Ira Glass

(Ira Jeffrey Glass)

Ira Glass
Ira Glass
  • Born: March 3, 1959
  • Nationality: American
  • Profession: Radio Personality, Producer, Writer









Quote Topics Cited
A lot of broadcasting, I think, is doing a tremendous amount of preparation and trying to act like, 'Oh, this thought is just occurring to me right now' - and speaking sincerely.
Any story hits you harder if the person delivering it doesn't sound like some news robot but in fact sounds like a real person having the reactions a real person would.
Any story that I can consider worth telling is one that you could tell in words.
At some point, all comics have to go out and be retail salesmen doing door-to-door. And this idea of somebody who totally knows their craft having to get up for free in front of a crowd to work out some stuff they're thinking in their head, still, after as much success as you can get, is really interesting. Success ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
But sadly, one of the problems with being on public radio is that people tend to think you're being sincere all the time. Time
But you can make good radio, interesting radio, great radio even, without an urgent question, a burning issue at stake.
For me to do a story, something has to happen to someone. It's a story in the way you learn what a story is in third grade, where there is a person, and things happen to them, and then something big happens, and they realize something new.
Generally the aesthetics of broadcast journalism seem to me to be incredibly primitive.
Grease and starch just always win over protein. In food as in so many things. Look around you, that's what our whole country is based on. It's amazing that Michael Jordan can be an iconic figure because he's basically just protein. Nutrition, Food, Starvation, Farming & Agriculture
Harry Potter to me is a bore. His talent arrives as a gift; he's chosen. Who can identify with that? But Hermione - she's working harder than anyone, she's half outsider, right? Half Muggle. She shouldn't be there at all. It's so unfair that Harry's the star of the books, given how hard she worked to get her powers.
Honestly, I am so ignorant of how dance works that I can't even imagine a story that you would want to tell through movement.
Honestly, I find the analysis of dreams is one of the dullest things. I say this as a therapist kid. I find them deeply uninteresting, as a window to the soul.
Honestly, like, I'm a superfan of the 'New York Times,' but I know nothing about how they put it together, and I really don't care.
Honestly, there are so many things about structuring a story for film and telling a story for film that are really different from doing radio.
I am mostly a pretty worried person. In conversations, I am always worried about what to say.
I am such a do-goody, people-pleasing kid - or I was - I don't think I've ever been fired, not even from an ice cream shop, magician for kids' parties, not even in my early jobs in radio.
I can only control what I can control.
I didn't have any particular talent for fiction. I took a class in college.
I didn't watch T.V. from the time I was 18 'til my mid-30s. And then I got a T.V. to watch 'The Sopranos.' I realized, 'Oh, T.V. is really interesting.' Time
I don't go looking for stories with the idea of wrongness in my head, no. But the fact is, a lot of great stories hinge on people being wrong.
I don't know how to read. I get all my news from Jon Stewart every day.
I don't meet many people who are talking about shows on Showtime.
I don't own a radio. I listen to everything through apps or on my iPhone. And then I download the shows I like. Shows like 'Fresh Air', 'Radiolab', 'Snap Judgement', all those shows.
I don't read novels, but my semiotics study influenced everything about the way I read and edit and write.
I don't take care of my voice at all, which is one reason that I sound as bad as I do.
I don't think I'm better than everyone else at anything, but I am very quick at organizing a big mass of interview tape into a structure.
I don't tweet because I don't need another creative venue. I don't need another form for self-expression. I don't need another way to get my thoughts out to people. I have one. I'm good.
I eat the same breakfast and lunch every day, both at my desk. I employ no time-saving tricks at all.
I feel like dance, by its nature, goes so easily to grand and beautiful. Nature
I feel like in an interview situation, it's a kind of intimacy that I can understand and handle - versus in real life, when I'm much more of a bumbler and have a hard time. Life ;Time
I feel like, in general in my work life, my main goal has been to just be in a situation where I'm not bored with my job. That's been the entire principle. Got my wish. Life ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
I hate dream sequences in movies and T.V. shows generally for their heavy-handed symbolism and storytelling tediousness. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
I have a pit bull. He's a rescue. He's adorable.
I have been shocked at the number of people who don't watch television.
I just have a harder time, I think, feeling close to people without self consciousness. Time
I like excess. And giant M&M's.
I liked the people at Brown, while I really disliked most of the fellow students I had met at Northwestern.
I love traveling. But I haven't had big, transformative experiences while on the road. When I go out on the road, it's to go out and get a story or do a promotional event. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
I never realized before this the emotional power of some really simple, corny tropes: people with top hats, people with batons, confetti going off, how important it is to smile. Power
I only got interested in radio once I talked my way into an internship at NPR's headquarters in Washington, D.C. in 1978, never having heard the network on the air.
I read the newspaper, but I live in my own little bubble.
I remember that in Baltimore, where I grew up, we would drive by the radio station and tower of WBAL, and I would try to picture the people inside and what they did there.
