tv Charlie Rose PBS August 25, 2014 12:00pm-1:01pm PDT
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that is part of their self-definition, it now feels in the culture, generally, i think like this is the big leagues because what used to be the big- in audience terms at an radio and everybody in itñrçó sometimes they succeedñtrçor sometimes they fail, but theyçó( are all trying to make stuffñiñó that they think is great and they think their audience will think is great without any other imperatives getting in the way. >> a lot of listeners to the american life have told me like, there's a wave of shows that when they heard them for the first time they didn't realize radio could do the things that we do. you know, like, i'm told often like, by people -- the first time they heard this american life, like, they didn't think a radio story could be good, could
have characters and emotion and you stick around because you want to find out -- you get caught up in it -- you know that you would get caught up in it because you wanted to know what was going to happen and could deliver all the feelings that drama does and be funny and emotional. >> it's about somebody speaking to you in the dead of night and the relationship you can have with a disembodied voice where they somehow seem to fill everything, and it's so authentic, you kind of connect with that person. i love that. i love the radio for that reason. but then i also -- maybe it was around the time when i started listening to ira's show. there was something else that was almost the opposite of that. you hear the voices that are so unique, but they're telling you stories that seem epic and large in sweep with the best movie
>> i don't know how to explain this, but something happened about 15 years ago, it miffed something to do with hip-hop or just because that particular musical form is kind of wordy and somewhat performance-oriented or something, or maybe it was just that n.p.r. grew to a size that it became sort of part of everybody's' -- i don't know precisely what happened but i know what you can feel, that more and more and more people were sort of married to it. at just different points in their day, in the back seat of their car with their parents, then they graduated to other things they found, and they began to own the things they
found. you know, here's the weird part in 1971 or 1972 when a group of people got together and said let's make serious newsmaking radio, that was a time when walter cronkite and dan rather were kings on television. cbs was the tiffany's network "new york times" had the pentagon papers and bernstein with "the washington post," so if you want to be a serious reporter, you do that. casey kasem radio was countdown to music, and linda and "ray and these people walk in and they go, all right, let's be like the "new york times," it was, like stupid and silly and crazy. now you look at these people like the linda worthheimers when i left npr and went to television, i noticed the people in television had a thing, they had a swagger, and you could feel it. and the radio people are all sort of mousy and quiet self-effacing. and then there were these tv people.
then you go to npr or even wnyc -- hello! these are people! and it happened, i think, for a combination of reasons, but suddenly closing your eyes and hearing something became totally not just a thing that people want to do but, for some reason it's a thing people seem increasingly to prefer. but the perspective of 30 years of watching it, you were there at the beginning. i mean, radio has a number of qualities, i think, that -- like a lot of listeners to the show i do, this american life, they've told me there are a wave of shows that when they heard them the first time, they didn't realize radio could do the things we do. i'm told often by people, the first time they heard this american life, they didn't realize a radio story could be good.
it could have characters and emotion and you would stick around because you got caught up in it because you would want to know what was going to happen and could deliver all the feelings that drama gives, you know, and be funny and be emotional, and i think, for a lot of people, you know, for a lot of people, they got the news and want more of it. and i feel like there's a whole generation of us making the stuff where it feels like this -- it feels weirdly, although it's the oldest electronic medium, it feels there is so much tough to do nobody's tried, weirdly. it feels like everything's new, all the young people are getting into it saying, let's take this baby out for spin and see what it can do. it's a really particular moment.
