Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club. Because No News is Bad News.

Heart of Glass 

The host of This American Life looks back on a life spent in radio.

3248.0.jpeg
Ira Glass maintains the same car-radio ritual on his drive to work every morning at Chicago's WBEZ studios. Naturally, the host of National Public Radio's This American Life would listen to the network's Morning Edition. But to surf back and forth between its news show and Howard Stern? "I think he's the most emotionally honest, hard-to-predict person on the air, and he's No. 1 for a reason," says Glass, who reminisces about his 28-year radio career on Monday at the Ohio Theatre.

"I can take leave of all the girls taking off their clothes, because I've heard it all before. But in any given half-hour, he's got a bunch of characters -- you know who they are, he puts them in situations, and you listen to them react. I just straight-up enjoy it."

Same can be said about recording his hour-long show every week. (It's heard on WCPN-FM 90.3 every Sunday morning.) Since 1995, Glass and his posse of producers and reporters have woven together stories about ordinary people with extraordinary lives.

In a recent episode titled "Know Your Enemy," former Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra was pitted against the prosecutor who charged the punk rocker, in 1985, with distributing porn to minors (the band's album, Frankenchrist, included a poster called "Penis Landscape"). Two decades later, the prosecutor picked up the phone and apologized to Biafra on Glass's show. "You don't hear a public figure say so cleanly, 'I was completely wrong. I thought I was doing the right thing,'" notes Glass.

But Glass cringes when he hears the FCC cracking down on foul shock-jock banter. For fear the feds would slap him with a fine, Glass chose to bleep the word "screw" in a lyric that set up the Biafra piece. "I'm perfectly happy to say screw off the air, but that price is a little steep," he says. "That's a lot of coffee mugs to get rid of at pledge time to raise a quarter-million dollars."

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at news@clevescene.com.

Cleveland Scene works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Cleveland and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Cleveland's true free press free.

Speaking of Highlights

More by Cris Glaser

Read the Digital Print Issue

September 23, 2020

View more issues

Most Popular

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Calendar