Ira Glass Has the Flu

The host of This American Life can’t talk right now.

Edited by Laura Dannen July 20, 2010 Published in the August 2010 issue of Seattle Met

Live from radioland Ira Glass leads a taping of This American Life.

IT’S GOING ON two and a half weeks of aches, chills, scratchy throat. Unfortunately, that famous “radio host” voice—the one helping to make public radio’s This American Life the most popular podcast in the country—is on bed rest now. No talking. No interviews (shoot). Tricky for a man who makes a living telling stories, and not just any stories: dramatic yarns about the everyday, summer camp and senior proms, carefully reported with music, tension, and crazed anecdotes that many of the show’s 1.7 million listeners still quote a decade after hearing. (Two words: “Squirrel Cop.”)

But lately, Ira Glass has been more than a radio host and a little less than a head of state. In the month of June alone, he presented an award at the Webbys in New York (where his voice was already waning), jetted to Dallas for a live stage show like the one he’ll do here this month, flew to Chicago for a meeting, then back to New York to, you know, do his day job. Add to that all the stumping he’s been doing, encouraging people to donate to This American Life so they can pay the bills.

“We’re trying to prove that you can do expensive, ambitious stories, give them away for free, and people will pitch in to pay for it,” Glass says in a recorded plea. “If you believe in that just a little, if you like these shows, we need the money. We need the money to make our budget for this year.”

It’s a little scary to think that a radio show disseminated by podcasts, iPhone apps, Facebook, Netflix, CDs, and a TV adaptation on Showtime needs help. No wonder Glass is run down—down, but not out. By now, his flu should be gone and tickets for the live taping of This American Life at Benaroya Hall in short supply. Because no matter the ailment, financial or phlegmatic, public radio still has Ira Glass.

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