>> charlie: kurt, you're coming in late to radio. >> i am, they allowed me in late. >> in addition to what robert and ira said, it's a time unlike when rather was the king of television and the rest. audiences have been fracturing and getting smaller and smaller over the last 20 years in media and in general and, so, on the one hand, a radio show, aer are successful radio show that has a million or 2 million people listening, 25 years ago, that would be a piddling little audience. today, that's as big as a successful television show. so in addition to all the quality. in addition to this smart audience that now defines themselves because they listen to this american life or radiolab or whatever, that is part of their self-definition. it now feels in the culture
generally that this is the big leagues, because what used to be the big leagues have shrunken a lot, so we are now kind of not only in audience terms on an equivalent -- at an equivalent place, but public radio and everybody in it, sometimes they succeed, sometimes they fail, but they are all trying to make stuff that they think is great and they think their audience will think is great without any other imperatives getting in the way of, you know, oh, well, 18 to 34-year-olds like this or middle americans like this or not? it has from its beginnings when it was opening off broadway in 1971 been about trying to do the best it can, and even though it's now swaggery and has these large audiences by modern standards, it is still more than, you know, most commercial
broadcasting is motivated by people wanting to create good things for -- >> charlie: it was attractive because you thought you would have more freedom to do more interesting things? >> it was attractive for me because for some strange reason out of the blue they said, hey, do you want to help create this new show? i said, for sure, you know, having been a radio listener and kind of not even dared to dream being a wannabe, but they said we think you would be a good person to host the show about arts and culture. >> you've always take advantage of complete freedom in all your work you've cone, magazine, everything you've done. so why radio? >> one thing, because i hadn't done it. here we are at bam. of all the things i haven't done, dance wasn't going to be one of them, okay? >> you never know! i mean, because i was so attracted by 1999 when they kime
to me and what was being done, i thought, you know, this is an amazing opportunity to have the freedom to talk to people and tell stories in different kind of ways. i had started magazines and written books but i had never -- just interviewing, i had never been a real journalist. i would interview people because you have to do that when you have a job at a magazine, but sitting down with people who were idol it is of mine, whether frank or susan or whatever, and spending an hour talking to them is a thing i had never done. the fact that i and my producers could shape that into radio, there's nothing like it. >> charlie: did you find it easy? >> no, i didn't find it easy, although i think the dirty secret of radio compared to, say, writing books is it is easy in that there are other people, in my case these guys actually know how to make radio, i had
producers, after i had a delightful conversation with a hero, goes and turns it into radio. >> charlie: yeah, yeah. yeah, it's really easy, but -- >> damn you, kurt. (laughter) >> the craft of having, as you know better than any of us or as well, of having a conversation rather than doing an interview, that is a matter of trade craft and learning. fortunately, we had a year to figure this show out and to get me to at least an unembarrassing level of skill before we went on the air. >> charlie: what was the attraction for you? >> it's hard for me to say. everything has been said already. but more personal. for me, it's this mixture radio can provide. it's ultimately about the voice, so it's about somebody speaking to you in the dead of night and the relationship you can have with a disembodied voice where
they seem to fill everything and it's so authentic, you kind of connect with that person. i love that, i love the radio for that reason. but i also -- maybe it was around the time when i started listening to ira's show, there was something also almost the opposite of that. it's like you hear these voices and they're so particular and intimate and unique, but they're telling you stories that are opinionic and large and in sweep with the best movie you've ever seen. so somehow it was the marriage of the authentic voices but with just the feeling and emergent of a movie. so that's, for me, everything i want from the radio, i want to meet real people, but i want them to tell me stories that are as big as the early -- >> charlie: but that's what you all do is storytelling, isn't it? >> it is. again, i think what everybody has been saying is the opportunity to, yes, tell stories compared to television,
it's only this relatively unadorned way. there's not so much stuff in between. if i have this idea, i'll talk to these people and make it into a story. there's less technology and stuff between you and that happening. >> and no adult supervision. very little adult supervision (laughter) the degree to which each of us are given our heads to do what we want and abandon things that are working well to do something that we don't know if it will work is incredible. it's amazing. >> that's true. there is actually an advantage in working in a medium that is forgotten and often declared dead is that you have a sort of benign neglect. you can kind of play around and do stuff. >> charlie: does podcast add to it because, somehow, it's when you want it? >> it's literally in your head. you take the earbuds, stick them in and the rest of the world is blocked out.