I started out doing production work on promos, stuff like that. I didn't think it was cool to be working for NPR. I didn't need anything to be cool. I just wanted something to do that would be interesting. It was fun. I didn't think of it as anything else but fun. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
I suppose I shouldn't go around admitting I speak untruths on the radio.
I suppose I shouldn't go around admitting I speak untruths on the radio. When I say something untrue on the air, I mean for it to be transparently untrue. I assume people know when I'm just saying something for effect. Or to be funny. Humor
I think good radio often uses the techniques of fiction: characters, scenes, a big urgent emotional question. And as in the best fiction, tone counts for a lot.
I think good radio often uses the techniques of fiction: characters, scenes, a big urgent emotional question. And as in the best fiction, tone counts for a lot. But a lot of effective and interesting radio is based on one character who reacts to the world.
I think one of the reasons that I got so good at it, as somebody making radio stories, is that on the radio I can actually - I can understand what's happening in the interview and can make a connection in a way that makes sense.
I think people who live in New York don't realize just how much time they spend talking about the subway. Time
I think stories get better the more people try to amuse themselves.
I think the name of the show, 'This American Life' - we named it that just because it seemed like it made the thing feel big. But we don't think about whether it's an American story or not. We happen to be Americans. I think for the stories to work, they have to be universal. Life ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
I was a freelancer all through my 20s and was very slow to get good at what I did.
I was a semiotics major at Brown, and there's this idea that stories are better, books are better, and movies are better if they cocked you off your axis and you were completely disoriented and you'd really have to rethink everything. Nobody has that experience, actually. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
I was a temp secretary for a long time, and I went at it with a passion, and I tried to do a nice job in all my jobs. Time
I wish somebody had given me the news that ideas don't just fall on your head like fairy dust. You have to treat that like a job. You have to spend hours each day, where you're just like, 'This is the part of the day when I'm looking for an idea.'
If you date one woman a year, times 10 years, and that's 10 women. Women
If you want somebody to tell you a story, one of the most easiest and effective ways is if you're telling them a story.
I'll meet listeners who tell me what a great voice I have. But I don't have a great voice for radio. My voice is the utterly normal voice, but sheer repetition has made them think it's OK. Mick Jagger once was asked, 'What makes a hit song? He said, 'Repetition.'
I'm a big Penn & Teller fan. But I myself was never very good; I was a teenage magician who performed at kids' parties. I can still perform a vanish, credibly, and I still, in special circumstances, will make a balloon animal.
I'm a cliche.
I'm a reporter - if I don't interview someone, I don't have much to say, and I definitely can't just sit down and knock out 800 words on any subject you give me.
I'm in production year round. I work long hours. I have a dog and a wife. There's not a lot of available time for consuming any culture: T.V., movies, books. When I read, it's generally magazines, newspapers and web sites. Time ;Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
I'm just not very funny. Humor
I'm not a go-in-for-the-kill kind of interviewer. It's a great thing to me, that kind of interviewer, but I'm not it. It doesn't play to my strengths at all. I like to interview people who are interested in telling their story and tell it as truthfully as they can.
I'm not a natural storyteller at all. If anything, I'm a natural interviewer, a natural listener, but I'm not a natural storyteller.
I'm trying to make perfect moments. And those generate meaning. If you go deep enough in how to make a moment, very quickly you come to how narrative works - to what we are as a species, how we've come up with telling stories in scenes and images.
In general in New York, we all eat like kings. Insane quality, mind-blowing variety, at all price ranges.
In most daily journalism, you only fact-check something if it seems a little fishy.
In radio, you have two tools. Sound and silence.
In some theoretical way I know that a half-million people hear the show. But in a day-to-day way, there's not much evidence of it.
It took, for me, a long time to develop this idea of what to do on the radio. But from the beginning of my time in radio, I had pretty non-traditional tasks. Time
It's not a terribly original thing to say, but I love Raymond Carver. For one thing, he's fun to read out loud. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
It's rare for me to read any fiction. I almost only read nonfiction. I don't believe in guilty pleasures, I only believe in pleasures. People who call reading detective fiction or eating dessert a guilty pleasure make me want to puke.
It's tricky, performing the show live. Because when you're in a big auditorium, in front of 700 people, the natural tendency is to want to talk louder. You want to project.
I've actually done events at radio stations where I feel like I've had to give a little talk in behalf of television as a medium.
I've never so appreciated what actors do and how strange it is.
I've read the poker books, but at this point, everybody who's playing has read the poker books. I feel like I'm knowledgeable enough to understand what's going on in the game, and I understand why I suck. And I'm not sure if I'll ever rise beyond that to the level where I don't suck.
Just when did I get to the point when staying at a hotel wasn't fun?
Like most people in radio - and in magic - I'm not cool. I know people who are hip, and I can feel distance between them and me.
Like, radio is closer to a Tumblr, or a blog, or Twitter, than it is to television, I think.
My first job on the radio was writing jokes for a Baltimore DJ called Johnny Walker, who was sort of a '70s era shock jock who all the teenage boys listened to in my school.
Not owning a car anymore, I feel like I'm barely an American. I miss it. And I barely ever get to listen to the radio in the car, which is the best place for radio.
