shit-on-your-face "performance art".  (Though I do dig performance art, and
consider Joe somewhat of a performance artist, I prefer his more reasonable
approach to the form, if I can say that without sounding like an asshole.)


On 2/20/07, Sam Holland <sam.holland at gmail.com> wrote:
> 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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