it's just you and ira, just you and kurt. there's something intimate about that. in the other forms, you address a box. it's a box that's sort of 18 feet away from you. there's a cat, there's a woman, there's a child. other things happen. but when it's in your ear, it's just you and them. >> when walker was interviewing me for this gig she said, radio is a very intimate medium. i said, mmm, i know that! i had no idea what she meant, but it's exactly this, it is this single person directly and almost unmediatingly speaking to you that it's as close to a book, to reading a book by an
author that you think you're really in her head, to the electronic media world. that's why people respond so enthusiastically when you do it decently. >> we've added this live medium bringing these shows to the stage at bam, it feels from talking to each of you it's inspired a different kind of creativity or even more creativity as you think about what you're going to bring in terms of your show to this venue, and then it changes up again. >> yeah. the interesting thing for me, at least, when we started performing on stage is it's like a giving yourself permission kind of thing. there is kind of the sense that, in radio, you're in a little airless booth talking to people who you assume are out there but you never quite see them. there's sort of a learned humility that comes to that, like you never want to speak outside your norm. but there's a way in which radio
has grown up, so walking on the stage and confronting live human beings in the audience is about dreaming slightly bigger for what we do. for me, i thought, okay, this is for real, now, that there are real people there. never mind that when you're on the radio, you're probably talking to 30 times -- >> charlie: so how did you two come together? >> oh, i think it goes back to 2001, maybe. >> yeah, something. he was still a tv guy, or just a tv guy. i was work -- >> charlie: just a tv guy. i didn't mean to say that (laughter) i was trying to be as neutral as possible when i said that. i was sent to record a promo for a bunch of people for the station. he was last on the list. everyone else i had handed to scripts to read it very sort of -- >> charlie: professionally. -- professionally.
he -- i don't know if this actually happened, but in my memory, he rips it up and throws it into the air like confetti and turns around and writes some crazy, off the top of his head thing about alien cults and oil tycoons. i don't know what it has to do with wnyc, but it was amazing. >> and sober and reasonable, i'm sure. >> i was, like, wow, that's interesting. then we started talking and within five or sixments figured out we had five or six spooky symmetries. i went to overland after him, working at npr at the time, he started at npr, i did a stint at wbai, he was there. it was, like, i was this echo of his life 25 years ago. so we just decided we had to have breakfast. >> how is that going to work out for jad, robert?
(laughter) >> what happens is we start having breakfast and i'm opining and being old and grand (laughter) at one point, jad brings me his wares. says, here's what i have been working on. i put this thing on and i thought, oh, no! this is completely new, it is gorgeous, it is strange, it is beautiful, and it's new in the world, and i said, okay, this is going to sound dumb, but instead of me going, blah blah blah blah, why don't you go blah blah to me because you seem to know stuff that i don't know, and i kind of reversed roles from mentor to whatever i've become (laughter) in doing this, if you want to stay in the future and you want to stay in the action, you have to sniff for beauty wherever you go and, wherever you find it, even in this odd form, you just
say, yes! because, otherwise, you just miss out. >> charlie: that's my philosophy, too. ira, i think you once said the importance of using the techniques of fiction and radio, themes, interesting characters and narrative threats. >> i mean, the things we're doing on our show, it's plot-driven storytelling and stories that live or die by whether they're surprising and their characters are characters you can engage in, and like in the last few years, like, some of the stories have been developed -- people try to develop them into movies which never get made or tv series which almost never get made but i get to spend time with actual professional screen writers and i think, oh, we are speaking the same language when we talk about what a story is and how to shape it and make it.
