Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Mister Rogers, Ira Glass & Me

Now that his Production Manager has officially said no thanks on his behalf ("Between his super tight schedule and his feeling like he doesn't have a whole heckuvalot to say about Mister Rogers, he'd like to politely decline your invitation."), I can finally tell you that -- for a minute there -- I thought one of my contemporary heroes, Ira Glass, was going to appear in the film.

My pal, Jen Snow, suggested I contact him (having heard me talk about him 24/7). "This American Life" is the highlight of my week, to be sure. It is a superior example of deep, substantive storytelling. Accordingly, it stands to reason that it's creator and host would be both deep and simple. Which I'm sure he is. I just couldn't wrangle the interview.

Anyway, we did have a lovely email exchange, one in which he told me the following story about meeting Mister Rogers.

When I was 20, a young production assistant, I worked on a radio adaptation that NPR did of his show, a call in kid's show with him and his characters. Just a pilot. Mainly I remember that the moment I met him in NPR's lobby, he was eating one of those little bags of peanuts you get from a vending machine and he offered me some. I hesitated and he encouraged me to take some. Which I did. He poured the nuts directly in my hand, which complete strangers you've seen on TV don't do too often. This is a dorky thing to say but it seemed like a symbolic act, a deliberate gesture he was making, though I'm sure he didn't think about it for more than a half-second. This was his way of setting a tone for working together, like here, let's share a snack, that's what this is going to be like.

It's a beautiful story, one that might find its way into the film yet. It speaks directly to what I was saying a few days ago about small gestures. As this story evolves, and a resolution to the film's inherent conflict becomes increasingly requisite, there's something about the idea of small gestures -- little things: a smile, a held door, a shared snack -- that feels like at least part of the solution.

It's disappointing, but we soldier on.

And we still love Ira!

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