Ira Glass, the host of public radio's "This American Life," will be at the newly renovated Uptown Theatre in Minneapolis this weekend for screenings of "Sleepwalk With Me," a new comedy he co-wrote and co-produced with comedian Mike Birbiglia.
Glass and Birbiglia will participate in a question-and-answer sessions after screenings this Friday and Saturday. Glass spoke with MPR News on Friday. The film is based on monologues performed by Birbiglia and featured on "This American Life" and "The Moth."
Glass said he's looking forward to returning his focus to "This American Life." In part, he said, producing radio is simply more fun than making TV shows or movies.
"In any creative work that you do, in any kind of job that you do, there's the part of the job that's the part you like ... and then there's the part of the job that's kind of the stuff you have to do to get to do the stuff you like," Glass said. "And in movies, in TV, and all these other forms, I have found that the amount of the stuff that you don't like is so unbelievably high — shockingly high — and movies I would say it's 80 or 90 percent. Whereas radio, it's just the proportion is the opposite. Like 80 or 90 percent of my day is spent actually writing and thinking and editing and working with people on interesting things, so I feel like in just a straight-up selfish way, that it's much more satisfying."
Glass addressed his previous criticism of the decision by many public radio stations to air reruns of the popular show "Car Talk" after co-hosts Tom and Ray Magliozzi retire later this year.
"I love those guys. I love that show, but you know I think that is not at the standard of excellence that those of us who listen to public radio and make public radio, you know, it's not at the standard of excellence that it should be," he said. "We should just put in a great new show there. There are shows that could use the air time. There's great new shows that don't get that kind of airtime."
Once "This American Life" ceases production, he said, he does not intend to pursue syndication.
"I have no plans to do that," Glass said.
Glass also talked about the changes put into place at "This American Life" after it discovered one of its pieces, a monologue by Mike Daisey about a Chinese company that produces products for Apple, was partially fabricated. The show devoted an entire episode, called "Retraction" to the issue. That episode, which aired in March, explored how China correspondent for "Marketplace" Rob Schmitz discovered the errors and why Daisey made up parts of the story.
Since then, Glass said, the show has hired professional fact checkers to add another layer of scrutiny beyond the work of the show's editors and producers.
"There's a level of rigor to it that's extreme and equal to what would happen at a big national magazine," Glass said.
Given the typical subject matter on "This American Life," Glass said, the fact-checking can sometimes be a bit awkward.
"We'll have comedians come on and tell a funny story about their parents and their divorce [and] we fact-check it," he said. "We call the parents. It's so sad. I feel like we've tortured some people with this, but we call the parents and it's true. The stuff is true. We want it to be true."