i think radio is just immensely powerful for that kind of thing. i feel like when the medium was new, it was generally understood that this is an amazing medium for telling stories, and then that kind of all went away. and, so, like the first time i heard somebody tell a story on the radio, i remember as a production assistant at npr and i was working on a show for joe frank who would do these monologues and had actors do stuff, and i remember i was in the control room and he was telling a story and i thought, i don't know what this feeling is butteth amazing and this is what i want to do. i think -- i mean, it's weird that that went out of fashion for so long. and it's interesting the show has evolved when it started, we were just doing personal stories, really. and now it's evolved and we
tried to do the news. you know, we'll send reporters into iraq for a month. we'll send three reporters into a violent high school for five months. >> charlie: five months? yeah, five months. and, yeah, the school which had 29 shootings in the course of a year, and we wanted to understand kind of what they knew, that school. it's all the same thing. so it's much harder in a way to find characters and scenes in a story when you're taking on climate change. one of the problems, i don't know if you feel this, as somebody doing stories on tv and doing the news, i feel like there's a whole class of topics that as soon as you open your mouth, everyone is tired of the topic. it's like climate change, the republican versus the democratic fight in washington, abortion, like there's a whole list of things that we all hear and go,
i don't need more details about climate change. i know where i stand on this one. i feel like guantanamo. i'm interested in that. but i feel like there's a whole class of things where we know where we stand and i think as journalists it's hard to know how to bring up the subject in a way that you could even make somebody want to listen for watch for a few minutes, and it takes such cunning, i find, and often we'll totally disguise what the stories are about for a really long time. and we'll be, like, let's just get some characters going, and i feel like understanding narrative, understanding plot, understanding characters is just such an enormous tool to try to bypass that problem and i feel like the longer the show has gone on, it turned out to be this incredible tool. i started the show as a refuge from the news. i had been working on all things
considered morning edition before then and doing stories that were applying the tools of journalism to things so small and personal that journalists would never touch them then, gradually, i and the entire staff came back to actual let's take on the budget deficit but our style, housing crisis and mortgage-backed securities but in our style and find characters and scenes that could pull people in the way somebody like michael lewis can in one of his books where you're looking for exactly the right situation and exactly the right characters that you can tell the story of something as complicated as high frequency trading and people will stay with you because these characters are amazing. >> and that, i think, is really where the renaissance comes, from collective cunningness. you know, that wit and that desuction and all -- seduction and all the things ira has to do to win you either to global
warming or to his dancing and everything in between, that's someone who is restless. jad, jad will invent and invent only to catch your attention and hold it did. and the tv world, there was a time in the early '70s when public television came in, and my sense of things, there was a rush of excitement early on when public television started and there were all kind of experiments, and then public television just settled. these are the unsettled people who won't settle, and that's why it's doing well because it keeps scratching at every itch it can find, and that's really interesting. >> that resonates with you? oh, completely. and when ira was also talking about the difficulty of convincing people they should listen to another story about this familiar thing, one of the
things we've done with 360 is this american icon series where we take the most familiar american culture things -- the great gatsby, moby dick, appalachian spring -- and people say, oh, yeah, i know all about that. then by spending hundreds and hundreds of hours on trying to make a documentary that tells you about this thing that you think you know and reveals to you how little you know and how many more interesting depths and byways and things about it that you don't know, that is the great challenge, to make what could otherwise be, oh, it's broccoli, eat it, it's good for you, into, no, it's candy, give me more! it's fantastic! what you want to do is, yeah, ultimately you're trying to do these worthy things that aren't done otherwise, but to not do them in this kind of school, you
know, know this because it's good for you way. do it in this fresh and entertaining way and that's always the challenge. >> so, karen, when you looked at these four guys, did you think in terms of unsettled and cunning and all that as you looked at what it is that immediate them the people you wanted on the stage at bam? >> well, they kind of share a kind of humanity, an it's not rushed. television, films, these are things that are sort of cut-cut -- >> can i get a job in radio? (laughter) >> but it's not rushed. they have the ability to sort of hang in with it and take where it it wants to go, and that also lends itself to the medium of live theater. and the idea of festival -- you know, what we try to do here is
