An evening with Ira Glass

The "This American Life" producer took the stage at the State Theatre of Ithaca to warm the hearts of frozen New Yorkers who braved the blizzard to spend Valentine's Day with him.

Despite the snow squalls, low visibility, 40 mile-per-hour-wind gusts…and oh yeah—snow squalls—my love, Ira Glass, and I were able to persevere and meet up for a romantic Valentine’s Day rendezvous at the State Theatre of Ithaca.

The venue was packed with 1,200 other people celebrating the day of love with a common passion for public radio and a nasally-voiced hottie.

Glass started his talk in complete darkness. As his voice greeted the audience, the only thing to be seen was a floating iPad. The green squares alight on the screen traveled back and forth across the stage until Glass finally called for the lights to be raised.

Suddenly appearing before the audience was a red stool with a water bottle and iPhone, a black music stand, and the man of the hour in a well-tailored suit.

The iPad proved to be a crucial part of the show. Much like a maestro with an orchestra, Glass waved his hand over the glowing tablet, pushing the buttons at the perfectly orchestrated moment.

Glass’s talk was a mix of pre-recorded audio and his own voice narrating, much like the show he produces — This American Life. He would flit back and forth across the stage, pausing for brief moments to return to the stand once more and resume the conducted moments of sound. He regaled the audience with old favorites: from the story of a New Zealander who was bitten by a shark at 15 to last summer’s Broadway musical-styled show sprinkled throughout with Glass’s live retelling of what it was like to capture each moment.

He recounted an issue that was discussed in Episode 545: “If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, SAY IT IN ALL CAPS," which is vocal fry, a kind of creaking that occurs in the words spoken at the end of a phrase, a phenomena that has taken the American media by storm.

Listeners had been writing in for some time complaining about the young women on the show with “voices so irritating and grating,” they had to turn off the radio. Glass said 70,000 words had been sent regarding this specific topic, enough to warrant an actual response during that episode.

Vocal fry has been discussed as an issue that only affects young women, and has also been viewed as a negative rather than as a simple way someone talks. In reality, Glass said this is just a change with the times, a new colloquial way of speaking, and it doesn’t just affect women.

He continued playing clips of the TAL contributors who received the most complaints. At one moment in all of this, a middle-aged woman from the balcony shouted out “Stop!”

This prompted Glass to take a poll of the audience, asking those who had a problem with vocal fry to clap or shout out. A nominal amount admitted to being bothered, but it did serve to prove his point. Those bothered by vocal fry tended to be over 40 where as those under 40 didn’t even register a problem.

Near the end of the show, Glass brought the talk back to love.

“We can all remember being 17 and in love,” Glass began. “And our girlfriend was murdered, and we were framed by the guy we bought weed from…”

This reference of the hit podcast Serial had many cheering and clapping (including this reporter here).

Glass then took a moment to pause and bring it to a personal level.

“People think I’m such a nice guy—really personable. But really, I just ask a lot of questions,” Glass told the audience. “So what happens is that a lot of people feel like they know me and really like me, but for me, I could care less about them.”

He even called himself Mr. Spock, referring to his struggles of expressing his feelings with his wife of 8 years.

When she gets really frustrated with his lack of emotion she poses a question: “What would you say if you were on the radio?”

This affable, comedic, lovable man brought out his radio-side for all the lovebirds in the theater. No Mr. Spock to be found.

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