Amuse Yourself

Ira Glass

I was fortunate to meet Ira Glass at a question-and-answer session for journalism and communication students before his public talk in Portland Sunday.

The students’ questions were, in a word, wonderful, and Glass nimbly answered with unrehearsed charm.

His advice to students was to find a profession where they could be amused. The secret, he said, was to discover something that keeps you interested; that keeps you amused.

When I discover myself complaining about difficult people my honey reminds me that they are here for my amusement.

His advice is like the old saw that public speaking teachers tell their students: “Imagine your audience is naked.” That is supposed to remove the jitters.

Truth is, I just can’t imagine an auditorium full of naked people. Nor do I think that folks with whom I work are here to amuse me.

Instead I take my lead from the French. In their language, the verb amuse is self-reflexive. Rather than saying, “You amuse me,” or “I’m amused,” the French say “Je m’amuse,” or “I amuse myself.”

So the secret from my view is to discover how to amuse oneself, rather than giving someone else that task.

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About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. She is enrolled with the Osage tribe.
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