This Bibleburgian Life

This American LifeHow often do you get to hear Ira Glass say “cocksucker?”

Never, that’s how often. Unless you happened to be in the audience last night as the “This American Life” host chatted amiably with a packed house at the Pikes Peak Center in Bibleburg.

Glass was recounting a back-in-the-day mishap at NPR that let the C-word through and onto the air, an oh-shit moment good for an FCC fine of a quarter-mil’ per station. Seems a board jockey who was a little slow on the trigger missed the target, instead bleeping a subsequent word, which caused an authority figure to ring up to inquire acidly what word did get bleeped, since “cocksucker” seemed to have become acceptable on-air usage.

The late, lamented George Carlin would have been proud, as Glass also deployed “fuck” (which apparently slipped into our local airwaves during a chat with someone at Radio Colorado College; “dick,” which the lawyers got all hard over while TAL was preparing to air a story in which an interviewee used it as a synonym for “jerk”; and “turd,” which actually appeared in an early David Sedaris bit, but could never make it on-air today thanks to a tightened federal leash, courtesy of Janet Jackson’s loosened bodice.

Sedaris reworked the piece as a poem, claiming that would make it art and thus inviolable, but the feds disagreed, so Glass played it for us from the stage. I ’bout shit myself laughing.

If you’ve never seen Ira Glass in person, I urge you to do so at your very next opportunity. The man has a gift for gab that any Irishman would envy.

He said his parents were “the only Jews who didn’t like public radio,” and had hoped their son would become a doctor, “because … well, we’re Jews.”

When TAL was in its larval stage, Glass said, the idea was to “take the whiff of broccoli” out of the standard NPR news model.

And all these years later, he said, the staff is still focused on those stories that hit them like a bolt of lightning, which doesn’t always happen; a lot of seemingly great ideas never make it to the air.

But that’s part of the job, because to get hit by lightning, Glass explained, “you have to spend a lot of time walking around in the rain.”

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19 Responses to “This Bibleburgian Life”

  1. sharon Says:

    Love Ira Glass. Have not seen him live yet. Will add to the list. Have seen Anthony Bourdain live a couple of times though. He would make George Carlin proud with his use of English language. Though he didn’t do much for NM natives with his description of the Santa Fe Frito Pie recently.

    • md anderson Says:

      the Frito Pie may be a New Mexican icon, but Bourdain was spot-on in his description. “feels like a warm bag of crap” is what I believe he said.

  2. Patrick O'Brien Says:

    Occasionally, TAL is really entertaining. We always give it a chance, but end up turning it off most of the time because of the dour subjects.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Now and then they can get lost in a subject. Ira did that last night when he was talking about a piece on a Chicago school that had endured something like 29 shootings in a year. It was a tragic tale, and it seemed to me that he was still having trouble coming to terms with it.

      • Khal Spencer Says:

        I remember that story vividly, Patrick. Frankly, I’m still having trouble coming to terms with living in a country that would make the Taliban jealous in terms of our own blood feuds.

  3. James Says:

    Haven’t seen Ira in person but his wit, humor and delivery are top notch. I have had the pleasure of seeing Eric Boucher – aka Jello Biafra – back in college. He was not as good as Carlin but did tell it like it was in re: to the FCC and radio/TV/journalism/broadcasting. Very much worth the time and effort.

    As a former ‘board jockey’ I can sympathize with the poor soul who let that one slip. Not only are you running the board but depending upon the station management (or lack thereof) you might also be pulling commercials, running tape, writing news stories AND screening calls. Inhumane job tasks for someone who doesn’t have four legs and arms, eight ears and two mouths. Better yet, zero mouths because listening to talk show hosts all day can make one very, very, very cynical.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      In college I thought I might like to go into radio … until I found out what radio people got paid. In the Seventies it was even worse than what newspaper people got paid, which was plenty damn’ bad.

      But it still looks like fun to me. Maybe I should volunteer over at KRCC. Then I’d be King of All Media, with a finger in print, video, Internet and radio. You can’t stop me!

      • Libby Says:

        I’m all for you toppling Howard Stern, the self-appointed King of All Media. Howard who? His media profile is pretty low these days. He ran for governor of NY in the ’90’s. Howard is substantially smarter than many holding office these days.

  4. Debby Says:

    I’m a little envious that you got to hear Ira live! Sounds like it was a great show. If he ever makes it up to the People’s Republic I’ll have to go.

  5. Steve O Says:

    You can skip college, never read one column inch of the NYT, boycott the evening news, and hide in a cave for the better part of a year, and you’ll still hold your own at any gathering if you only occasionally tune in to TAL, RadioLab, and Freakonomics.

  6. Khal Spencer Says:

    Nice story, Patrick. TAL is a standard here in the Dog House, as we nap our way after long hikes and bike rides on Sundays.

  7. psobrien Says:

    I checked out the CRCC web site. Now Ira is fine, but are you going to see Bonnie Raitt Wednesday? Now that would make me jealous. In my not-so-expert opinion, she is the best blues guitarist currently performing. When she uses a slide it is ear candy.

    • Larry T. Says:

      She played here in Sioux City once, at the very nicely restored Orpheum Theatre downtown. Ear candy is right! I used to go see her in SoCal back in the day when she, Jackson Browne and Linda Ronstadt would pack the old Santa Monica Civic. Yep, I’m that old!

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Alas, no. I love me some Bonnie, but we have a previous engagement. I missed John Prine when he came through, too, and wish I hadn’t.

      Now, Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt are coming through town in November. Khal, they’ll be in Albuquerque on Nov. 5; Patrick, they’re playing in Tucson on Nov. 7. Herself and I have a ton of LL in the old CD case, and that one we may have to go to.

      • weaksides (@weaksides) Says:

        Yeah, the Prine/JT Earle show is coming here in early December. Hopefully I can squirrel away the shekels for that one.

        Man, take a week away from here and Patrick goes nuts with the posts. That said I was in my own private hell/funhouse riding the GAP/C&O from Pittsburgh to DC with three friends on fixed gears. Zero percent chance of rain turned into 3.5 days of rain over a 5 day period. Man we were a muddy mess for the asshats in DeeCee upon return.

        You’ll all be pleased to know that the lights were still on in the Capitol building and the water fountains still dispensed water outside. On the C&O? Not so much.

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