Sporadic Commentary: TAL vs StoryCorps

OK, this is how much of a big dork I am. I used to listen to This American Life on KQED when it only ran on Saturday nights at 11pm. This was way back in 1996 because I remember being so taken with the idea of people telling quirky stories, I pitched my college magazine editor a first person feature story based on the same concept.

I made a point of trying to catch the show and then was relieved when KQED started replaying it in the late morning on Sunday. Then they started playing it both on Saturday morning, night and the repeat on Sunday. Suddenly, This American Life was ever present like A Prairie Home Companion and I just couldn't get away from it. I started to get really fed up with the show. A mercurial little tale, told in halting speech with cool music does not a story make. It became really precious and oh so self aware that I begun switching off the radio when it came on. (So between TAL and APHC my radio stayed off most weekends except for Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me, On the Media and To The Best of Our Knowledge.) Here and there, I'll catch TAL, listen for a bit and then wander away. It seems I've truly lost that loving feeling.

I can't say the same about StoryCorps. They basically function for the same reason, telling idiosyncratic stories, but the main difference is StoryCorps strips away all the carefully cultivated artifice that TAL trowels on their stuff. A StoryCorp recording booth is set up in different places around the country and people, regular people, take some time to talk about a memory or event or something just very special to them. It's the one thing that keeps me in bed way past when I should be up and about on weekdays. One of my favorites to date is where Dr. William Lynn Weaver talked about his father. There was nothing fancy about it. Just him and his daughter and his memories of his dad. StoryCorps only runs on Fridays, which is good for me, and only for a few minutes, but every minute of that is a treat and a look into treasure box of memories.

I'm glad both shows are on and that This American Life has made what looks to be a well thought out leap onto television, but if I could only listen to one, hands down it would be StoryCorps.

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