Sunday, March 1, 2009

They Might Be Giants, Part II: John and John and Ira and Sarah

So my friend from undergrad and I were talking, before the concert began (he would have gotten tickets too, but they were all sold out) about TMBG, which we both liked, and This American Life, which we both liked, and how interesting it was that John and John regularly, like, hung out with Ira and Sarah and David and the whole This American Life crew.

"It's weird that they're all friends in real life," he said, "and that they've got the same group of fans."

I disagreed; it made sense that people who liked each other would have creative enterprises which might attract the same audience. Here was what was weirder:

"They all turn fifty years old this year," I told him.

(This, btw, is not completely true. Ira Glass turns 50 on Tuesday. John Linnell will be turning 49 this year, and John Flansburgh will only be turning 48.)

What makes this "weird" is that this is a group of people (the whole TMBG/TAL/David Sedaris/Daily Show crowd) whose fan base is predominantly, though not exclusively, made up of people in their 20s and 30s. So to be all Malcolm Gladwell about it (Gladwell, of course, is also part of this group of real-life friends): what happened in 1959/1960 that caused a particular set of experiences that caused a group of individuals to form creative enterprises which, though unbeknownst to each other, created similar fan bases of people a generation younger; and then, when Glass's intern introduced him to TMBG in 1998, how coincidental was it that Ira, who had not yet heard of John or John, met them and befriended them and helped promote their music? And then John and John in turn helped promote Ira's show? And then John and John met Jon Stewart and helped promote his show?

My friend-from-undergrad and I agreed that it didn't seem fair; that in some imagined apartment in NYC John and John and Ira and Sarah were all pouring drinks for each other and sitting on a couch with their shoes off having a good time and sharing all of these influential ideas with each other. And what was even less fair was that they were our parents' age so they were never, ever, going to think we were cool enough to hang with them.

"Do you think it's the same kind of thing like when we were kids?" I asked him. "Like how we were in junior high and we idolized the high-schoolers? Is that why we like them all so much?"

And then:

"Do you think we can be that cool when we're fifty years old?"

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