A Letter to PDs from Ira Glass

Hi Program Directors:

Ira Glass here.

A while back I was listening to the WTF podcast and the filmmaker Judd Apatow was the guest. But he wasn't talking his iconic films and TV series "Knocked Up," "Forty Year Old Virgin," "Freaks and Geeks." He was playing interviews he'd taped as a teenager with his comedy heroes back then, including the young Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno. Seinfeld was funny and gracious with the high-school-aged Apatow; Leno, weirdly, was a sort of a dick.

And I'm listening to this thinking: "Why didn't WE do this? Why didn't Fresh Air? How did this podcaster beat us to such a great idea for an hour of radio?"

I thought: "Why isn't this on public radio?"

In the last two years, the WTF podcast has somehow turned itself into the audio newspaper of record for comedy in America, with memorable interviews with everyone in comedy, big and small. You hear people like Ben Stiller and Robin Williams talking like they never talk in public, mostly because the host of WTF, Marc Maron, is a fellow comedian who's known them for decades. And Marc himself is such a fiercely bare, honest performer, that his interviewees can't help but give him what he's putting out with them, and the result is amazingly raw conversation. Marc's doing the interviews that journalists and other outsiders would have a hard time getting. It takes an insider to get moments like these. Also – no small thing – the show's really funny! As you'd expect from conversations with the best comedians in the country.

They're special shows, and they deserve a place on the radio. I say this as a fan. I have no financial interest in this and I'm not sleeping with anyone on the show.

Marc and his producers have chosen ten favorite episodes, as a limited-run series designed specifically for public radio stations, and it's an amazing lineup of highly promotable comedy stars: Louis CK, Conan O'Brien, the Judd Apatow episode I loved, Dane Cook, Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Bob Odenkirk, Janeane Garofalo.

They're also including this amazing episode where Maron does what amounts to an investigative report on whether comedian Carlos Mencia (of the TV show "Mind of Mencia") steals other comedians' jokes, which ends with a very tense confrontation with Mencia himself.

It's high time we on public radio harvest the very best of the podcasts out there and bring them to our audience. This is a great, easy, audience-friendly way to do that.

PRX is distributing.

Jesse Thorn – the podcasting/public radio veteran who adapted "The Sound of Young America" podcast into a weekly public radio show for WNYC and others – is producing the series. Nick White is editing the episodes for public radio.

To help the audience find this ten-episode series, I've cut four promos explaining the series. We're running these on WBEZ when we air the series; you might also.

To doing something new on the radio!

Ira Glass

Image of Ira from Jeremy M. Farmer