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'This American Life' Releases Live Show Video 'The Invisible Made Visible' Directly to Fans

Radio you can watch – that’s the idea.

Full cast of "The Invisible Made Visible."  Photo by Adrianne Mathiowetz

On November 15th, 2012, the public radio show This American Life will release a video of a two-hour episode entitled “The Invisible Made Visible.” Fans can download or stream the video for $5 at live.thisamericanlife.org with proceeds going directly to the show. It will also be released on DVD, exclusively via the show’s web store.

“The Invisible Made Visible” was originally performed onstage and broadcast live into movie theaters in May, 2012, to over 70,000 people across the U.S., Canada and Australia. Now the rest of the show’s 1.8 million radio listeners and 750,000 podcast subscribers will have a chance to see it. The download is available worldwide.

Host Ira Glass personally curated the show. “The whole point,” he says “was to do stories that are far too visual to ever be on the radio.”

David Rakoff. Photo by: Adrianne Mathiowetz

The result is a mix of animation, live dance from Monica Bill Barnes & Company, a short film by Mike Birbiglia starring Fresh Air’s Terry Gross, a classic This American Life story (told by Glass) that’s primarily visual, about street photographer Vivian Meier, plus comic monologues by David Sedaris, Glynn Washington, and Ryan Knighton. Comedian Tig Notaro tells a now-famous story about repeatedly running into 80s pop star Taylor Dayne. Rock band OK Go provides music. It’s all performed in front of changing illustrated backgrounds.

Probably the most memorable moment in the episode comes during a story by longtime This American Life contributor David Rakoff. He talks about the abilities he’s lost during his fight with cancer, and then, gracefully, beautifully, does a solo dance onstage. It was the last story Rakoff ever wrote for the radio show. He died three months later, in August.

A unique component of the show is a custom mobile app (for iPhone and Android) developed with OK Go, that allows the audience to play along with the band on digital hand bells, following animated cues. For the streaming version of the show, a web version of the app will automatically appear on screen.

To distribute “The Invisible Made Visible,” This American Life has partnered with VHX, a platform for direct online video release used by comedians and independent filmmakers. The show costs $5 to download and stream, DRM-free. Fans who opt in to pay any amount above $5 will receive exclusive online access to a Q&A video with the cast and crew. The DVD costs $16 at the show’s web store, and includes the Q&A as a bonus feature.