Ira Glass is my hero. I think if he, the Edge, Jon Hamm, and I went out to dinner, we’d all say it was the best night of our lives, and they’d all go home and say, “Man, that Scott. He’s great.” While the Edge serves as my model for how musicians and artists should approach their craft, and Jon Hamm serves as the person I’d most like to be for a day, Ira is the guy who I think understands this world better than pretty much anyone out there. He hosts This American Life, required listening for hipsters and non-hipsters alike. The weekly program on NPR chooses a theme and presents a few Acts on that theme. I can safely say that of all of the TV shows, radio programs, podcasts, and movies I experience, This American Life trumps them all, and it rarely (if ever) lets me down.
I’m very weary of Onethings becoming the place where Jon and I simply tell you about the places and things that we like. That’s not what Onethings is about. But a major component to experiencing a Onething is the emotional connection that a product or service makes with you. This American Life renews my faith in great storytelling. I’m a pig just like everyone else – I read TMZ, I’m a sucker for top 10 lists, and I’m a reality TV junkie. But I wouldn’t say I really like doing any of those things, and I’m certainly not invested in what is being said or shown. It’s just noise. This American Life is gripping because they’ve essentially said, “The world is fragmented, attention spans are decreasing, and we don’t give a shit – we’re going to tell a good story.” It’s that type of conviction that creates fanatics, and if you consistently deliver a great product, those fanatics turn into zealots.
This American life is a zig-zag Onething – while most other forms of media are turning to short hits, breaking news, scoop over substance, TAL slows it down and dives deeply into a story. While other media uses celebrity to drive market share, TAL focuses on regular people. While other media is zigging, TAL is zagging, and over its lifespan, it has created an extremely devoted following. Zig-zag Onethings are great because all businesses can do them. At the office, we’re constantly approached by clients who say, “We want to be like xxxxx.” Our first response is always, “Why do you want to be like someone else when you can create a brand that’s unique?” Zig-zag Onethings provide a place for influencers to go be a part of something new (influencers are very good at seeing when something has become the norm rather than the exception). Not surprisingly, businesses that apply the zig-zag Onething philosophy are often more interesting and have a more devoted following than their counterparts. This American Life is very different from everything else out there. Its anachronistic approach is incredibly refreshing. If you haven’t heard it, I think you’ll love it.
I’ll probably never have that dinner (I have a pretty busy schedule, you know), so I gladly settle for a weekly chat. Ira does most of the talking, but I’m used to it.