This American Life
July 2, 2005 8:06 AM   Subscribe

What are your favorite This American Life Episodes?

I'm making CDs of This American Life episodes for car trips, and I'm interested in what episodes you guys have really enjoyed. I already have Notes on Camp, Godless America, Allure of the Mean Friend, and Act V, which have been some past favorites of mine. What else is good?
posted by Who_Am_I to Media & Arts (45 answers total) 74 users marked this as a favorite
Fiasco!, The Fix Is In, Conventions, Voter Fraud, Promised Land, Cruelty of Children, and My Experimental Phase, in that order. (I, too, listen on car trips. I've amassed 69 hours of TAL in MP3 format.)

I wish somebody would put together a listing of the songs most often used in TAL. The same bits are used over and over. Though some of them are just texture and beat, several are quite wonderful. I just can't identify them.
posted by waldo at 8:38 AM on July 2, 2005

Fiasco! is truly one of the best radio broadcasts ever. Cringe is also very good.
posted by Falconetti at 8:49 AM on July 2, 2005

I love This American Life. This is not a definitive list, but among those episodes I love are:

Mind Games (2005)
Apology (2004)
Swing Set (2004)
My Experimental Phase (2004) !
Desparate Measures (2004)
What is This Thing? (2003)
Sucker (2002)
Testosterone (2002) !
Plan B (2002)
Kid Logic (2001)
Cring (2001)
posted by curtm at 8:53 AM on July 2, 2005

Running After Antelope, Sissies, Fiasco!, The Cruelty of Children, First Day, How to Win Friends and Influence People, and Mapping, in no particular order.

I particularly like Scott Carrier's pieces.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 8:56 AM on July 2, 2005

Running After Antelope.

On preview: Jinx, Felicity.
posted by gwint at 8:57 AM on July 2, 2005

What I Should Have Said.

"Silly jonny, silly jonny."
posted by bitpart at 9:07 AM on July 2, 2005

The House on Loon Lake
Who's Canadian?
And the one where they visit an aircraft carrier bound for the Persian Gulf... can't recall the title.

Incidentally Scott Carrier's book by the same title Running After Antelope is a good read.
posted by scarabic at 9:22 AM on July 2, 2005

My Experimental Phase and The Fix Is In.

It was mentioned on Boing Boing a while ago that you download the actual TAL realaudio file by using a link like this:

Replace 268 with your favorite episode number. This makes it possible to listen to TAL on the train :)
posted by rajbot at 9:23 AM on July 2, 2005

Fiasco and Conventions and the Cruelty of Children are the most memorable ones for me.

how can I get these as mp3s?

On preview, thanks rajbot!
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:25 AM on July 2, 2005

House on Loon Lake by a mile. I've heard that show about six times and it still haunts me.
posted by mwhybark at 9:28 AM on July 2, 2005

I'll second -- on preview THIRD -- "Loon Lake" -- I get goosebumps just thinking about that episode. I've made copies for roadtripping friends and everyone loves it.
posted by kittyb at 9:29 AM on July 2, 2005

Another vote for "My Experimental Phase" -- the firstlong segment about the Hassidic Glam Rocker is fantastic. Also, "Lost in America is really really really good.
posted by .kobayashi. at 9:47 AM on July 2, 2005

Response by poster: how can I get these as mp3s?

It's kind of ghetto, but I use Total Audio Recorder to record them in real time as they play through Media Player Classic. Converting the .rm files from rajbot's method is probably easier though.
posted by Who_Am_I at 9:49 AM on July 2, 2005

Here's the TAL staff's list of their own favorites.
posted by Nelson at 10:08 AM on July 2, 2005

Dammit, you've already mentioned all my favourites!

OTOH, I can't believe no-one has mentioned Geekymedia yet.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:16 AM on July 2, 2005

I haven't heard a ton of episodes (I need to make some cds of my own..), but I like Mind Games (286, '05), The Middle of Nowhere (253, '03), and the first act of You Are So Beautiful to Me (228, '03).
posted by jetskiaccidents at 10:32 AM on July 2, 2005

anyone know of a free rm to mp3 converter?
posted by CunningLinguist at 10:35 AM on July 2, 2005

Wow. This is a fantastic question, and like others I am a *tremendous* TAL fan.

Bar none, the funniest TAL show has to be First Day - Squirrel Cop. A story about a rookie cop, his first day and a... squirrel.

Very, very, very funny. It will have you in tears. If you listen to none, listen to this one (I will have more later...)
posted by gnash at 10:44 AM on July 2, 2005

waldo, the TAL site does in fact keep a listing of songs they've used as scoring, over and over again. There are samples of the songs, too, so you can properly suss out the familiar ones.
posted by Tufa at 10:45 AM on July 2, 2005

missed goodnewsfortheinsane's post. double thanks!

Another vote for Squirrel Cop. I got the CD as a Christmas present and played it driving home and almost went off the road I was laughing so hard.
posted by CunningLinguist at 10:48 AM on July 2, 2005

"how can I get these as mp3s?" is one way. Using Streamripper on a schedule with KCRW is another. Bittorrent is yet another. Personally, I use a homebrew app for all my conversion needs, but it's not quite polished enough for primetime.

