Highlights from Ira Glass’ Reddit AMA session last week

Last week This American Life host and patron saint of public radio Ira Glass stopped by for a session at Reddit’s Ask-Me-Anything (AMA), where users can ask the featured guest anything. Predictably, Glass was one of the friendlier and more entertaining personalities that’s gone into AMA, no small feat because of the magnitude and variety of guests (President Obama, Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel are just a few names Glass has joined).

The highlights ranged from answers about what it’s like to prepare an episode of This American Life and what Glass feeds his dog.  Glass’ answers have been italicized.


How is your dog doing, and what exotic meat are you feeding him now?

Every six or nine months his body develops an allergy to each new food and he can’t eat it. We made a choice to try to keep him alive, even if it’s ridiculous and expensive. Feel free to criticize.We’ve already gone through tuna, chick peas, pork, kangaroo, rabbit and some others I can’t remember right now. It’s only a matter of time before – like some characters in a Twilight Zone episode – the only meat that’s left is human flesh, and my wife and I feed ourselves to the dog.

Is there any awkwardness or standoff when you come across [Science Friday host] Ira Flatow in the hallway?

Holy christ yes. I’m glad you mentioned it. He and I each believe – fiercely, heatedly and to our dying breaths – that there is only room in public radio for one Ira.

Is there a question you wish someone had asked that no one has? If so, what?

Heh. When [TAL contributor and author] David Sedaris was asked that, his answer was “How much money did you make last year?” He was proud.

I wish someone were interested in the business side of the radio show. I’m incredibly proud of the fact that we got up and running and it’s a thriving business that reaches lots of people, and I personally always want to tell people the million details that go into that because it’s been such an interesting kind of thing to figure out. But nobody gives a fuck. Nobody should.

The journalistic integrity This American Life presented when it retracted ‘Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory’ is absolutely astounding. Has there been any change in policy since then?

We used to fact check the way they do on the daily NPR news shows (where I worked before doing this show): editors and reporters consult about questionable facts, rundown stuff in an ad hoc way. Now we have professional fact checkers for everything, including the personal essays.

Still a question is what to do about David Sedaris. He doesn’t pretend the stories are true. He says to everyone they’re “true enough for you.” I assume the audience can tell, he’s a funny writer, there may be exaggerations for comic effect. We have three choices: 1) assume the audience is smart enough to tell; 2) label his stuff on the air as possibly non-factual (hard to figure out a way to do that which doesn’t kill the fun but there probably is one); 3) fact check him the way the New Yorker does. I honestly don’t know where I stand on this one. When I pose the Q to public radio audiences, at speeches and events, they overwhelmingly vote #1, with a vociferous tiny minority who feel strongly in favor of #2.

How is the music chosen for each This American Life broadcast? Is that something you personally do? I’m always impressed by how well the tiny snippets of music during the stories fit the overall theme.

The songs that come between the stories are found by two amazing people, Damian Graef and Rob Geddis. The scoring music underneath the stories is chosen by all of us. Basically one producer takes each story on Thursday and adds any music. Then Julie Snyder or I listen and give any notes or suggestions. It’s all very last minute, in the day before and the day of broadcast (which is Friday). We could probably do a better job finding new scoring music more often. We reuse a lot of stuff more than is probably best.

My friend, who idolizes you to some degree, claims to have met you in Chicago and lost to you at pool. Are you a pool shark, or is he a liar?

I wish I could say I made my way through college by scamming people in pool games. I did not. I may have beat your friend in Chicago but that only means that your friend sucks at pool.

It’s 2012 and I’m in journalism school. Am I an idiot?

 Short answer: no. There’ll be journalism somewhere. There’ll be jobs.

Longer answer: depends on which school.

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