not just look at something in a quick hit and you get it and you go, what we try to do is look at a body of work and when you look at these guys and public radio, it's a body of work that comes together over a long period of time, and that implies a certain kind of commitment and a certain kind of depth, and that the really what we're about is trying to show that kind of depth through the live experience. also, i think to have the audience right here, to have people respond, it's a very immediate thing, a very exciting thing, and the ability to sort of jump from radio to this and back again -- >> i think the way that i took the mandate of being at bam is to invent something. it's bam, you have to invent something. >> charlie: there a tension between you and two? >> yeah. >> charlie: tension in that you see things differently, whether you --
>> oh... how many hours have you got? well, of course, there is, because if you grow up listening to things -- you hear machines, you hear music, you hear jokes, you hear ads -- there's a life in you, and then you're full of sound and your job is to make sound, the only sounds that you have are the sound that are here. if you grew up in the '50s and '60s, i have a completely different set of sounds. he's afraid that at any moment i'm going to suddenly burst into "oh what a beautiful morning." (laughter) >> that's going to be in your show. >> because that's happened? well, you know, now -- we were in the studio today -- (laughter) -- i suddenly burst into a westside story song just to get him angry. >> oh, so you're like a married couple. >> you could look at it that way. >> charlie: did it get you
angry? >> that particular -- i think you won the fight with westside story as an exclamation point but it got me angry because i lost the argument. but we're filled with different music, that the for sure, it's just a generational thing, but it's also, more and more, we're choosing ideas which don't have easy answers. we're, like, you literally are of two minds about something, and it's useful to have somebody there who's also of two mind about the same thing because we orient in opposition to each other and if i'm feeling slightly more one way, it's instinct chiewl at one point he goes the other way and that becomes the way to explore this two-sided or three-sided issue. >> do you know how amazing it's getting now? my wife with doesn't have magical thinking. like, we're doing a piece about things, and things, of course, are infused with all kinds of
memories and things. you know, if i have an extraordinary experience with a girl and i pluck some blade of grass during that experience, i put it in my pocket, i can take that blade of grass out and use it to go back to that day. my wife, nothing like it. so i take my wife to the explorer's club on 70th street and i show her incredible things, including a flag left by neil and buzz on the moon and picked up off the moon and it was from the very first trip, of course, and she's being allowed to touch it. i said, look, a tamar, if you touch this thing, you're where buzz coz, neil was and our species was and -- and she's like, can i go now? i know. and we're where jad wrote our
parts and when we got in the studio, because we have all the tape, he had -- oh, it's so -- >> he wrote lines for -- no, he didn't have to write lines. >> you and your wife were having a fight, and it was a fight that i'm very familiar with, knowing you as long as i have. so i just wrote both parts of the fight. because somehow, i'm in their heads. >> charlie: and he knows! yeah, so that's just weird. but, yes, it's sort of strange. it's strange to meet somebody and, you know, i'm actually very friendly with this guy, also. >> charlie: yeah. the thing is, when you do this for a living, you develop a body of work, of course, and you can be proud of it, of course. but it's not a big industry, and you just find yourself a little bit in love a lot of the time.
and these are your competitors, these are your comrades but these are also the people who are sort of watching your back and the people you sort of belong to. i think when people listen to these radio folks, they feel a kind of warmth and a kind of sense of, ooh, that seems like fun, and they seem to be having a good time, and they're given off -- giving off an animal instinct -- (growling) -- and people want to sit next to that and stuff it. part of the thing is they're full of animal spirits, really, and that's very, very, very viral, and that may be, to answer your first question, like, what's going on? it made the people smell a good time and they want to sit next to it. >> i think that's a very good point. >> charlie: i do, too.
and we all love linda gray's oddity happens, and we keep it in the tape. we keep it on the air. when the interview is theoretically is over but they suddenly shout and go, wow! whatever it is, the strange little moments, whether an encounter in the field or something that happens in the studio, the sense that there is fun and quirk and noncookie cutterness as a sort of m.o., i think people really respond to that. by the way, since we're all just gushing over how great public raideradio, you know, we're mems of the cult but the cult is highly self-critical. ira, when i was first dragged into public radio, i heard him give a talk about how public radio was failing to innovate or be centering and was unsettling,
which i found inspiring. when we're thinking of stories or pictures of this or this, the thing that anyone on the staff is say to kill it is, ooh, just so public radioy, which is the bad publi version of public rad. as much as we love the institutions, we're not just georgia, oh, everything you hear on wnyc is the greatest thing you've ever heard. we all see how much better it could be in so many ways. >> that's true. but if our journalistic colleagues who work in other media understood the curb situation we're in, they would want to come over. you're in a situation you get to do what you want on a bunch of different networks and shows but you're unusual. but unlike tv, there's no ratings pressure. there's nothing like that.
