The difference between Ira Glass' NPR broadcast "This American Life" and his one-man stage show, "Reinventing Radio: An Evening With Ira Glass," is the presence of a live audience, an intimate setting and an iPad. That's about it.
The wry, quizzical radio personality will play his favorite sound bites and music from his 19-year-old radio show. Glass plans to discuss these stories in the same fashion he did on air: with his now-familiar warm, digressive brio.
"It's like the radio show, except you have to pay money," the 55-year-old NPR host jokes by phone from his office in New York. "No, I mean, it's fun to do. It's also necessary to do. I sit in a recording booth every day and act like I'm talking to people, except I'm really talking to myself, and I never actually meet my listeners. I search Twitter every week to see feedback from listeners, but it's nowhere near as satisfying as being in a room with people who give you immediate feedback."
Glass, who will appear March 15 at Broward College's Bailey Hall in Davie, says performing the monthly stage show is partly a "crude but effective" way of marketing "This American Life." But it's also a clinic on the art of storytelling, which Glass learned when he was a semiotics major at Brown University during the late 1970s.
"I studied these pretentious theories about how stories and narrative work: 'How does a story get its claws into us? How does it give us pleasure?' "he recalls. "But for all of what makes the show different, it's still public radio, and you don't have $10 million to publicize it. So you tour."
Glass created "Reinventing Radio" in 1996, shortly after "This America Life" began, and he likens the first time he appeared onstage to "jumping off the planet and into outer space."
"Like, what adult has to give a speech ever?" Glass adds. "At the time, to assuage my fears before going on stage, I consciously said, 'Make this as much like being on the radio as I can, and the more I do that, the more comfortable I'll be.' So I brought a mixing console and played quotes on a MiniDisc player. Now, the iPad simulates the mixing console."
Glass says his talk will break down the anatomy of a "This American Life" broadcast, from conception to air date. He plans to discuss a recent Florida-set episode, in which the FBI tracked down and killed a suspect in Orlando who was "vaguely linked" to the Boston Marathon bombings.
"It's a fascinating story and almost entirely takes place in Florida, for sure," Glass says. "My staff has been working on it for five months."
"Reinventing Radio: An Evening With Ira Glass" will take place at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 15, at Bailey Hall at Broward College Davie Campus, Building 4, 3501 Davie Road. Tickets cost $30-$40. Call 954-201-6880 or go to BaileyHall.org.