Friday, May 8, 2009

This American Life: LIVE

As we all know, This American Life is one of my favorite things in the whole entire world. So when Alex invited me to attend a live broadcast of the radio program, I of course greedily accepted before he could finish his sentence.

The format was simple as it sounds-- the radio program was video taped (is 'video taped' still a phrase I can use in 2009? Digitally recorded? I just don't even know...) and then broadcast to movie theaters across the country. At any rate, the format was this: Ira at his little radio set-up in front of a live audience beaming.

All the heavy hitters were there... Starlee Kine, Dan Savage, MIKE BIRBIGLIA (he deserves caps lock, he just does). Plus a few surprises including the Dr. Horrible guy (remind me to figure out how to watch that online) and a few artists to aid in non-radio visuals for our viewing pleasure. So good.

The main reason for the evening's success, however, had little to do with the stories. Yes, they were the reason I laughed and cried and clutched my heart, but I would have done that without visuals as I usually do. The live broadcast success had more to do with the idea of 'celebrity.' Admit it or not, even liberal arts raised scarf wearing pseudo intellectuals enjoy a little behind the scenes action every once in a while.

Now, remember, this was a live broadcast of the RADIO show, not to be confused with the televison show, which is a very, very different experience. Watching Ira, Starlee, Dan, and Mike tell their stories at the broadcast was thrilling. It was a secret, a privilege. It gave us audience members a step up from the rest of you, America, and we loved it.

Ira hinted at this point toward the beginning of the program, asking for a show of hands of audience members who had never listed to TAL before. He laughed, saying that they must be all, 'what the hell' finding themselves sitting in the fore mentioned situation (Ira, radio set-up thing, stage).

He compared their experience to seeing the X-Files movie without having seeing an episode. 'You'll be fine! It will all make sense, the movie has nothing to do with the TV show,' his friends assured him prior to the viewing. False. He was the only audience member not to gasp at the opening shot, having no idea who any of the characters were and why they were gasp worthy. The broadcast would make no sense to someone who had never heard the radio show, even Ira knows that. We all did. It would appear too low budget, too simple, too confident. The entire evening was one big inside joke. And that's why it was so much fun.

The show ended an hour after it began and Alex and I sat in the empty theater for a good fifteen minutes coming down from the high of clever anecdotes before exiting to the seemingly less interesting world outside. Its better, though, too-- the world outside after an hour with Ira. You find yourself viewing those around you with that soothing NPR lens which makes everything just a little bit better, a smidge more thoughtful.

You can listen to the episode here, and please do. Remember my hit-list? Add this one on there, right up at the top.

1 comment:

La said...

I am so jealous. How have we not talked about this yet?