Chaos Attraction

This American Life Live!

2012-05-11, 9:06 a.m.

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So last night we went to This American Life's live show. It was awesome. (And rerunning in theaters on Tuesday night if you want to check fathomevents.com).

The theme was "the invisible made visible," which you would figure works out for a video'd show. It sounds like they are going to make about half of this show into a radio episode, at least the bits that don't involve dance.

The stars and stories were (I'm going to attempt to say them in order, but I may get it wrong):

(a) Ryan Knighton is a blind fellow who looks a lot like Vin Diesel. (Seriously.) He told a story about not being able to find the phone in his hotel room--and about getting lost in hotel rooms in general--when you assume stuff rather than "Marcel Marceau'ing" his way around the entire hotel room, with a helpful animation behind it explaining the situation. Then he talked about how he has a small daughter and the issue with telling her he can't see-- except it was more about the process of her figuring it out for herself after incidents where she threw a Nerf ball at him (he hates Nerf, btw) and getting hugged by the wrong kid at daycare. Finally she just figured it out when he was reaching around for a cookie.

(b) OK Go. They had a specially designed app for the show that I downloaded--it has three buttons that make pinging noises. Ok Go had a handbell choir setup and a visual "here's where you play the notes" sort of setup a la gaming. There were four different colors of the app and you played the notes that went with your app. Those without apps stomped and snapped fingers to a different track. It delighted the hell out of the audience. "We've played with OK Go!"

(c) There were two dance performances by Monica Bill Barnes and Company, a company Ira said he'd seen and wanted to get onto the show because of their facial expressions...well, yes, eventually you see what he means by that. These are somewhat normal-looking dancers they've got there. They can certainly still kick their legs to their ears and the like, but they looked and dressed like normal people and didn't have the frozen ballet smile going on. More like, grimaces and uncomfortable looks and moments where the dancers weren't as smooth as you're used to seeing. It was kind of like nerds dancing. The first dance featured the dancers holding chairs in their teeth above their heads at one point--with Ira providing narration on the stage as they go around him--followed by a solo dance in which a dancer had cardboard boxes thrown at her. Startled the hell out of people.
The other dance number featured two dancers dancing to...I forget the name of the song, Sex Machine, I think...while wearing huge sweaters and plaid skirts. It was kind of a parody of sexy + throwing in a lot of awkward at once. Let's just say at one point the dancers make out with their own shoulders.
...This may be a "you had to be there" sort of thing.

(d) Mike Birbiglia did a movie featuring Terry Gross. Has to be seen to be believed. Hilarious, and features Terry AS YOU'VE NEVER SEEN HER BEFORE!!!! Seriously.

(e) Tig Notaro is another deliberately awkward lady. She lives in LA, where she tells the story of how she ran into singer Taylor Dayne multiple times. Tig looooooves Taylor Dayne, so the first time she saw her at a party, she told her that she loved her voice. At the time, Taylor Dayne was all, "I don't do that any more." Ouch. On their second run-in at a restaurant,, Tig decided to say the exact same words to see what would happen. Second response: "My talking voice or my singing voice?" Tig stuck to the talking. There were apparently many other Taylor Dayne sightings in LA--"I'm not entirely sure she's not here tonight"-- I gather you can run into Taylor Dayne more than anyone else in LA. As for the third run-in in a restaurant, Tig came in with her screenwriting partner and had him record a video of it with his phone. We were hoping they'd play the video, but they did not--presumably because all you could hear was the fake phone conversation the guy was having. But this time Taylor said thank you.

And then, of course, Taylor Dayne is there tonight. Singing. Buddying up to a super-awkward Tig. Again, this might be a "you had to see it" sort of thing, but it was hilarious.

(f) Glynn Washington told a story about how his parents got really into some preacher when he was a kid and moved to the country, where they needed to find water to live on. Someone called the local dowser--"water witch"--which kind of freaked Glynn's dad out. The water witch finds water, but...he also lets Glynn take the twig and apparently Glynn also had the gift of dowsing. So naturally Glynn's dad woke everyone up in the middle of the night to pray that Glynn wouldn't be taken by the devil.

(g) There was a story about photographer/nanny Vivian Meier. You've never heard of her, but a couple of guys somehow ended up with a lot of her collection of photographs from an auction or something and are now writing a book about her. She was a very good and prolific street photographer and took tons of shots because she was a hoarder--but didn't show them to anyone, never wanted to, and it's a good thing she's dead now because she would not remotely be cool with this publicity thing. There was an amusing line in the show about how "the living kick the dead's ass" because nobody wants to respect her wishes and she can't stop them.

(h) David Rakoff--well, it's different seeing these radio folks in person. I had no idea he'd had cancer (okay, maybe I missed this on the radio) and lost the feeling/mobility in his left arm. He talked about dreaming that the arm worked again and the awkwardness of dinner parties where people are talking about self-improvement when he's had these health issues, and how he used to dance...and well, he did break out into a little dancing.

(i) David Sedaris came out dressed as a clown from the neck up. I really, really wish my camera had actually taken that shot (so mad it didn't). He told the story about being stuck in line at a coffee shop behind an annoying yakking lady to illustrated how two-faced he is.

It was a very amusing, cool show. Ira was probably the most relaxed-ish that you've ever seen him on camera. I've seen him IRL--albeit from a distance in the third tier--but he seemed looser here. It was pretty cute. During the "commercial break" he said a special bit to anyone watching the rerun show--"Hello, people of the future." There were a few Apple-related moments. Ira was producing the visuals/animation off an iPad (my friend was all, "As a techie, I am so annoyed at that.") and he made a crack about how Apple wasn't too happy with him these days. And as he read off the usual end-of-show bit, people in the audience snickered when he had to do the reputation.com blurb, even though this time he delivered it normally. The Torey Mallatea insert bit was him acting out Tig's repeated spiel to Taylor Dayne, with Tig coming out at the end of it. Cute stuff.

So anyway, if you're free Tuesday, you might want to go watch this.


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