25 years of Chicago: Amplified
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The Road to Radio Royalty

Ira Glass

Explore the moment.
On This American Life's 10th anniversary, Ira Glass sat down with Eight Forty-Eight host Steve Edwards. Glass talked about the origins of TAL, as well as his parents' reaction to his decision to go into public radio.
I say the word storytelling and I hate hearing my own voice say it, it just sounds so corny.
4m 28s
Ira Glass:

At the time, on NPR, there'd be a couple stories like that a week on this show or that show, and in the years since they're all called those 'driveway moments' things, and then it sort of has this 'driveway moment TM'.

Steve Edwards:

It's like branded now.

Ira Glass:

Which makes me hate it, I just hate it.

4m 47s
There was nowhere on the radio where you could dependably just say like, 'OK, that one great story that was on Morning Edition this morning, well I want a show that's just that.' Forget about the news. who cares about the news? Let's just do that thing that's so cool to listen to, and just dispense with all that other stuff about the day's news, and I thought, 'That's a great idea for a show.'
5m 19s
Honestly, I thought somebody was going to beat me to it. It seemed like such an obvious idea.
5m 36s
Steve Edwards:

When you first started with This American Life, it certainly was attracting an audience but it wasn't an easy sell within public radio. Why not?

Ira Glass:

There were a bunch of things. Weirdly, some of the things that were objections at the beginning are sort of weird to think about now. One of the things we got all the time was that it was unpredictable. One week it would be funny and then the next week it would be an hour-long documentary and stations would say to us, 'How will people know what to expect?' And we would say, 'Well, what they'll expect is us. It will always be us with our sensibility doing it.' And so there will be a consistent sensibility, and so that was a little weird. But then it was, 'but is it commentary? Fiction? Is it documentary? Is it news? What is it?' And naming it was was always a real problem. If you would actually describe what it is, it sounded boring. We never even said the word documentary on the air because documentary sounds so boring. Like, I make documentaries and I wouldn't listen to a radio documentary.

5m 47s
There was this feeling like, 'Ira's a really great reporter,' but there was something in the way I was performing the show where they just felt like, 'Where's the adult?'
7m 54s
My parents were totally against me being in public radio...they really thought I was throwing away my life.
14m 15s