Concert Review: Ira Glass

The Smith Center, April 27

Ira Glass’s NPR radio program, This American Life, is tightly produced, approachable and meaningful, and Glass has been generating it week after week since 1995. On stage, Glass is just as brilliant: a blend of stand-up comedian, storyteller, professor and motivational pitchman.

He started his show, Reinventing Radio in darkness, speaking as the glow of his tablet floated and bobbed across the fully dark stage in a house lit only by the requisite emergency lighting. “There is,” he said, “an intimacy in invisibility.” The lights came up and he began a didactic and dramatic tour through the foundation and structure of This American Life. He emphasized his desire to create a contrasting aesthetic to traditional broadcast journalism, the orthodox form that resembles, he said, “a high school essay” and is interested in developing a certain “gravitas.” His travails with byzantine FCC decency standards made for hilarious listening (just hearing Glass say “cocksucker” was worth the admission price) and was made all the more delightful when juxtaposed with a brief and enlightening layman’s lecture on semiotics.

It would have been easy to screw it up. After all, it was just a guy in a suit on a stage with only the vaguest of outlines, but somehow Glass made it work, just as he does every week. ★★★★☆