In honour of This American Life turning 500, my favourites…

If you’ve asked asked me (or twitter generally in my reading) for a podcast recommendation, then the only reason I won’t have recommended This American Life is that I know you already listen to it. The show recently aired it’s 500th episode, which was a delightful trip down some of the producers’ own personal highlights.

My personal favourite of their personal favourites was just under halfway – where Sarah Koenig is talking about Ira Glass’s ability to connect and share with, and draw out more from his interviewees. She’s so right that it’s one of the things that makes him such a great interviewer and so easy to connect with as a listener (one of the others being his voice, Ira Glass has great radio voice).

Anyway, the whole thing made me think about which episodes I would list in my favourite episodes…

(1) I came to TAL through David Sedaris, so it only seems right to start with my favourites of him:
* Christmas and Commerce (feat. the Santaland Diaries).
* A Very Special Sedaris Christmas (possibly the first episode I listened to, fully, very early in 2010).
* Americans in Paris (in which Ira visits David in Paris, and their interaction is delightful).

(2) Two of my favourite people:
* Return to the Scene of the Crime (Joss Whedon sings some of the Doctor Horrible Commentary).
* Character Assassination (feat. David Foster Wallace on the campaign trail with John McCain in 2000 – which would become Up, Simba).

(3) Uncategorisably Awesome
* What I Learned from Television (I love TV, and I find Ira’s admission that he used to sing along to The OC’s theme tune particularly adorkable).
* Stories Pitched By Our Parents (the 400th episode, in which the writers try and produce stories from ideas from their parents: includes a song about the Eerie Canal).
* Poultry Slam 2003 (Thanksgiving is the festival I would most like to steal, and the story of Ducky is a treat).
* The House on Loon Lake (one episode with one, amazing, story).
* The Psychopath Test (Jon Ronson features a part of his book, and the TAL team take a psychopath test).

(4) Understand the World Today a bit better:
* The Invention of Money (Is money really real?)
* Toxie (Babysitting a toxic asset)
* Continental Breakup (The European Debt Crisis)

(5) Other Amazing Journalism:
* Harper High School Part One and Part Two (two hours covering five months in a Chicago school).
* Retraction (how to apologise when you’ve got something wrong).
* Very Tough Love (Reporting on a drug court programme going very wrong…)

Happy listening.


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