ira glass of this american life

I subscribe to a few different podcasts that get automatically downloaded to my mp3 player. One of these is the public radio program, This American Life. It is hard to describe TAL to those who’ve never listened to the one hour program. Each week the host, Ira Glass, introduces a theme. Over the next hour the listener hears a handful of stories that touch on this theme. A quick glance at the themes from August reveal Unconditional Love, The Spokesman, and Blame it on Art among others.


But describing the show really doesn’t capture it’s compelling nature. Here’s what it comes down to for me…this is why I tune in: Ira Glass and company know how to tell great stories. That is it. They are able to bring to life the ordinary and not-so-ordinary events in the lives of very normal people. They tell these stories in a way that completely sucks me in.

And this often gets me thinking about the story that Jesus followers have to tell. I wonder why, given the absolutely stunning narrative that we live within, is it our tendency to reduce things to a handful of principles and propositions? Nothing against principles and propositions you understand. It’s just that if we truly believe that the truest, most amazing, and reality-changing story is summed up in Jesus, then perhaps we could spend less time boiling things down to 4 easy steps or 7 Simple Principles and spend more time describing and demonstrating our story.

Does that make senses?

If you have 5 minutes, take a look at this clip of Ira Glass describing good storytelling. I think he may have something to teach those of us who have the best story to tell.

You can listen to TAL on Chicago Public Radio (91.5 FM) Friday’s at 7:00 PM and Saturdays at 12:00 PM. For those of you with cable, you can also catch the new televised version of TAL on Showtime.

3 thoughts on “ira glass of this american life

  1. I’ve been a huge fan of TAL for quite some time now (and may I suggest Radio Lab from WNYC as a really cool, interesting podcast?) but yeah, I just tried turning my mom on to it and my wife as well (her response: When do I have an hour? LOL) But it is truly the most brilliant radio program I’ve heard in quite some time, if not THE BEST ever. It’s entertaining, educating, and tells the sides of stories that you don’t always get to experience. It’s public radio, so sure, it’s often more liberal than a lot of church folk like, but it’s really interesting and the polish to the show is spectacular. Ira is a vulnerable and inviting host that appears to “listen along with you” and is often saying the same things about the stories that you would yourself.

    It’s just great. If you have an iPod or an MP3 player, (or if you just have a computer and some time) definitely give it a listen.

  2. Okay guys, I just listened to a webisode (is that right?) of TAL on a great topic ‘how to talk to kids’. Since i have three, It was right up my alley. I really liked what I heard. The ‘reporters’ were honest and interesting and I think I learned something. I have also learned how to get the gist of a story without listening to every single second. What was nice about listening online was that I could use my mouse to ‘fast forward’ a millimeter on the ‘bar’ and I think I got through the whole TAL in twenty minutes (i skipped the songs and some intro sentences and some repetitive sections, duplicating examples) I was a broadcast communication student and I know how these things get planned out.
    Thanks for introducing me to TAL. I don’t have an hour to listen to it either, especially since it uses adult language and my children aren’t in bed at that time, but I will be checking in on them periodically online and will also be referring my friends to it.

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