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Ira Glass to share what he has learned at the Irvine Barclay Theatre

Ira Glass comes to Irvine Barclay Theatre on Wednesday, May 11.
Ira Glass, host and creator of “This American Life,” comes to Irvine Barclay Theatre on Wednesday, May 11 with his show, “Ira Glass: Seven Things I’ve Learned.”
(Sandy Honig)

Ira Glass doesn’t have a face for radio.

Although Glass has made a name for himself in public radio and beyond as the host and producer of NPR’s “This American Life,” he feels very comfortable when the audience can see him.

“I really love being on stage. It feels like a much more natural way to interact with an audience,” said Glass, “and it’s fun to get feedback. It is fun when people laugh, it is fun when you can feel that people are having a reaction.”

Glass will be on stage at the Irvine Barclay Theatre on Wednesday, May 11, for a performance of his show, “Ira Glass: Seven Things I’ve Learned.”

“Basically, it is just an excuse for telling a bunch of really entertaining, funny, moving stories,” Glass told TimesOC on Tuesday. “ And some of them are about things that I actually have learned in doing my job and making a show, and then some of them are just stories from the show that are just really fun to present to an audience.”

And Glass is very good at telling stories.

Each week “This American Life” tells three different stories in three acts, based on a theme. The live show is a version of that but with seven live acts.

“When I am on stage, I stand there with an iPad, which has music cues and video cues, and I score it the way we would score the radio show, but I do it live, in front of people,” said Glass.

When “This American Life” first went on the air in 1995, the format was unprecedented. Today the show is credited with pioneering its form of storytelling.

“Me and the early staff of the show invented a way of doing a radio show that people hadn’t done before,” said Glass. “The idea was that it would be journalism, but it would be about things that were so small and personal that a journalist wouldn’t have traditionally done the stories.”

Glass has been credited with changing the way stories are told, particularly on radio, a medium that was once viewed as outdated but is now experiencing a resurgence of sorts, thanks in large part to the popularity of podcasts.

“Another thing that was new when we first made the show was that I would just talk like a normal person, not like a presenter on public radio,”Glass said. “And we would use music the way you use music when you score a film … the experience feels more like a movie for radio than reporting.”

Under Glass’s editorial direction, “This American Life” has won seven Peabody Awards and the first Pulitzer Prize ever awarded for audio journalism. In 2021, the episode “The Giant Pool of Money” became the first podcast inducted into the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry.

Though Glass admits his talent for radio wasn’t always so highly regarded, navigating that criticism is among the seven things he has learned.

“It took me a really long time before I was any good at all,” he said. “And one of the lessons I talk about on stage is it’s normal to be bad before you’re good. In the show, I play something for the audience not from the first year or the second year or the third year, but from the seventh year I was doing this. And it’s terrible, just laughably terrible.”

For tickets visit thebarclay.org.

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