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Ira Glass "Feels Fat" -- And Other Things He Has to Say About Dance

Photo: David Bazemore
Ira Glass (center) with Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass in "Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Show," a live stage show performing in Seattle on April 11.

There’s no question Ira Glass is talented. But among those talents, let’s just say that, according to him, he’s not the greatest dancer in the world.

“In my personal life I dance, but not very often,” Glass explains. “I dance at weddings enthusiastically and badly. If there’s a song on and I’m in the kitchen I will totally bop around like a moron. And there’s no dignity to it.”

So why is the uberly-popular “This American Life” radio show host touring the country doing a live dance show?! We asked him about his dance moves – and about whether hanging out with dancers has changed his opinion about his own 55-year-old body  -- before he was scheduled to appear on stage in Seattle on April 11.

On seeing New York-based contemporary dancers Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass and how that sparked his “Three Acts: Two Dancers and One Radio Host” stage show:  

“I saw them and I had this feeling: Oh, this has exactly the sensibility of the radio show that I work on. It was funny. It was out to entertain. It was emotional. It was super accessible.  And it was about documenting things that we all feel. Moments of awkwardness, moments of triumph.”

Do you see a lot of dance and do you always get dance?

“I do go occasionally and I feel like I do get it. I feel like generally, it’s not so complicated. I think people who think they don’t get it are trying to read something more into it than the thing that it is. And sometimes it really is just the pleasure of watching somebody move so beautifully. I think one of the things that happens with this show is that it’s very clear that the audience has an experience seeing these particular dancers that I had when I saw them. I saw them and I thought (in a high-pitched voice), Oh, I think I really understand everything. I totally get dance. I kinda like dance, don’t I? (Laughs).

So will you be dancing on stage?

“The truth is I don’t discuss whether or not I dance in the show. I think anyone  who’s coming to this show wanting to see me dance would be A) really disappointed if they saw me dance and B) I narrate stories and the dancers dance.”

But there’s a promo photo (above) that shows you on one knee in a Ta-Da! pose!

“I will confirm that at some point I do go down on one knee with the professional dancers (laughs). And I have to say even that is kind of a stretch for me.”

So being around dancers hasn’t really made you, uh, more graceful?

“If anything I’m in worse shape because I’m spending so much time on airplanes flying across the country to do these shows. So for me it’s had the opposite effect.”

But, the dance show has actually made him skinnier:

“Of course I feel unathletic. Of course I feel fat and flabby. I lost 30 pounds (since doing the show) simply so I could move around the stage with some degree of not feeling like I was waddling. (laughs). That was my goal. Like I didn’t want to seem like a character actor from ‘The Andy Griffith Show.’”

Here’s the promo trailer for “Three Acts: Two Dancers and One Radio Show Host.”

And in doing research for this story, we also dug up this music video for a Yoko Ono song called “Bad Dancer.” Yes, that’s Glass doing a dance cameo.

Note: This interview has been edited and condensed.