House Of Glass

Storyteller Discusses Successes, Failure In Talk

CHAUTAUQUA — For more than 20 years, Ira Glass has informed and entertained millions of listeners a week through his nonfiction storytelling show and podcast “This American Life.”

On Saturday, Glass brought that energy of his show — complete with funny anecdotes and audio clips — to the Chautauqua Institution Amphitheater through a talk, “Seven Things I’ve Learned.”

Because he is most known for his voice, Glass first quipped, “This is my voice, and this is my face.”

In his discussion, Glass noted what makes a good story for radio, pointing out that “plot and idea, plot and idea, over and over again” is what has made “This American Life” a success. The show, on the air for 24 years, is produced weekly and surrounds a theme.

According to its website, the show is “journalism, but an entertaining kind of journalism that built’s around plot. In other words, stories! Our favorite sorts of stories have compelling people at the center of them, funny moments, big feelings, surprising plot twists, and interesting ideas.”

As part of the “seven” things he’s learned, Glass touched on some basics: “How to tell a story.” He said structure is important, as are moments of seriousness and humor.

He also discussed interviewing kids, which he said he found easier than adults due to their openness to talk.

“With adults, it takes more for them to get to the point,” Glass said. “With kids, they say what they think.”

He showed a video of a 14 year old he interviewed more than a decade ago talking about the perils of falling in love. The teenager said love only resulted in heartbreak and should be avoided to experience all that there is in life.

He then showed the same guy, now 24 years old, discussing the same topic. The adult has a girlfriend and expresses some regret with his earlier remarks.

The clips were humorous and showed why interviewing kids can be both entertaining and insightful.

Glass said it took him years to find the right way to tell a story. He noted that even eight years into producing the news for radio, he was still searching for his voice.

Glass was the first evening entertainer booked to speak at Chautauqua for the 2019 season. He opened Week 5: “The Life of the Spoken Word.”

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