This week on TAL, another grand slam of an episode , but first a word on Howard Stern.
In Act II of TAL’s newest “Play The Part” episode, Ira Glass admits something known by fans of broadcaster Howard Stern for some time: Ira Glass is indeed an unabashed Howard Stern fan. On Howard Stern’s Sirius Radio show a clip is often played between commercial breaks amongst the endless clips of talk show hosts, sports announcers and weathermen letting an expletive slip out on air, there’s an oft-played clip of Ira Glass on Late Night with David Letterman in which Ira is asked by Dave about his influences. Wearing a dark brown two-piece suit, a matching brown tie and the signature Elvis Costello glasses (now arguably “Ira Glasses”) Ira says, “I’m a huge Howard Stern fan. Public Radio audiences get a chilly, they don’t understand it, but there’s an overlap. Everyday 8% of our audience switch between Morning Edition and Howard Stern. He does a great show, and there’s things to learn from it. “
The subject is brought up in the week’s Second Act about a woman who realizes via an online quiz that her husband has Asperger’s. It turns out though, that the suspicions which lead her to take the online test are shared by women across the world, who often upon hearing about the symptoms of Aspergers, believe their husbands have the affliction. This is especially interesting in light of a tidbit I recently learned talking to singer/songwriter/social worker Sean Bonnette, who told me that Borderline Personality Disorder is diagnosed almost exclusively in women. Moreover, months ago after watching The United States of Tara I learned that Multiple Personality Disorder is diagnosed almost exclusively in the United States. The notion that psychological diseases can be contingent, on geographic location, sex, and the cultural zeitgeist is a odd one. The husbaund in this story with Aspergers keeps a journal of more appropriate ways of dealing with situations that challenge him. He mentions that one of the ways in which he learned to interact with people is by listening to and mimicking Howard Stern, the way he lowers his voice and slows down his speech when he means to be sincere, for example. What Glass knows, which ostensibly the world may soon learn, is that Howard Stern isn’t quite the rude shock jock of the 1980’s, that most people expect. In its later years, the Stern Show while still retaining many of its old characteristics especially in terms of sexuality, has become much more a show about personalities and human drama. Fans as well as news anchors and sportscasters have espoused that Stern is actually the greatest interviewer alive. With his upcoming role as judge on NBC’s top rated show America’s Got Talent, it will be interesting to see whether the rest of America finds themselves in agreement with Ira Glass. Or will Stern, as the fill in for the tough, Simon Cowell-like Piers Morgan, become merely the hardnosed angry judge he’s expected to be and simply Play The Part.
Act I of this week’s episode dealt with an in debt man living in the Bronx, who after having been recently fired from his job, finds himself faced with an interesting development in his life: a new candidate, suddenly the subject of massive media attention stemming from his bid for president, looks almost exactly like him. This man, Louis Ortiz, is quickly convinced to appropriate headshots, an agent and gigs impersonating Barack Obama. However, impersonating proves to be his weakness and beyond a “Thank You,” Ortiz’s Obama falls flat. Still, his world changes vastly as he begins to fall into the role of President Obama and a few overseas acting gigs as well as a cameo on Flight of the Concords become a major escape for him from his Bronx locale. Unfortunately, the gigs begin to dry up midway through the Obama presidency mirroring almost directly the Left’s approval of our President. With the recent developments in the Republican primaries, this aspect of Act I seems especially poignant. In the end, Ortiz commits himself to bettering his Obama impression through practice and hard work. Meanwhile, his success obtaining gigs will probably depend greatly on the results of the upcoming election as well as his own efforts as an actor. Are those who’ve lost their initial passion for the Obama administration, playing the part as well, and if so, what does that mean for the next presidential election? Perhaps this episode as much as it is about playing the part, is about people unable to escape a part bestowed upon them by the world at large, hoping for change, and a second chance.