Arts & Culture

The Ira Glass Infatuation Post/ This American Life Review: Tough Room

Ira Glass takes us to the Tough Room, environments of high pressure caliber in the everyday. Read More

By / February 9, 2011
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Ira takes us to the Tough Room, environments of high pressure caliber in the everyday. Beginning with the cliche Thanksgiving dinner setting in which every interaction is a ticking bomb, the Ohm family proves not as meditative as their name after a terrorist’s sexy factor is considered and army dad loses his shit. It’s a pretty clutch prologue that does a good job getting the laughs going before we walk into a room full of comedians trying to brutally impress each other with their one-liners.

Act 1: Thirsty mayor drinks the whole town’s water supply

At the Onion headquarters, their filter is better than Brita, knocking out the boring.  It’s surprising to hear how attached the writers are to their proposed headlines that fall victim to their “academic precision that they are proud of.” I had heard of Todd Hanson, one of the paper’s founding fathers, from a Chicago Trib editor who talked about his old buddy like he was an engineer in a garage. I can’t help but picture Hanson on Bloomberg radio proclaiming, “If you can’t find something legitimate to say within the context of the joke, no matter how silly it is, I don’t see the point of it.” The conversation with the staff reveals that the fruit of the joke resides in the top-heavy titles, where if Pam Anderson were an Onion story, her rack would be the headline.

Act 2: These grown ups sitting there drinking wine tumbled off their white couch laughing, and I felt like a superstar

The star of the act is a girl destined to be a raggedy barfly. Rosie Schaap is our very own TALian Hailee Steinfeld who finds a niche among the older crowds on the train she frequented to get to therapy in the city, a crowd she gelled with via tarot divination bartered for beer. I was especially all hers as she recalled, ”The next week, after therapy, my fortune telling for alcohol scheme began in earnest.” Let’s just ignore the probability that her shrink is not hearing about these scenarios at their sessions.

Act 3: Le livre de Mormon? Au revoir!

The sounds of Mormons selling Mormonism to Manhattanites intermingles with the classic TAL organ tunage, highlighting the bad pitches being thrown around more vigorously than I had to throw at my first job out of college selling babies on the street. Their numbers, 3-4 newcomers at the church each week, are about the same as those I was responsible for at the nonprofit. That these boys did not seem to display any signs of the marked misanthropia for the hundreds of pedestrians so quick to say no is a true sign of deeper love of man than I was able to muster up for my fellow Chicagoans who wouldn’t consider for a minute helping undernourished children abroad. I hated them, and I hated my job. Say what you will about the Mormons, but I am certain that these gentlemen were right in their absolute conviction in their positive response to Jane Feltes’, “Are these skills you’re going to bring to your career?” Their ability to handle intense levels of frigid rejection in stride and to move on to the next good idea gives them a one-up even on some Onion writers.

Act 4: My name is Brett, and I cry over movies on airplanes.

GQ’s Brett Martin highlights the experiences of various high fliers whose tears hit it hard in the box in the air. His articulate description of the “sterile infantalizing travel purgatory” sums up perfectly the state that holds us captive and makes us vulnerable to the elements of B movies and other media. Yo, it was hard enough dealing with the baby to my right on my last flight, not to mention the dude in headphones sobbing on my left shoulder. This life, man.