Elna Baker - writer, storyteller, performer, comedian and author of the 2010 memoir, “The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance.”
You may have heard her tell stories on the Moth, TAL, among other places
On top of telling and producing stories for This American Life for six years, she’s also on the staff of the show. I’m not sure exactly what her title is, but it’s along the lines of producer, consultant, comedian. We talk about that a bit.
We’ve met a few times through NYC comedy-world friends. Earlier this year we ended up having dinner with a group of friends after a show at the NY Podcast Festival. I found myself sitting across from Elna, and her This American Life boss, Ira Glass, and while Ira was uninterested, at best, when I found my way around to talking about my podcast - something to the effect of “Why would anyone want to listen to famous people talk about fame” - I clarified that it wasn’t just famous people talking about it, point is, Ira was clearly never going to be a listener, let alone a guest, Elna, perhaps out of politeness, seemed genuinely interested in the topic. And now, here she is.
It’s especially gracious and trusting of Elna, of anyone involved with a show like TAL, to come on a show that’s all about lengthy, free-form conversations, because it’s pretty much the opposite of what they do over at TAL, which is to make beautiful, challenging, highly produced-polished little gems of thought and storytelling. We talked about some of her recurring themes in her work - family, sex, Mormonism and her leaving it, her 100-pound weight loss and the accompanying change in self-and-others-perception, of course, all filtered through the lens of fame.
We also ended up revisiting a live show Elna and colleagues put on six years ago at the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival that featured Ira Glass, Rachel Maddow, John Hodgman and a slew of others.
That evening isn’t available on the internet, or anywhere, that lives on only in infamous legend, which I am proud to have a small part in keeping alive. It was called “The Drunk Show,” and … well, you’ll hear about it.
We talked on the phone on a Friday evening in early October.
Find Elna telling stories at http://elnabaker.website
Find us at 15minutesjamieberger.com