Friday, February 22, 2008

Yes, I Now Love Public Radio, Too

As I was reading more of the genius, scarily accurate posts on the "Stuff White People Like" website, I came across the entry on Public Radio and it occurred to me that I even belong in that fan category now, too! Which is interesting, considering that I wasn't really an NPR listener growing up and I can't recall ever listening to it in the car with my family. Without question, if we were listening to the radio, it was going to be music (usually after a bloody fight for control between my brother and I).

Anyway, the point is I didn't really care about Public Radio until I got an ipod. Now, even though I flat-out never listen to the radio these day, public radio has become a daily part in my life. Two programs in particular have dominated my headphones of late, This American Life and The Sounds of Young America.

Of these two programs, the most well-known of them (and my current obsession) is Public Radio International's This American Life. Even though there is a certain, um, tweedy nebbishness (?) about Ira Glass that throws people off at first, he's actually got all the qualities of an ideal host. He's funny and understated, casual without being afraid to ask difficult or uncomfortable questions. He, along with the various contributers, bring incredible enthusiasm to their subjects and rarely fail to be entertaining. One of my favorite parts of This American Life is simply the way he introduces the show. After a cold opening where he usually tells a quick story ("The Prologue") he'll say, as if doing so is such a waste of valuable time that he can't even break up the words: "ItsThisAmericanLife, I'mIraGlass." The story's range from funny and hair-raising (such an NPR correspondent taking on the role of a landlord in a house in Iraq or the anxiety of pitching headline ideas to The Onion writing staff) to sweet and thoughtful (this week's Charles Bausch story "Letter to the Lady of the House" was the inspiration for this post). If for some reason you gave this show a chance in the past and were underwhelmed (as I was last year), I urge you to give it a second chance!

This brings us to
The Sounds of Young America (and I've got to give all credit to Todd for the recommendation), hosted by the wonderful Jess Thorn, "America's Radio Sweetheart." Although I've already delved into it before on my podcast post, I wanted to remind people to check this out if you get a chance-it's a relaxed, consistently funny and interesting look at the world of comedy: perfect for a long walk during those times when you're sick of all your music (an increasingly common problem for me, and a big part of my podcast/audiobook love of late).
Jesse Thorn has been interviewing the John Hodgman's of the world for so long now (even though he's shockingly young) that there isn't anything fawning or sycophantic in his interviews- he's ready to go from the start and the interviewees seem to respond in kind. An interview, for example, that took place with Bob Odenkirk last year was an incredibly illuminating peek into the business end of the comedy world. Even if you're not into the podcast thing, he has a very good blog (that gets updated way more than this one) that's worth checking out.


Jesse Thorn said...

Thanks for your kind words about the show, Josh, they are much appreciated.

Todd said...

Did America's Radio Sweetheart just comment on your blog? That is so cool, Josh.