My favorite episodes:
My Pen Pal
The Middle of Nowhere
The Facts Don't Matter
Perfect Evidence
House on Loon Lake
Teenage Embed, Part One
Teenage Embed Part Two
Enemy Camp
Adventures in the Simple Life
posted by Manjusri at 10:52 AM on July 2, 2005

Simulated Worlds, mainly for Act Three, in which Ira takes a scholar of the Middle Ages to dinner at Medieval Times:

"Did he just say King of the JEWS?!"
posted by Tufa at 11:06 AM on July 2, 2005

Slightly OT: Some of you might want to contact my pal Jared who has some helpful information if you're converting TAL to MP3 including a tab delimited list of every episode and some other tips.
posted by jessamyn at 11:06 AM on July 2, 2005

How To, which includes a story called Roadrunner, in which Ira teaches Sarah Vowell how to drive a car. We get a glimpse of the real Ira and Sarah as the stress of the situation breaks down their radio personas.
posted by booth at 11:59 AM on July 2, 2005

The episode where David Sedaris sings "I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony" à la Lena Horne.
posted by azul at 12:02 PM on July 2, 2005

In no particular order,
  • Love Thy Neighbor
  • Ask the Expert
  • Before it Had a Name
  • Music Lessons
  • Sinatra
  • Harold Washington
  • Why Did You Do That?
  • Who's Canadian
  • Welcome to America
  • Berzerker
  • Wacky
  • Compulsive Liars
  • Godless America
  • the Real Thing
  • Family Legends
  • To Win Friends and Influence People
  • On Horse across America
and the ones where:
  • they compared the testosterone levels of various men associated w/ TAL
  • they were on the aircraft carrier Stennis
  • Spaulding Gray did "Slippery Slope" (which they don't archive)
...and anything by Scott Carrier, David Sedaris, Sarah Vowell, or David Rakoff .
posted by Rash at 1:15 PM on July 2, 2005

I think that testosterone thing was part of an annual fund drive program.
posted by Rash at 1:17 PM on July 2, 2005

Does anyone have an estimate of how many words long the average This American Life "act" is?
posted by interrobang at 1:31 PM on July 2, 2005

I loved Act One of "Something for Nothing," which was about the documentary Hands on a Hardbody.

"You're standin' next to the Devil . . . And you're on the road to Hell."
posted by ijoshua at 1:48 PM on July 2, 2005

I'm surprised no one's mentioned Monogamy (my personal favorite, I think), Pray and 81 Words. I have to second Enemy Camp, especially for the first act when James Fallows grills Richard Perle about the collossal bungling of the war in Iraq. David Rakoff's reading of his story "Before and After Science" in the first act of Family Business makes me do the milk-nose thing. For those who think "House on Loon Lake" is the scariest TAL episode, Perfect Evidence is much, much scarier. Believe me. Especially the last word of Act One. Shudder. Talk about the mundane face of evil.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 2:47 PM on July 2, 2005 [1 favorite]

Sarah Vowell's piece on Johnny Cash and June Carter (9/19/03, ep. 247) is gorgeous.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 3:51 PM on July 2, 2005

A few people have mentioned this one - Conventions (about middle of the page). A story from John Perry Barlow (EFF foundation - Grateful Dead guy) about a serendipitously meeting the woman who quickly became the love of his life and the tragedy of it ending all too soon.

About the saddest story I've ever heard.
posted by gnash at 5:17 PM on July 2, 2005

Today's (Reunited) is very good.
posted by cowmix at 5:28 PM on July 2, 2005

And another for House on Loon Lake.
posted by dial-tone at 5:32 PM on July 2, 2005

Recordings for Someone - the standout is the last act, featuring the world's greatest answering machine message.
posted by killy willy at 6:14 PM on July 2, 2005

Pst! Azul! It's not Lena Horn, it's Billie Holiday.
posted by Space Kitty at 9:42 PM on July 2, 2005

running tally with fairly wide margin of error -- mostly for my own convenience, since i wouldn't mind checking these out myself

6 - House on Loon Lake
4 - Fiasco!
4 - My Experimental Phase
3 - Conventions
3 - Cruelty of Children
3 - First Day
2 - Cringe
2 - Enemy Camp
2 - Family Legends
2 - Fix Is In
2 - Godless America
2 - How to Win Friends and Influence People
2 - Mapping
2 - Middle of Nowhere
2 - Mind Games
2 - Perfect Evidence
2 - Running After Antelope
2 - What is This Thing?

posted by jimmy at 11:46 PM on July 2, 2005 [1 favorite]

Also, Sarah Vowell's description of her obsession with the Godfather movie in the ep called "Mob" is a particular favorite that this thread inspired me to go listen to again.
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:28 AM on July 3, 2005 [1 favorite]

Today's (Reunited) is very good.

It was good. There was something charming about the way the Iranian father said "Mens are from Mars and Women are from Venice" that just made that whole piece feel right.
posted by Mo Nickels at 12:29 PM on July 3, 2005

I just listened to "The House on Loon Lake" based on the recommendations here, and it's amazing. Chilling. Funny. Mysterious. Wonderful.
posted by .kobayashi. at 9:55 AM on July 4, 2005

Hands down, the best episode is 81 Words, a facinating story told by Alix Spiegel, the grand-daughter of a closeted gay psychiatrist in the 70's and the President-elect of the APA at the time it declared homosexuality was not a disease.
posted by pwb503 at 12:12 PM on July 4, 2005

Well, this blows.

And I was waiting til today to download a few eps on the fast work machine too.

posted by CunningLinguist at 8:36 AM on July 5, 2005

Cunninglinguist: Yeah, me too. This is why we can't have nice things.
posted by .kobayashi. at 8:45 AM on July 5, 2005

Could maybe some of the people who did get some of the nice things share?
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:53 AM on July 5, 2005

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