Arts & Culture

The Ira Glass Infatuation Post/ This American Life Review: Oh You Shouldn’t Have

Nancy Updike guest hosts as Ira leaves us behind for a couple weeks like the goldfish. But like a kid eating candy before the show, sometimes you gotta duck a freakout and trust the unfamiliar will be a dandy ride. Read More

By / March 9, 2011
Jewcy loves trees! Please don't print!

Only the second guest host since the inception of This American Life, Nancy Updike is saving our ears from more reruns. Ira is gone for two weeks as he has found a spectacular story in Georgia, as Updike humbly compares the experience to a beta present in this week’s episode, Oh You Shouldn’t Have. She starts out bastardizing the format with new lexicon, replacing “acts” with “stories” and threatening to skip over the legalese. Like the scummy hottie at the boomboom rockshow who feeds you one pill that makes you and says “trust me,” Updike begins pushing limits as soon as she shows face. This best be fun or your name isn’t Ira Glass. But like a kid eating candy before the show, sometimes you gotta duck a freakout and trust the unfamiliar will be a dandy ride.

Story 1: It’s the kind of Holocaust charm bracelet you pass down to your granddaughter

I have to say that in one try Updike managed to make the most Israel/ Jew-centric episode, could be ever. Starting out, Colbert veteran Allison Silverman brings us back to 1950s media when life was better and primordial reality shows like This Is Your Life graced the airwaves with guests like a Czech Jewish Holocaust survivor as in the May 1953 episode we listen in on with Silverman. Host Ralph Edwards’ act would not fly this decade–but when it was fresh, somehow he got away with bringing the Survivor back to relive her history and awards her a 16mm copy of the show as well as an heirloom quality Holocaust bracelet. What? It must have been weird, but Silverman assures that the regular Joes, including a Hiroshima Survivor, were grateful for the experience to have an expose performed on their tragic lives on public television. I can’t imagine that a handshake with the captain who flew over Japan and dropped Little Boy seemed anything less than patriotic propaganda to the show’s guest, so what else is he to do besides say that he had a pleasant time? Smile and nod, for they might mark you a Rosenberg.

Beyond that, the voyeurism Silverman marks in the early American TV culture is still raw at the time. And just like Jimmy Stewart looking out the window on Hitchcock’s set, you the public stare out observing thy neighbor that you are to love, and in turn learn of the ugliness that lives in them, that lives in you.

Story 2: She, quote, begged repeatedly for more cannabis, saying she could not stand the pain.

As she navigates the journalitic terrain of the Middle East where she is stationed, Nancy Updike reads Haaretz to give the old brain a rest, especially one from back in December about some Potcrotches nabbed by the Israeli forces in a major drug bust (aka, an organization called Tikkun Olam giving an extra handful of herb to desperate medical marijuana patients now and then). To quote the great Dogg, “So what if I’m smokin’ weed onstage and doing what I gotta do? It’s not me shooting nobody, stabbing nobody, killing nobody. It’s a peaceful gesture and they have to respect that and appreciate that.”

Story 3: I think there’s something almost un-American about etiquette.

I know this act is highlighting the quirks of Iranian etiquette as it is exposed through the scope of Nazanin Rafsanjani who grew up in both cultural stews, but their etiquette of Tarof–offering guests an abundance of food and resources that you don’t really want to give them–resembles the almost identical yet unnamed phenomenon in Eastern Euro grandma culture. That obnoxious over-offering of food and resources by babushkas is not cute, and often goes over American heads that fall easily to the pressure to eat. By the end when you find that your whole interaction with the person is through this form of passive etiquette, Nazanin confesses, “All you want is the Tarofing to stop; that’s what you want.”

Story 4: Until one day, some kid with an earring in his ear, looking a little bit homosexual, came knocking.

Etgar Keret’s story is sweet Jaffa honey. Back in Israel, the old anecdote of the goldfish that grants three wishes is taken for a spin that is a multilayer cake of quirky Semitic characters, plot twists, and feeling well etablished in Keret’s fiction. You’ve got to hear it.

Nancy Updike, stay with us. You are a phenomenal substitute teacher that does not solicit even one spitball. Oh but Ira, we wait with bated breath.

From the archives of these bitterly cold winter months, thanks to my fellow audience member at the Talent Show Brand Variety Show with the identical theme of unwanted gifts where Ira performed the best gift of all his radio voice was not meant to give us:

Ira Glass – Fairytale of New York. 12-29-10 from Matt Eylenberg (Video Edition) on Vimeo.