Ira Glass On The 'Serial' Podcast Phenomenon And New Movie, 'Don't Think Twice'

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Ira Glass The Verge

Radio personality and newly-established movie producer Ira Glass participated in a keynote Tuesday morning at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. Speaking with Mark Olsen, a writer/reporter for the Los Angeles Times, Glass discussed his work on NPR’s This American Life, Serial and his sophomore film production, Don’t Think Twice.

“We definitely didn’t think [Serial] would become the biggest podcast ever,” said Glass, after Olsen inquired about the origins of the idea. “In fact, we didn’t think it would necessarily work.”

Glass credited much of Serial’s success to Julie Snyder, the executive producer of the popular podcast. “She just had this idea like, ‘What’s the biggest thing in culture?’ The biggest thing in culture is these TV shows that we all binge-watch… where you see people beginning and saying, ‘We can’t not turn this off, we have to get to the next episode.’

“And she was just like, ‘Can you do that with reporting? Can we do an investigative story that is so compelling in the beginning that people would stick around for the whole thing?’”

Glass also lauded the brilliance of Sarah Koenig, executive producer and host of Serial, as well as noting the impact of Apple’s App Store. “We were lucky in the sense that the technology changed the month Serial came out,” he explained. “Up until that point, podcasting wasn’t quite a thing yet. And then in the fall of 2014, Apple’s iOS came out with a podcasting app installed on the iPhone.”

From left to right: Sarah Koenig, Ira Glass and Julie Snyder Photo: Serial

Later in the panel, Glass discussed Mike Birbiglia’s new movie Don’t Think Twice, which premiered at SXSW two days prior. The film marks the second project Glass has collaborated with Birbiglia, following 2012’s Sleepwalk With Me, which Glass produced and co-wrote.

“It’s a film about improv comedy,” said Glass. “Basically it’s a group of six best friends, and they’ve been doing improv comedy for 11 years together. But their careers aren’t going anywhere. They’re like one of those groups that everybody loves and everybody’s like, ‘You guys should be famous,’ but they never get famous.

“And then two of them get to audition for… we don’t call it ‘Saturday Night Live’ because that would be a violation of copyright… but our version of ‘Saturday Night Live’, and then it breaks up their friendships, and everybody else has decide, ‘Do I want to quit? Should I quit? I’m in my 30s and I’m not really successful - maybe it’s time to get a real job.’”

You can check out our review of Don’t Think Twice here. Stay tuned to iDigitalTimes for continuing coverage of SXSW 2016.

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