New York radio host and producer Ira Glass has a worldwide fan base for his PBS show, This American Life.
The Perth chapter of that following - me included - was out in force on Friday at the Astor Theatre for 90 very entertaining minutes with him.
No medium has changed more than radio in the past decade and, in one of this evening's most illuminating moments, that revolution became apparent. Glass asked the audience whether they knew him from his Sunday evening slot on ABC Radio National or through podcasts of his show, and the latter drew by far the greater response. Radio has become global, on demand, instant and yet permanently on the record, and Glass, whose show's podcast is often the most downloaded in the US, is one of its brightest stars.
And yet at first take, Glass cuts an unprepossessing figure. After an ingenious introduction, appropriately enough in pitch darkness, the lights came up on a slight, middle-aged man in decidedly unglamorous business suit and tie with iPad in hand.
It was like the moment when the Wizard of Oz is revealed to be just an ordinary man sheltering behind the contraption he'd erected to empower him.
Except, of course, there's much more to Glass than that. As he cut expertly from recollections of his career to sound grabs from This American Life, the stories he had gathered and the techniques he developed to tell them were brilliantly and often hilariously revealed.
Whether by his clinical debunking of the portentous style of mainstream American journalism, or the inspiration he drew from sources as disparate as his mentor, Joe Frank, and Scheherazade from The Arabian Nights, much of his storytelling showed the power of narrative and the way he and his team harness it.
Wielding his iPad like a magic wand, the pace he generated and the humour and clarity of argument he maintained were outstanding.
He explained and demonstrated how he trapped his listener in the web of the story, how he used music for both mood and punctuation, how deeper meanings arose from narrative and the voices of ordinary people in ordinary situations.
A starstruck Q&A session at the end added little to the proceedings, but this was hardly a deal-breaker in this contract between a masterful communicator and his audience.
What was disquieting, though, was to hear an audience member, at the end of the Q&A, say she was inspired by Glass to produce her own This Australian Life.She was an American.
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