but people in newspaper who print this, the economic model still works, so we're not no the constant free-fall panic of how long will we have our jobs. >> charlie: so it's how creative you can be and can you satisfy yourself? >> we want to satisfy the audience, and the audiences are really large. there's is million, 2 million, 3 million people will hear everything you did, which is crazy, and, you know -- and, you know, the money isn't perhaps as good as network television, but totally sufficient to have an apartment, you know. (laughter) and own a car and, you know, raise kids, whatever. it's fine. it's totally fine. >> charlie: when you're creating a piece, how do you know when it works? all of you? what's the test? >> it doesn't work for a long time until you get it work. >> charlie: it doesn't work till you make it work.
>> yeah. in my experience, most things are trying to be crap and it's only through an act of will you make them not bad. >> i agree. >> charlie: you go from crap to not bad. >> yeah, you get it to a point where you cannot be embarrassed and hate yourself. (laughter) >> as a writer, that's all i knew is you start out typing whatever you typed and go, ooh, let's rewhere that and do that again and do that again, and that's exactly what applies to a radio piece is taking it from the raw crap in which there might be a shimmer of possibility and trying to extract that shimmer. >> one of the things, we'll edit the stories over and over again as a group. on american life, i'll write a story, we'll go through it, then to edit it, i read the script, we play the tape, and each time we do a pass, we bring in one person who hasn't heard it.
and by the time it's done, if it isn't going well, each time everybody gives notes and we work it over and over. i don't know the process on your show. but especially the things you don't know how to shape them because no one's done it before, like these kind of stories which are a decent number of stories. >> charlie: i read somewhere you kill a third or half of all the stories. >> easily. that's crazy, half? is it half? >> it should have been 20. (laughter) are these little baby stories and you murder them or are they fully flenld adult stories and -- >> to get three or four stories we'll often work at ten or 15
stories. it's like making a phone call, then go into production on seven or eight. so that's typical. we spend a lot of money on them. we just run at stuff because especially in the format, the ones where we're not pegged to the news, there's no reason to listen unless it's super sparkly. how do you know it's good? it has to be someone to relate to, it has to have an idea you haven't heard of. it has to be a story where someone has a new idea in their head as a result of it. it should be funny. extra points are funny, for sure. you want it to have emotion. so you have to start making it. but sometimes we did a show that would be the easiest show we'd ever do a couple of weeks ago called "i was so high" and it
was people telling stories about getting high, we have to fill a show. so we put a thing out on social media and we asked, send us your stories. it was the easiest picking. we got, like, 2,600 stories, four of them were good. (laughter) we learned something which says that listening to people's high stories is like listening to their dreams. they near to good stories at all. you know, even though there's four of us, it was a little bit of a stretch. that took three people days to go through 2,600 submissions. >> have you ever killed an entire fully-made hour of radio? >> not a full hour, but we have killed -- like, we have killed stories that were done and ready to go. it's been a while. it's been a while. but yeah. >> have you cut a full hour? no. god, no. (laughter)
we've killed pieces. >> we have enough stuff going that if something is going to die, we would know it. >> put it out of its misery earlier. >> often it will be a friday, which is when we finish the show, and we actually won't know the lineup of the show because it isn't clear how much time it will be. it's like make everything shorter? or should we take one story out and use it next week. if you go carefully through the lineup of the shows, you could tell which is the story actually made for the scene before. (laughter) you have to be a super fan to want to do that, but you can tell, that was not the scene. we're just acting like it's this scene. >> charlie: you once said what you have to do is go find somebody with a lotto knowledge and just ask them why.
