(4/23, simulcast to movie theaters)
I've said it before and I'll stick by it: Ira Glass is one of my nerdy radio/television boyfriends. That sincere voice, that smile, the little bit of graying around the hairline - what a mensch. Why can't I meet more men like Ira? (Is it because I live in a city that's rapidly being taken over by douchebags like this?)
THIS AMERICAN LIFE LIVE was a stage version of the radio show performed at a theater in New York and simulcast to selected movie theaters around the country. It was great fun, from the pre-show puzzles to the final bow. It was funny, poignant, sad, silly, and (I hate this expression but haven't found a suitable replacement) thought-provoking.
The overall theme of the show was "Return to the Scene of the Crime", presented in five acts. Act I featured comedian Mike Birbiglia's story about a botched police report that identified him as the cause of a DUI crash, instead of the victim. In Act II, Starlee Kine read an essay (accompanied by illustrations on Post-It notes by Arthur Jones) about attending the Hoffman Institute for an intensive eight-day therapy session intended to free herself from her childhood. The therapy included beating pillows - which represented parents - with wiffle ball bats for hours on end. (No, seriously. You can even buy one of the official wiffle ball bats.) Also, if you haven't heard Starlee's previous TAL story "Dr. Phil", you need to listen to it now.
Act III was a sweet cartoon by Chris Ware featuring his Quimby the Mouse and a cat head, set to a song by Andrew Bird. Act IV affected me deeply, as I'm sure it did many other in the audience. Dan Savage read an essay about his tentative return to the Catholic Church after his beloved mother's recent death. By "return" he means sitting quietly in a church near his Seattle home a few times a week, not actually attending services or receiving the sacraments. While much of the essay was humorous (such as describing the architecture of modern Catholic Churches as looking "like someone slapped a crucifix up on the wall of the Brady Family's rec room"), writing and reading about his mom's death was incredibly difficult for him. He choked up a few times, but never completely broke down. For a man who makes a living writing an extremely dirty sex column with an even dirtier podcast (and yes, I'm a loyal listener), watching him read about his mom was sweet and touching. (Is it improper of me to add that Dan Savage is an incredibly attractive gay man? Damn, he's hott with two "t"s. His boyfriend is a very lucky man.)
The evening wrapped up in Act V, a brief musical performance from a bearded Joss Whedon, playing one of the songs from the meta-commentary of the Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog DVD.
Along the course of the evening Ira played some additional film and audio clips, including footage from an ancient TAL Live show, circa 1998 in Chicago. The clip featured Ira and Dan's moms giving advice on sex and love (it was a Valentine's Day program).
In all, a fun evening that went off without any technical glitches or hiccups, and a lot cheaper what the Kimmel Center was charging to see Ira Glass live earlier this year (something like $100). If you missed the simulcast, they will be replaying it in theaters on May 7th, and of course the audio-appropriate parts will eventually become a radio show episode.