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Ira Glass Talks Divorce, Dating and ... Threesomes on Dax Shepard's Podcast

By Dustin Rowles | Celebrity | November 15, 2018 |

By Dustin Rowles | Celebrity | November 15, 2018 |


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There are those people many of us have a huge admiration for, but for whom we also know very little about personally (and often, that’s how they maintain our admiration). It gives them a certain mystique, and then when they do talk about their personal lives, I find myself hanging on their every word. I’m desperate to know more about them than a Wikipedia entry can provide. I want to know about their children, their spouses, all the mundanities of their everyday lives. Dave Grohl is one of those guys for me. So is Ben Folds (though, I’m terrified of what I might learn given his many divorces). Gillian Flynn is one of those people. So is Sarah Koenig.

Ira Glass is like the white whale of those guys for me. I’ve been listening to This American Life for two decades. Like, I knew he was married, and I know about the alleged bedbug infestation in his condo. I know a lot about his mom (because of one particular episode of This American Life on infidelity). I knew that he was related to Phillip Glass (because of another episode). And I feel like I know a lot about the history of This American Life, and we’ve all obviously followed some of those people involved in TAL to other projects (Gimlet Media, for instance).

I admit that I’ve fallen a little behind on This American Life this year, but I didn’t know that Ira Glass had divorced relatively recently. I found this shocking and a little heartbreaking because while I know nothing about Anaheed Alani, I had this vision of Ira and Anaheed as the perfect couple for public radio people.

Anyway, Glass was on Dax Shepard’s Armchair Expert podcast recently, and what’s so great about the podcast medium that Glass (and Koenig and Maron) helped to create is that these longform interviews allow fans to gain more insights into some of our favorite people, especially those who we knew so little about before. Maron’s podcast with Terry Gross a few years ago, for instance, was like WHOA. Terry Gross is a person, and the way that Maron laid bare just how normal she is made me appreciate her even more.

To some degree, Shepard’s podcast with Glass accomplishes the same feat, only I think that the podcast mostly confirms what we know about Ira Glass, namely that he is “This American Life.” It is his identity. He said on the podcast that he recently went camping in upstate New York with friends, and that he’d never gone camping before. Or hiking. Or spent any time in Upstate New York. He also doesn’t watch much TV. He works. He puts in 80 hours a week to produce 30 episodes of This American Life a year; he spends an entire day in the mixing room with every episode. He handles as much of the business side as he does the creative side. I don’t think that Ira Glass has that much time for a life outside of his job, and he doesn’t have kids, which often gives many of us the illusion of a life, so there’s not a lot behind the mystique beyond what we think we know about him.

But he did talk about his divorce a little. And about dating a little. And about how he’d never engage in a threesome. And it’s not much, but it is fascinating because of who he is.

It was a fairly brief section in the front half of the podcast, which began when Glass talked about his mother, who is a therapist who specializes in married couples with infidelity problems. Glass spoke to his mother’s revelation (which makes total sense) about the point of no return where the slippery-slope of infidelity begins. It’s not when you kiss someone else. It’s the moment in which you confide in someone else about your spouse — in other words, as soon as you talk shit about your wife to a co-worker, it’s only a matter of time before you cheat.

Anyway, from there, Glass began talking about how he just got out of a marriage, but that his natural state is monogamy. “I don’t feel comfortable if it’s not monogamy. Literally, I just got divorced a while ago and started dating and the thought of dating more than one person at the same time just gives me the willies. I feel like I would feel so protective of each person in that situation or scared of getting one of them mad at me for being with the other one. Any situation in which there can be triangulation I couldn’t be into. I have never even understood three-ways. I can’t imagine. It seems like the most unpleasant [situation] for someone who is a people pleaser. I can’t imagine why anyone would want that. It just doesn’t seem fun.”

At this point, Dax just talks a lot about his experiences with threesomes, as Dax is wont to do. “That’s not my path,” Glass says, admitting to some insecurities. “I feel like if I can convince someone to super like me, and the lights are really low, I’m OK.”

And here’s where he talks about his marriage, about being with Anaheed Alani for 20 years (and married for about 10). Dax asked him if, with the fame of This American Life, he had offers that “he really wasn’t entitled to have,” and Glass sort of dismisses that idea. “For me, it was simpler. Knowing I had a partner it was nice to be like, ‘This is fine. This is off the table.’”

“There wasn’t like a high school kid in you that’s going like, ‘Oh wait. The cheerleader likes me?’” Shepard asks.

Glass responds bashfully, “I mean, my wife was really good looking. I didn’t have any leftover feelings like that … it was a relief not to [be interested in other people]. In a way, it kind of opens you up to somebody when you know that nothing is ever going to happen. It opens you up to a super safe [environment] talking to someone who is charming and attractive cause you’ve already decided, ‘I’m just not interested.’ It’s freeing.’”

And then Ira talks about how weird it is to date now. “I’m not sure how much I can talk about this because I am so like in the world of this, but it’s confusing to know [about when you want to commit to someone] because it turns out there are a lot of people who I think it’s possible to get close enough to that you want to sleep with and it’s fun to hang around with and then it’s really hard to evaluate whether you want to stay with them.”

“And honestly, when it started to get bad in my marriage and I started thinking about what it would be like to be with someone else, I had such a clear picture of it in my head and I haven’t met anyone like that at all. I just figured it would be like another reporter or a peer my own age … but it’s no one like that. And I have to sort of push away that picture and just be like, I dunno. I truthfully feel new to this. I mean, I was really not unhappy with the idea of being with someone until we’re dead.”

… and then the podcast switched to talk about This American Life and it is very good and you should definitely listen to it, but these little revelations about the inner life of Ira Glass are few and far between the rest of the way. But from what I can extrapolate from Ira Glass in this podcast is that he remains a very good guy, that he was very fond of his wife even as his marriage crumbled, and that he finds dating hard and confusing and I get the idea that he’d secretly rather be mixing another episode of TAL than go on another date.



Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.



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