Walking into work today, I listened to Alec Baldwin’s interview with Ira Glass on Here’s The Thing. Hearing him with Baldwin is a treat: Ira’s smiley, nasal lilt tangling with Alec’s husky gravitas-laden baritone is good radio. But it also highlighted one of the early points in the interview, where Ira talks about literally finding his voice on the radio, against the standard of the world-weary “announcer” approach.
Alec: I hear so many people now on the radio who are the opposite of what I grew up with.
Ira: I think it comes down to what you think authority comes from. Back when we were kids authority came from enunciation, precision. A kind of gravitas you are bringing to the character you are playing. But a whole generation of people feel like that character is obviously a phony - like the newscaster on The Simpsons - with a deep voice having gravitas. And so I think a lot of us just went in the other direction. For me, any story hits you harder if the person delivering it doesn’t sound like some news robot but in fact sounds like a real person have the real reactions a real person would, and be surprised and amazed and amused.
It’s interesting to listen in on just how conscious Ira Glass was when it came to growing his craft. In addition to structuring compelling narratives, he figured out a way to create his own version of “broadcasting.” He kept his voice and approach real, authentic and very much personal.
Ira: At first when I tried to be on the radio, like most people, I tried to be the ‘official thing,’ and at some point I trained myself out of it because I thought it’s not as effective.
At the beginning of any journey, especially a creative one, there’s pressure to feel like you need to hit some kind of standard. That "good" looks like something very…specific. And there is a maddening life-long hunt to try to get yourself up to that standard, while simultaneously trying to figure out what the standard actually is.
But the more I connect with people who inspire me, the more I realize they actually don’t give a fuck about “the standard.”
This takes time, trials and a bunch of self-awareness, to come to terms with "the standard" and then blow it away. Working on it.
But really, who wants to be the standard?
Wouldn’t you rather be the exception?