Sounds like dancing
Ira Glass takes the radio show and couple of dancers on the road
Ira Glass has been a fixture on public radio for more than three decades, in that time going from a National Public Radio reporter to hosting one of the country’s best-known radio shows, This American Life. But you know this.
He also likes Kesha. And aside from Terry Gross, Glass calls Stephen Colbert and Howard Stern two of the best interviewers he’s heard. He also enjoys dancing—watching it, mostly. This is what led the 57-year-old radio host to contemporary choreographers and performers Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass and to collaborate with them on a project called Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host, which combines real narratives with, well, dance. It may sound odd, and even a little ridiculous, but the show has been on the road off and on for the better part of three years.
The CN&R caught up with Glass to get the lowdown on the production, which comes to Chico March 26, kicking off Chico Performances’ Dance Chico! week.
Do you enjoy being interviewed?
Do I like it? I neither like it nor dislike it. It’s one of those tasks that has somehow become part of my job that I accept because I’m going around doing events and doing things like this dance show, and we need to let people know that it’s happening [laughs]. So we have to do press. But I don’t like it the same way I like doing interviews—like, I actively enjoy that.
Why did you choose dance? Why not a jazz ensemble or stage props?
[Laughs] I just want to say for the record, I am not ruling out a jazz ensemble or props. Basically, it was just the luck of seeing this particular dance troupe perform. I saw them perform and I had this feeling I’ve never had watching dance, which is I felt like these people are trying to do exactly what I’m trying to do … It has exactly the feeling I’m hoping our show has.
How did you come to create the show as it appears now?
The first thing I did is I organized a show that we did on stage in New York City, and there were cameras that beamed it to movie theaters all over the country. And basically, it was an episode of our show with some of our regular people—like David Sedaris, Tig Notaro and David Rakoff—and then, as part of the show, there were these dancers. So that went great. And when that was done, we started looking for something else to do. And I suggested to them that I basically would go with them with their regular dance performance, and bring out public radio listeners, and I would introduce them and ask 10 minutes of questions at the end. And we tried it once in New York City, and it was a big hit. But Monica had this feeling of, like, “I think people are coming out to see you—because you’re better-known—and it’s sad for them when you leave for the entire show.” [Laughs] And that just began this process of trying to figure out if you were to combine dance and radio, like, what would it be? Really, it’s an experiment.
Do you get the same visceral feeling as, say, a stand-up comic does when performing live?
I do. Yeah, yeah. That’s one of the nice things about it; it’s really different from being on the radio, which is a much more solitary experience.
Do you consider yourself more of a storyteller or a personality?
[Laughs] I consider myself neither—both of those seem like they’re for wankers. Being a storyteller seems like a wanker job, and being a personality doesn’t seem like something an adult does. I consider myself a reporter, or a journalist. On the radio. With my own show. Even radio host sounds a little weird, but at least it’s factual.
Do you think people get an accurate glimpse of who Ira Glass is when they listen to you on the radio?
I think they’re getting an accurate-ish glimpse. The person I am on the radio is way more interesting than the person I am in real life. Because the person I am on the radio has measured everything that he’s saying, and edited it for days before it ever gets heard by most people. [Laughs] You know, versus in real life where I’m constantly saying things I regret and things that are not as well-considered.