Tag Archives: This American Life

And I Am Not Lying: My You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown co-star Jeff Simmermon is recording a comedy album at the Black Cat tonight.

jeff_s_22My boyhood chum Jeff Simmermon is recording his debut comedy album tonight at the Black Cat. I wrote about him for today’s Washington City Paper. 

Mike Daisey Returns to Woolly Mammoth So People Who Knew Who He Was Back Before That This American Life Episode Aired in January Can Throw Stones at Him If They Want

Wait, wait, I'm still apologizing! Don't start the music yet!

Mike Daisey appeared for a one-hour public Q & A session last night at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, the place where his controversial monologue The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs was born — or, to use his creepy syntax, “birthed.”

It was an interesting hour highlighted by a fascinating exchange near the end, which I reproduce in my Washington City Paper Arts Desk post about it.

Pushing Daisey

BROOKE HATFIELD/Washington City Paper

More than 3,000 words later, I’m still sorting through my thoughts about what Mike Daisey has done. While I think it’s unfair to compare him to Jayson Blair or Stephen Glass, as many have, I’m still puzzled by my inclination to defend a guy who endangered the reputation of This American Life by lying to Ira Glass and Brian Reed to prevent them from fact-checking his story as thoroughly as they should have.

And yeah, as someone who has been a part of Daisey’s theater audience for years, I guess I could say he lied to me, too. I know a lot of people who paid to see (full disclosure: I didn’t pay for my ticket) The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs feel indignant on those grounds.

I don’t.

I don’t go to the theater for news, any more than I go to a dentist when I need my car serviced. Even when something is billed as “a work of nonfiction,” as this show was, I approach it skeptically. And I don’t consider myself an unusually cynical person. I consider myself to be the kind of person who, after seeing a show or a film or reading something that moves me and deepens my interest in an issue, then consults other sources. Continue reading

The View from the Future with Mike Birbiglia

Mike Birbiglia, dressed for success.

Mike Birbiglia, dressed for success.

Mike Birbiglia remembers when the room was a lot smaller. He’s headlining Saturday night at the Warner Theatre, where he’ll tell some stories he’s considering for inclusion in his next one-man show. But he cut his teeth at the DC Improv in the late 90s, while a student at Georgetown University. By the time he was 25, he’d done the The Late Show with David Letterman and had his first album and Comedy Central special.

Birbiglia’s act grew more distinct and involving a couple of years ago, when he began to segue from traditional stand-up into more personal storytelling. Continue reading

And They Wanna Know How-ow-ow, Girls Rock . . .

hopper_2

I have a piece in today’s Examiner about Chicagoland music journalist and itinerant rocker / reformed publicist Jessica Hopper, who will be at Comet Ping Pong tonight at 1900 hours to read from her new book, The Girls Guide to Rocking. As its title implies, the tome tells all you aspiring Karen Os and Carrie Brownsteins everything you need to know. Jessica also wrote the influential essay “Emo: Where the Girls Aren’t” for Punk Planet a few years back. You can find her writing in the Chicago Reader, the Chicago Tribune, the L.A. Weekly and her blog.

Jessica also chooses the interstitial songs heard This American Life, which is, of course, one of my favorite things that has ever existed. See my April 2008 interview with creator and host Ira Glass and/or my review of his last speaking appearance in town. My interview with comic Mike Birbiglia, whose stories have been featured on TAL several times in the last year or so, will be up in a few weeks.
Continue reading

From the Vault: Ira Glass, Interviewed March 2008

Nancy Updike photo of Ira Glass appropriated from This American Life's marvelous website.

Nancy Updike photo of Ira Glass appropriated from This American Life's marvelous website.

It’s not every day you get to talk with one of your heroes for half an hour. I interviewed Ira Glass 16 months ago for this thing. Presented here for the first time is the (mostly) complete transcript from which that piece was excerpted, albeit still edited to excise boring and/or redundant material. 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .

Ira Glass began his public radio career as an intern at NPR in DC in 1978. But it was This American Life, the Peabody, duPont-Columbia, and Edward R. Murrow Award-winning weekly story anthology — mostly nonfiction, but with some fiction, too — he created in 1995 that’s made him famous, at least among public radio listeners. Continue reading

Sarah Vowell, My ‘Shipmate’

Sarah Vowell isn’t just one of my favorite nonfiction writers; she’s one of my heroes. There are lots of reasons why, so here’s just one: Her radio essay from Episode 247 of This American Life,What Is This Thing?“, about the romance of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. It aired seven days after Johnny’s death. It’s one of my favorite pieces of music journalism ever.

Anyway, I just got Vowell’s new book, The Wordy Shipmates, and I’m going to hear her read at the Avalon Theatre tomorrow night at an event sponsored by Politcs & Prose.

Check out Bob Thompson’s profile of her in today’s Paper of Record. Particularly this:

In her former life as a music critic, she established a “personal moratorium on what I call inter-rock analogies.” It was boring to compare Soundgarden with Nirvana. She wanted to compare them to “I don’t know what, a pastry, or something that was just more interesting.”

Right. So that makes two reasons.

Oh, I almost forgot: Check out DCist editor Sommer’s interview with Sarah here.