This American Life Live!

publicity image from This American Life

I’m a huge fan of This American Life. If you aren’t familiar, it’s a radio show produced by Public Radio International and syndicated across the country on public radio stations and downloadable by podcast. This American Life (TAL) is an expert when it comes to great storytelling.

Back in 2009, TAL hosted a live version of the show and beamed it via satellite to theaters across the United States and Canada. Unfortunately I missed it, but I have a DVD of it for making a donation to Chicago Public Radio.

So it was with great delight that I heard TAL is doing it again! This Thursday, May 10, TAL will perform an episode at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts in New York and broadcast it around the country and in Canada at select theaters. The show will be at 8:00 p.m. EST/7:00 p.m. CST or 7:00 p.m. MST/8:00 p.m. PST.

According to TAL’s website, “the show will feature stories by Ira Glass, writers David Sedaris and David Rakoff, comic Tig Notaro and Snap Judgment host Glynn Washington, plus live music by OK Go. It’ll also include things you could never do on the radio, like a new short film by Mike Birbiglia, dance by Monica Bill Barnes & Company, original animation, projected illustration and more. Plus special surprise guests.”

My husband and I have our tickets, and I am giddy with anticipation. If you are a fan of TAL, you can find out how to get tickets here. And if you aren’t yet a fan, I think the live show would be a great introduction.

Sarah Vowell in Fargo

photo by Bennett Miller

Sarah Vowell is one of my favorite contributors on This American Life, my favorite public radio show. She’s an amazing storyteller with a witty sense of sarcasm. And she’s got one of those voices that is priceless. If you’ve heard her, you know exactly what I mean.

Most of her work these days are books on American history — the kinds of stories that would actually make a ninth grader interested in American history. Everything she writes has a heavy dose of personal reflection, and she always talks about her research process. She’s a brainiac who is socially awkward, which, combined with her smart-alecky humor, is hilarious.

And so I was super excited to find out she was coming to Fargo this past weekend. On Saturday I went to the Fargo Theatre and listened to her read from a variety of her books. She opened with a story about vacationing in North Dakota to see Theodore Roosevelt National Park — not a destination most people would find enjoyable, but the story was a big hit with the Fargo crowd. Then she read from her new book, Unfamiliar Fishes, about the American imperial take over of Hawaii, and told stories about research for it and her trip to Hawaii with her sister and nephew. She also talked about her book on presidential assassins, Assassination Vacation, and answered questions.

After the show I stayed to get my book signed — I bought Unfamiliar Fishes before the show. She wasn’t very talkative when I got my chance to introduce myself and get her autograph, but her social awkwardness isn’t a core punch line in her work for nothing. I think it is cool that I got to I meet her.

I’m looking forward to reading the book. From the excerpts I’ve heard, it’s going to be fantastic.