Listeners of the popular NPR program Snap Judgment, recognize its host for his wildly expressive delivery and the show's emphasis on "storytelling with a beat."
Glynn Washington likens his job to that of a ringleader of a circus and his show as walking on a cultural tightrope of class, gender and race.
“Glynn, you've said the mission of Snap Judgment is to let people wear someone else's skin.”
“That's right. The only way I know to put someone in someone else's experience, is through storytelling. I think, especially in this live show, you get to inhabit someone else's experience in a way that you never have before. Oftentimes when we do the regular show, we'll talk to someone maybe four or five hours and that four or five hour interview will become the basis of a 10 minute story. But we flip the script when we do Snap Judgment Live and it's this alchemy between the storyteller, the band and the audience, that really creates this magic that puts you in their experience.”
“Well with the radio show, you have the benefit of writing and rewriting and perfecting it. But with the live show, you get one shot.”
“Right. You're walking a tight rope and we’ll be walking an even tighter rope in Tampa because the audience will see all new stories and hear all new music. It's one of those things where, yeah, people are going to be very nervous, wanting to get it right for you. But it's not something we've ever done before.”
“Can you give us a bit of a sneak peek?”
“Well, I'm going to give you a little taste. We're bringing the very the cream of the Snap Judgment crop. One of the very first viral stories that we ever did on Snap Judgment was by a young man by the name of Jamie DeWolf who is the great- grandson of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. And he comes back now with an original piece that is just a completely different examination into the world that is Jamie DeWolf. And, we are bringing the funniest person on the planet whose name happens to be Jen Kober. I can't wait for you to hear her. I can't even look at her without laughing anymore. We have this amazing funky, soulful band Bells Atlas, and no Snap show would be complete without the closer, James Judd. It’s going to make you laugh, make you cry and make you laugh some more.”
“Of course the slogan for Snap Judgment is storytelling with a beat. Why is music and sound so important to the storytelling?”
"Well the whole idea of Snap is to tell a story and cut out all the boring parts. In order for us to drop listeners right into the experience of someone else's life, we need to give some clues, some cues, and some context. And we found that rather than just a bunch of boring talk, sometimes that's better done through sound. It's not even just music, silences are just as important. You might hear a scream, a song, a bird, a voice. Whatever it is that we think is going to really help put you in the emotional heart of the story.”
“Now if someone wanted to pitch a story idea to Snap Judgment, you actually have a very handy flowchart on your website about what makes a great story. One of the things you say is that every line of the story must be considered with the ending in mind.”
“Any good storyteller knows where they're going, and you tell stories different ways. No storyteller tells a story the same way. We're not reading scripts, but you know where you're going. You're building an edifice, and if you don't have that sort of basic foundation, a fundamental tenet of where you're trying to go, oftentimes the entire thing will fall apart. And so it's important to have that focus to know where you are going.”
“At the end of each episode of your show, it always ends with some kind of variation on the theme that, ‘this is not the news. No way is this news.’ But I think it’s fair to say that Snap storytelling gets at a different type of truth.”
“Yeah. We want the show to be as smart as anything that you'll hear anywhere. But we also want to have a show that hits at the heart. A while ago, I was watching Crossfire and you have these two morons braying at each other. I got to thinking, you know, no one's ever changed their mind from watching this spectacle. But often times I know that people do change their mind, or have a change of perspective from hearing someone else's story, and we want to be a show that can take you there. A storyteller might not be trying to convince you of anything except for ‘this is what happened to me,’ and just that act can change someone else's world.”
“Do you and your producers have in mind who your listeners are?”
“Ah, the best people in the world. The people who really want to understand and want to reach across and get in someone else's head. People who see that we as a people need to be doing more of that. Those are the people who we are making stories for.”