About the Show
In Reinventing Radio: An Afternoon with Ira Glass, award-winning radio host Ira Glass talks about his program, This American Life, and discusses how he and his staff try to push broadcast journalism in a new direction. Glass mixes stories from the show live on stage, combining his narration with pre-taped quotes and music, recreating the sound of the show as the audience watches and listens.
Ira Glass, host and creator of This American Life, premiered the show on Chicago’s public radio station WBEZ in 1995. Now heard on more than 500 public radio stations each week by over 2.2 million listeners, the wildly popular radio series simultaneously chronicles and reshapes contemporary American culture. Under Glass's editorial direction, This American Life won the highest honors for broadcasting and journalistic excellence, including several Peabody and duPont-Columbia Awards. The American Journalism Review declared, “[the show] is in the vanguard of a journalistic revolution.”
Born in Baltimore in 1959, Ira Jeffrey Glass cites the sermons of his childhood rabbi, Seymour Esrog, as a partial inspiration for the style of This American Life. "He'd tell a funny anecdote, something really moving, and go for a big finish. That's what the show is,” Glass says.
As a high school student, Glass wrote jokes for Baltimore radio personality Johnny Walker. He started his college career at Northwestern University but transferred to Brown University, where he concentrated in semiotics and graduated in 1982.
Glass began his radio career as an intern at National Public Radio's network headquarters in Washington, DC in 1978. Over the years, he worked on nearly every NPR network news program and held virtually every production job in NPR's Washington headquarters including tape cutter, newscast writer, desk assistant, editor and producer. In addition, he also occasionally filled in as host of Talk of the Nation and All Things Considered.
In 2011, Glass earned the George Polk Award in Radio Reporting for "Very Tough Love,” an hour-long report showing alarmingly severe punishments meted out by Judge Amanda Williams, a county drug court judge in Georgia. After the episode aired, Georgia's Judicial Qualifying Commission filed 14 ethical misconduct charges against Williams. Within a month, Williams stepped down from the bench and agreed never to seek other judicial offices.
Awards and Honors
Glass gave the commencement address for Maryland’s Goucher College graduation ceremony in 2012, where he also received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters. In 2013, he received the Medal for Spoken Language from the American Academy of Arts & Letters. For Valentine's Day 2014, Glass provided the introduction for an interactive Google logo on the search engine's homepage. Each candy heart on which the user clicked played a different short story of unusual love, in the same style as This American Life.
this american life
An hour-long radio program, This American Life (TAL) airs weekly. In 2005, TAL celebrated its tenth anniversary. The following week, the show re-broadcast the first episode, “New Beginnings.” Prior to this, the first episode never aired outside of Chicago. As of July 2013, TAL has aired 500 episodes.
The first episode of This American Life aired on November 17, 1995, under the show's original title, Your Radio Playhouse. Glass can be heard in all but four episodes of the show.
Each week's show has a theme, explored in several "acts." On occasion, an entire program consists of a single act. Primarily a journalistic non-fiction program, the show also features essays, memoirs, field recordings, short fiction, and found footage. Content varies widely by episode and stories are often told as first-person narratives. The mood of the show ranges from gloomy to ironic, and from thought-provoking to humorous.
For years, the podcast of This American Life was the most popular podcast on iTunes, until the show started its first spin-off program Serial in October 2014, which quickly became the most popular podcast in the world.
A television adaptation of TAL ran on the Showtime network for two seasons, in 2007 and 2008, and won three Emmy awards, including one for Outstanding Nonfiction Series. In 2008, TAL distributed a one-hour long program titled This American Life – Live! to select cinemas. Two more cinema broadcasts, Returning to the Scene of the Crime and Invisible Made Visible, aired live in digital cinemas in 2009 and 2012, respectively.