>> did i say that? >> i think that's true. i think you ask them why and then you get an answer and then you get another answer. you ask another person why. i think the most interesting thing about when you know it's good is when you feel that given what you -- what talents you have and what time you have whether you are not embarrassed, the ira test -- in jad's case, times -- it's been amazing to me, we can sort of agree at the same time we passed the test. do you know what it would be like if you and i were in the flower business and i said, i have three irises, you have three roses. it's going to be a three flower vase. i go, you go. no. i go, you go. no, you go -- and if we argued we'd never finish the vase. luckily, we argue, then yes! then we go home! >> it's true.
>> charlie: is that called collaboration? >> it's called finding beauty. agreeing. >> it's very humbling, too because you spend -- you know, a lot of the work is extremely collaborative and a lot of it is solo, just you locked in a room wrestling with something, and you get to a point where you think, this is good, i'm hot! i think this is amazing. and i'll send it to robert and he'll send me these classic seven-page e-mails where he points out, he brutally, with fierce insight, point out exactly why it's not working. and if i could bottle the feeling of reading those e-mails, it would be perfect for your fear show. (laughter) but it's very humbling when you feel like you've got it and you realize you don't have it. but someone else needs to complete it.
but then it's quite beautiful, i find, when you kind of walk across the line and you realize we actually have something that none of us could have done alone. and as an only child, i find that mystifying. i continually find it mystifying. >> another thing should be said probably about our three shows is they're all weekly or less. and which gives us all the luxury of having the artisnal killing pieces, getting it just right approach. >> charlie: the experience i don't know. >> i don't know about that, but we are not doing daily shows which is a whole different beast. >> charlie: tell us about the fear series. >> well, it's actually the show we're doing right here at b.a.m. >> charlie: i know. >> and because these guys invented the idea of themes. we said, we should do a theme for our show as well, and fear is a capacious theme that drives
artists to create art and all of us to do things wise and foolish in life and it seemed like a good theme to propel our show the show which has this incredibly reflective cast next week of andrew berg, the musician, and novelist jennifer egan and others, so, how else are we going to tried to make a -- try to make a coherent scheme of this rather than apart from establishing a theme and when we said to each of them how about fear? i can't tell you how quickly each of them said, yep, i'm down with fear! (laughter) so i guess we discovered the universal feeling and fear is it. >> will there be a point in the fear show where the audience will be afraid? >> they will be very afraid yes.
>> charlie: are the things you can do on radio you can't do in writing? >> the real conversation -- well, you can do it in writing. you do it especially in fictional as opposed to non-fictional writing, but having the moments, the pauses and inflections and tone of voice in conversations, for instance, that -- >> charlie: you can't do -- >> you can't do in magazine writing. you can't convey the visceral sense of what this rapport or lack of rapport is really like in writing, because, also, the description required to convey it in writing would be greater than the thing itself, whereas the spoken word is just -- it's this conversation.
it's this highly edited constructed conversation, but nevertheless a conversation in which the listener can sense exactly what's going on if you do your job well. >> charlie: iraers what are you most proud of hat you created for radio? >> it's not a particular show. it's just -- like, when i started the show almost 20 years ago, i don't think -- i didn't have the power to imagine what it would be today that i would be working with a dozen producers who are so skilled and interesting. like, other people weren't doing these kinds of stories and every person who i hired -- like i started the show with three other people and me and every person i hired had to train to do these sorts of stories. then the thought that now i work this the most amazing people. like, i feel -- i know it's corniest thing in the world to say, but i feel just proud to be their peer, and often i'm not the loudest or brightest voice
in the room at all, you know, and i feel proud of that. i feel proud of them, actually. i have to say, i have this whole conversation feeling like -- and the most we describe it we're more like artisnal chefs that work at a restaurant that put out one meal a week and we have the gall to talk to you in this very day. it's a typical wednesday. you did two hours of live feed this morning. you prepped and tid a half hour -- prepped and did a half hour about president obama on television. and we're, like, we turn out a show a week, we go over and over it. your experience of this whole thing, do you feel just like -- >> like, we sons of bitches!
