I was a temp secretary for a long time, and I went at it with a passion, and I tried to do a nice job in all my jobs.
It's rare for me to read any fiction. I almost only read nonfiction. I don't believe in guilty pleasures, I only believe in pleasures. People who call reading detective fiction or eating dessert a guilty pleasure make me want to puke.
I've actually done events at radio stations where I feel like I've had to give a little talk in behalf of television as a medium.
The pledge drive has everything going against it as broadcasting. It's repetitive. It's ad-libbed by people who can't ad-lib. It's about asking for money, which is something nobody wants to hear, even from their own relatives.
'Smallville' is like a Domino's pizza. While you're eating, you're thinking, 'This is good, and it reminds me of pizza, but there's not enough flavor in each bite.' That's the feeling you have the entire time with 'Smallville' - that it's just about to be good, but it never is.
It's tricky, performing the show live. Because when you're in a big auditorium, in front of 700 people, the natural tendency is to want to talk louder. You want to project.
But you can make good radio, interesting radio, great radio even, without an urgent question, a burning issue at stake.
If you want somebody to tell you a story, one of the most easiest and effective ways is if you're telling them a story.
I hate dream sequences in movies and T.V. shows generally for their heavy-handed symbolism and storytelling tediousness.
At some point, all comics have to go out and be retail salesmen doing door-to-door. And this idea of somebody who totally knows their craft having to get up for free in front of a crowd to work out some stuff they're thinking in their head, still, after as much success as you can get, is really interesting.
I'm a big Penn & Teller fan. But I myself was never very good; I was a teenage magician who performed at kids' parties. I can still perform a vanish, credibly, and I still, in special circumstances, will make a balloon animal.
People are generally forced to change. We don't want to change, and then something absolutely forces us to realize that what we are doing isn't working or that our picture of the world is wrong. We fail. So we change.
I think the name of the show, 'This American Life' - we named it that just because it seemed like it made the thing feel big. But we don't think about whether it's an American story or not. We happen to be Americans. I think for the stories to work, they have to be universal.
It's hard to make something that's interesting. It's really, really hard. It's like a law of nature, a law of aerodynamics, that anything that's written or anything that's created wants to be mediocre. The natural state of all writing is mediocrity... So what it takes to make anything more than mediocre is such an act of will...
When you're learning, especially to write, unless you're some incredibly gifted writer, a young Malcom Gladwell, say, you need to be imitating people. You need to be imitating how they make their work, how they structure it, how they design the pieces. It gives you chops; it gives you moves.
I don't take care of my voice at all, which is one reason that I sound as bad as I do.
Reporters tend to find in others what they are suited to find, so there is a whole school of reporting where they are cynical about the world, and everything reinforces that. Whereas I tend to be optimistic and be amused by people and like them, even rather bad people.
Unless you work for '60 Minutes', your life is: You do stories about things, and nothing happens as a result.
Honestly, I am so ignorant of how dance works that I can't even imagine a story that you would want to tell through movement.
All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it's just not that good. It's trying to be good, it has potential, but it's not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer.
When I started 'This American Life', one of the reactions I got was, 'When is the adult going to show up who will host the show?' At some point, people just got used to it.
Not owning a car anymore, I feel like I'm barely an American. I miss it. And I barely ever get to listen to the radio in the car, which is the best place for radio.
I'm in production year round. I work long hours. I have a dog and a wife. There's not a lot of available time for consuming any culture: T.V., movies, books. When I read, it's generally magazines, newspapers and web sites.
I only got interested in radio once I talked my way into an internship at NPR's headquarters in Washington, D.C. in 1978, never having heard the network on the air.
There is a feeling, when you listen to radio, that it's one person, and they're talking to you, and you really feel their presence as one person.
If you date one woman a year, times 10 years, and that's 10 women.
I am such a do-goody, people-pleasing kid - or I was - I don't think I've ever been fired, not even from an ice cream shop, magician for kids' parties, not even in my early jobs in radio.
I started out doing production work on promos, stuff like that. I didn't think it was cool to be working for NPR. I didn't need anything to be cool. I just wanted something to do that would be interesting. It was fun. I didn't think of it as anything else but fun.
I was a freelancer all through my 20s and was very slow to get good at what I did.
One reason I do the live shows - and the monthly speeches at public radio stations - is to remind myself that people hear the show, that it has an audience, that it exists in the world. It's so easy to forget that.
I didn't have any particular talent for fiction. I took a class in college.
The Flash could do everything twice as fast. Except you never saw him think twice as fast or speak twice as fast. Could he do math faster than the other superheroes? Could he compute the tip for the bill twice as fast?
Grease and starch just always win over protein. In food as in so many things. Look around you, that's what our whole country is based on. It's amazing that Michael Jordan can be an iconic figure because he's basically just protein.
You will be fierce. You will fearless. And you will make work you know in your heart is not as good as you want it to be.
I liked the people at Brown, while I really disliked most of the fellow students I had met at Northwestern.
I think one of the reasons that I got so good at it, as somebody making radio stories, is that on the radio I can actually - I can understand what's happening in the interview and can make a connection in a way that makes sense.
My first job on the radio was writing jokes for a Baltimore DJ called Johnny Walker, who was sort of a '70s era shock jock who all the teenage boys listened to in my school.
I remember that in Baltimore, where I grew up, we would drive by the radio station and tower of WBAL, and I would try to picture the people inside and what they did there.
A lot of broadcasting, I think, is doing a tremendous amount of preparation and trying to act like, 'Oh, this thought is just occurring to me right now' - and speaking sincerely.
You'll hit gold more often if you simply try out a lot of things.
I eat the same breakfast and lunch every day, both at my desk. I employ no time-saving tricks at all.