One of the things I learned as a young semiotics nerd was that if you have plot moving forward, no matter how banal the facts of it, simply the fact that the plot is rolling forward makes you wonder what's going to happen next, which creates suspense. So you can control peoples' attention simply by having things move forward in a story.
One reason I do the live shows - and the monthly speeches at public radio stations - is to remind myself that people hear the show, that it has an audience, that it exists in the world. It's so easy to forget that.
People are generally forced to change. We don't want to change, and then something absolutely forces us to realize that what we are doing isn't working or that our picture of the world is wrong. We fail. So we change.
Radio is for driving.
Radio is more powerful the closer we mimic the way we actually speak to each other. That's why Howard Stern is such a great radio talent. People on his show are actually speaking to each other. You might not like what they're saying, but they're real conversations.
Reporters tend to find in others what they are suited to find, so there is a whole school of reporting where they are cynical about the world, and everything reinforces that. Whereas I tend to be optimistic and be amused by people and like them, even rather bad people.
Semiotics is really interested in the questions like, what keeps you watching something, what keeps you - you know, what keeps you listening to a story on the radio? Like, what keeps you turning the pages in a book? What's the pleasure of it that's moving you forward, that's pulling you in and grabbing you and pulling you forward?
'Smallville' is like a Domino's pizza. While you're eating, you're thinking, 'This is good, and it reminds me of pizza, but there's not enough flavor in each bite.' That's the feeling you have the entire time with 'Smallville' - that it's just about to be good, but it never is. Time
Starting in the 1970s, American cars started to lose market share to foreign cars. It was clear what was happening - these better-made foreign car companies were encroaching on the U.S., and the U.S. car makers had less than half of their own country's market.
The atheist market is a very overlooked and powerful market, it turns out.
The flakier your mission, the fiercer you have to be on the business side. Business, Commerce & Finance
The Flash could do everything twice as fast. Except you never saw him think twice as fast or speak twice as fast. Could he do math faster than the other superheroes? Could he compute the tip for the bill twice as fast?
The pledge drive has everything going against it as broadcasting. It's repetitive. It's ad-libbed by people who can't ad-lib. It's about asking for money, which is something nobody wants to hear, even from their own relatives. Money, Coins & Minting
The radio is good for taking somebody else's experience and making you understand what it would be like. Because when you don't see someone, but you hear them talking - and, uh, that is what radio is all about - it's like when someone is talking from the heart. Everything about it conspires to take you into somebody else's world.
The story is a machine for empathy. In contrast to logic or reason, a story is about emotion that gets staged over a sequence of dramatic moments, so you empathize with the characters without really thinking about it too much. It is a really powerful tool for imagining yourself in other people's situations.
The TiVo is really an amazing machine. Like everyone who has one, I totally recommend it. Just as everyone who's married will tell you to get married, and everyone who has a baby tells you to have a baby, everyone who owns a TiVo will tell you to get a TiVo, and they'll say things like 'Your life will be completely different.' It's true. Life
There is a feeling, when you listen to radio, that it's one person, and they're talking to you, and you really feel their presence as one person.
There is a kind of structure for a story that was peculiarly compelling for the radio. I thought I had invented it atom-by-atom sitting in an editing booth in Washington on M Street when I was in my 20s. Then I found out that it is one of the oldest forms of telling a story - it was the structure of a sermon.
Traditional broadcast media seems old-fashioned and vague to me. When I watch television news, I'm aware of what skilled journalists they are, but I find it hard because of the corny way they present it.
Unless you work for '60 Minutes', your life is: You do stories about things, and nothing happens as a result. Life ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
We're Jews, my family, and Jews break down into two distinct subcultures: book Jews and money Jews. We were money Jews. Families, Children & Parenting ;Money, Coins & Minting
When I say something untrue on the air, I mean for it to be transparently untrue. I assume people know when I'm just saying something for effect. Or to be funny. Humor
When I started 'This American Life', one of the reactions I got was, 'When is the adult going to show up who will host the show?' At some point, people just got used to it. Life
When I was a bad writer, I would consciously imitate other NPR writers who I thought were wonderful. I suppose that everyone's artistic practice is different. But I collaborate and sometimes don't agree at all with my collaborators' opinions. It forces you to understand why you don't agree with something: what's the fight you're picking.
When I was in college, I was a semiotics major, which is this hopelessly pretentious body of French literary theory.
When you're learning, especially to write, unless you're some incredibly gifted writer, a young Malcom Gladwell, say, you need to be imitating people. You need to be imitating how they make their work, how they structure it, how they design the pieces. It gives you chops; it gives you moves. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
When you're working in public radio, you don't have any money to advertise. Money, Coins & Minting
Where radio is different than fiction is that even mediocre fiction needs purpose, a driving question.
Writing is just very difficult. I'm an adequate performer. And I think I have a special talent as an editor. Editing is what I do best.
You get into this situation, performing for T.V., where you have to speak with utter sincerity. It's just like the radio. You have to say it like you mean it, even though the thing you're saying is actually planned out.
You'd think that radio was around long enough that someone would have coined a word for staring into space.