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Ira Glass attends "The Old Man & The Pool" opening night at Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center on November 13, 2022 in New York City.John Lamparski/AFP/Getty Images

Put on a podcast these days and there’s a good chance you’ll hear Ira Glass. Maybe not the actual Ira Glass, but certainly the Ira Glass Sound.

The co-creator and host of This American Life, winner of seven Peabody Awards and the first Pulitzer Prize awarded for audio journalism, Glass is known for his nasal rasp and conversational tone, which have come to define a generation of audio storytellers looking to replicate what The New York Times once referred to as the “NPR voice.”

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While he can see why all that attention would drive some crazy, it mostly doesn’t bother him. With one exception: “Occasionally there will be a car commercial for a public radio-appropriate car. That really gets me,” he said. “But that’s fine. That’s just success.”

Ahead of his appearance at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto on Feb. 10, Glass spoke to The Globe over Zoom about being a “podfather,” the state of the American Dream and the secret to finding a great story.

You’ve been called the ‘godfather of podcasting.’ Would you say that’s accurate?

It’s totally fine but deeply inaccurate. I’m the “podfather”of a certain style of podcasting: When you’re producing the thing with quotes and music and you write it in advance and read it.

I think it’s worth noting that, especially in the early days of the radio show, my voice was not seen as an asset by public radio program directors. I remember one of the comments we’d sometimes get was, “It’s a pretty good show but are you going to get a real host?”

So it’s funny that it became a thing, but I don’t think Joe Rogan learned anything from our show – if he’s even heard of it.

Wait, do you listen to The Joe Rogan Experience?

I haven’t heard much Joe Rogan, but not because I think I’m too good for it. I just haven’t gotten to it. He’s just on for so many hours.

Have any of your disciples impressed you?

What Jad Abumrad did with Radiolab is a good example. The sound of Radiolab, in many ways, is much more advanced and sophisticated than what we do. It’s a new kind of way to make radio. They don’t even use a script! And what Jonathan Goldstein does with Heavyweight. I couldn’t write a show like he does.

What’s on your podcast playlist at the moment?

I’m a big fan of Dax Shepard’s interview show [Armchair Expert] and there’s this political podcast called Hacks on Tap which I can’t recommend highly enough.

Speaking of politics, This American Life has been on the air since 1995. In that time you’ve had a front-row seat to some of the most vertiginous times in American history. How would you say the American Dream is doing?

Canadian readers want to know how it’s going in America?

We’re a little worried.

As you should be [laughs]. I think the advantage of our show is we can take headlines and bring them to a human scale. There’s this thing in the news where people very quickly become cartoons as part of bigger stories and in our format we can just talk to them and get to know them – joke around and just see them as people, even if they’re in kind of a really hard situation. And I feel like in those moments we can be counterprogramming to the thing that’s in the news and just be a smaller, more human voice. As far as how it’s going in general with America, I think that everybody has the big picture all over the world. It’s been kind of dreadful down here. People are just not agreeing about what is real: Whether vaccines help you or hurt you and whether elections were stolen. Reality is up for grabs.

In a situation like that, where everything seems big, how do you find the appropriate human-scale story?

Sometimes it’s really hard. The actual answer is we just go out and poke around until we find a character in a situation that’s interesting enough that you could make a feature film out of their story. What you want is somebody who’s going through something that’s surprising enough that you want to hear what happens and you want to stay with them. That will give you the stakes and the ideas and all the things that you might get from more traditional kind of documentary production or news coverage, but way more compelling and way more fun to listen to – and probably with way more feeling.

Shifting gears, you’ve been doing public talks in parallel with the show since 2016. How do the two compare?

The talks began as a way to market the radio show. It was explained to me that the smartest way to do that was to go book a different city each month and, because the local public radio station is on the hook for all this money for the hall, they’re going to have to say your name over and over on the radio. Which is brilliant. And it obviously worked so now it’s just vestigial.

That being said, it’s a very different experience. On the radio you’re in a soundproof room pretending you’re talking to millions of people. Well, you also are talking to millions of people [This American Life averages just less than five million listeners a week] but none of them are there. Whereas being on stage, something instinctive kicks in because we all know how to talk to another person, you know what I mean? Like, it’s so much easier and so much more fun.

This American Life recently aired its 800th episode. That longevity is impressive, but also impressive is the fact that you air segments from your early seasons and they’re still relevant in both format and subject matter.

My experience is that each new wave of producers brings their own obsessions and that changes the content of the show. But I have to say, I guess it doesn’t change it that much because you can just take an episode from 20 years ago and run it today. The main difference is that you have to say at the end of each story: “Oh, that person’s dead.”

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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