(laughter) >> yes, thank you! and i don't want you to feel like you're in a position to lie or be nice to us. do you feel just like, oh, thank god i don't do that! it's so much more fun to be like prepping and doing the thing because we -- i did daily broadcasting, you do daily broadcasting. you just hear this and you think, thanks god it's not me! you think, thank god it's not me when you hear us do this! you do! >> charlie: no! i don't have the luxury of making it perfect. i mean, i don't. >> but you are a bill moyers baby. >> charlie: i am. what do you mean he's a bill moyers baby? >> when he started, bill moyers put his hand on charley and said, go with my blessing!
(laughter) >> with your career, you can choose different kind of rhythms. >> charlie: exactly. there are jock reporters. they wake up in the morning, have a press difference, even some lady on the 104 bus is not a reporter at all but she sits in the back of the bus and announce this is morning, today i will be at the press conference of the city council vice president, and when you watch evening television, she is there! she's in the back. she's the star! she's just bringing up the rear everywhere! (laughter) and i think it's kind of neat. but as ira is suggesting, it should be acknowledged that there are people who go to work and they want to tell you this just in, and they want to get it on and right and get it fast. >> charlie: i'm not doing that. >> no, that's the one extreme, and then there's bill moyer. >> if you look at what we do here, you have to put it in the
context of the whole season. you have theater, dance, music, opera, you have to have blockbusters, discoveries, celebrities, you have to find new, you have to figure it all out and then how do you pay for it? i mean, you know, there's these thousands of challenges. but it's really interesting that being here in brooklyn, when harvey lichtenstein, my predecessor, sort of started, this institution was quite old and had been her here a long ti, and no one wanted to come to brooklyn, but it was liberating because we could do whatever we wanted if we could pay for it. so it allowed us to invent an institution rather than having one imposed on us, and that spirit still exists now which is how we ended up with this
program >> brooklyn is a thing. it's a thing. >> you said you met brooklyn people and i took that to mean not geographically from brooklyn but a state of mind. (laughter) is the pressure in brooklyn different for you now? >> yeah, it's different, but instead of hearing people complaining all the time about coming here, thaw are here. so, in that way, it's a lot easier. but now we have to keep up the momentum and really try to deliver a great product all the time and to keep all these different parts of it going. so in many ways it's sort of like what you guys are doing, but it's also very different, given that, you know, things come, they go and they're gone. >> let me ask all of you, is this american life becoming something different? is it evolving towards -- i mean, how do you see the evolution of it? >> i mean, i think it is. i feel like it's a very
different show than it was ten years ago. >> charlie: yeah, so where is it going then? >> oh, i don't know. >> charlie: you don't know? i don't know. >> charlie: it's part of the excitement for you, a continued attraction? >> yeah, of course. truthfully, we're talking about starting another show in the next few months, and getting into the podcast business with a bunch of other projects. >> charlie: signing your own distribution and all that? >> yeah. it's, like, the most interesting stuff we get to do with the stuff we never did before. >> like, i am really loving the science part, and jad is, okay, that's good, we've done that. >> you guys are totally leaving science. >> we're not totally leaving, we're just -- >> charlie: stepping out. it's like with our thing, you can't answer the question where are you going except you answer it by saying, well, i'm not staying where i have been.
that's pretty much is answer. and you just go and see what happens. >> no, i mean, you have to keep it interesting to your is and hope that that makes it more interesting to listeners. 360 has gone into science so it's a zero sum game here. >> charlie: they give it up, you take it on. >> well, a little bit, and we've started doing these hour-long docdocumentaries of specific wo. >> charlie: like moby dick. we say, make us a 30 second horror movie and we'll have wes craven judge which one is the best one. we had 300 people make incredibly time-consuming production-intense horror movies. so we do more of those, bringing the listeners and keep it interesting. >> charlie: on that, keep it interesting. thank you all of you very much. (applause)
>> the following kqed production was produced in high definition. [ ♪music ] >> yes, check, please! people. >> no! >> it's all about licking your plate. >> the food is just fabulous. >> i should be in psychoanalysis for the amount of money i spend in restaurants. >> i had a horrible experience. >> i don't even think we were at the same restaurant. >> and everybody, i'm sure, saved room for those desserts.