I’ve always been interested in listening to people’s stories and what better way as a kid to hear people’s stories than watching talk shows? TV was the natural choice when I was a kid so I watched Phil Donahue and Oprah. There was Sally Jesse Raphael and Ricki Lake. Eventually Montel, Jerry Springer and Geraldo popped up. Of course during college the late night shows were occasionally of interest although they were more variety than talk show. Although I’ve always liked talk shows, I’ve never found one that is consistently interesting.
The problem with these talk shows for me is that they rarely seemed genuine and rarely covered topics that I could relate to. I never married a cousin without knowing it, I wasn’t switched at birth, or at least that I know of, and I don’t need Geraldo to tell me who the father of my child is. I don’t even have a child. Then there’s the ever manic Oprah who one day is building a school in Africa while the next is berating child molester and the next is giving away cars to a hundred house wives in twin sets whose lives have just now become complete. Toss in some celebrity interviews and I feel like I am watching some weird weekly version of Sybil.
Jump forward now to 2011 and the age of the Pod cast. This medium is even harder to sift through since the only thing required to have a podcast seems to be a digital recording device and inflated sense of importance. I have however found a podcast that not only is interesting but genuine at the same time….WTF with Marc Maron. He is one of those few people who has the ability to get people to truly talk to him. Sure most of the people he interviews he knows in some capacity, but still the sense of genuine conversation and honesty that is drawn from his guests is remarkable. I had the fortune to meet Marc once at a show and I will admit, he has an undeniable charisma. Although I listen to WTF regularly, I was still in search of a show with a broader range of topics. After listening to episode 117 of WTF with Ira Glass, I found just that…This American Life. I know I am late the game but to be honest, NPR, home of This American Life, has never been my station of choice and in 1995 when it began, I was busy listening to Hootie and The Blowfish and Blues Traveler.
I suppose This American Life is not a talk show per se since there are few discussions but rather it is a series of stories from seemingly ordinary people that are filled with the typical yet fascinating events that effect us all. This is every man’s story which although not always overly remarkable, they are stories that touch you. Sometimes they touch in a place that makes you giggle about your childhood Christmas dinners or that makes you cry because you remember what it was like to watch some you love fade away. They are stories about your neighbor or your friend or even sometimes your enemy. Although every show doesn’t hit home for me, it hits something.
If you haven’t listened to This American Life, I suggest you do, and if you have listened to it, why didn’t you tell me about it?