For me, what sets Carrier's stories apart form the other segment producers, writers and reporters on This American Life is his strangeness. His slow, careful way of talking and his high pitched voice make his segments on the show seem somewhat tense. Enhancing that feeling is the fact that his pieces are often quite personal in nature and punctuated with details of what seems like a uneasy life. For example, his latest appearance on the show, in the episode "Good Guys", he talks about his wife leaving him after an episode where he tore the walls out of the house with out warning.
But it's exactly this intensity and personal detail in his work that I find so compelling. Along with the slight uncomfortable feeling of hearing such details broadcast publicly, Carrier's humanity is really what shines through in all of his work, albeit in a slightly strange, other-worldly way. You feel that he really cares about the subjects he's talking about and the people he's talking too. There's a dry humor to his work as well. Often I feel, listening to his stories and his delivery, that I get some of the jokes in the work but not all of them. That some of the jokes are maybe just for Scott. Part of what keeps me listening is the hope that I maybe, later, understand a few more of them.
That's why his new podcast, and the first show dedicated solely to Carrier's work, Home Of The Brave is so interesting to listen to. Carrier is a man who at various stages in his life has always carried a tape recorder with him and each episode contains some of those recordings together with some narrative context. Whether it's a conversation with an old friend, interviews with people about the end of the world or a compilation of various fascinating recordings from around his neighborhood, the show invariably makes for compelling listening. Carrier has a great skill for capturing people on tape. His recordings are so evocative and well assembled that you get an almost complete sense of who the people he's talking to are. People seem compelled to talk to him and open up in a way they wouldn't to most men with a microphone.
The website for the show is almost a perfect visual representation of the show. Simple and spare on details, but containing all you need to get a perfect sense of what's going on. Carrier's, frankly brilliant, photographs accompany a simple audio player for each episode of the show. A perfect example of the dry humor I mentioned earlier is the promotional video on the "about" page. It's one minute and nineteen seconds of Carrier and his dog in the car, listening and occasionally barking along to "Television Man" by Talking Heads. That's it.
Augi Bear from Scott Carrier on Vimeo.
Home Of The Brave is the work of a man who has very thoughtfully and skillfully recorded and presented his interest in the world and people around him. The show is full of quirks and idiosyncrasies, but so is the world and so are people, so in that way, it's a perfect representation.