The 15 Best ‘This American Life’ Episodes (So Far)

It was nearly 20 years ago that Ira Glass, a Chicago public radio host, launched a unique radio show with a magazine format, in which various stories (or “acts”) with an interconnected theme were provided by reporters, storytellers, commentators, and the like. Originally titled Your Radio Playhouse, Glass changed the title shortly before the show was picked up for nationwide syndication to This American Life. And this Sunday, This American Life airs its 500th episode. In honor of the occasion, Flavorwire has (with great difficulty and discussion) selected the show’s 15 best episodes to date. (Maybe. They’ll probably be 15 completely different ones tomorrow.)


#47: “Christmas and Commerce”
Original broadcast date: 12/20/96

TAL’s holiday episodes are always wonderful, from the annual “Poultry Slams” for Thanksgiving to the scary storytelling of their Halloween shows to the frequently heartbreaking Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day editions. And from the show’s early days, it has served as a showcase for the talents of the two Davids, Sedaris and Rakoff. Both of those elements come together in this early episode, which features a full performance of Sedaris’s wonderful “Santaland Diaries” (which Glass had recorded, in a much shorter version, for NPR before TAL’s inception) as well as Rakoff’s uproarious “Christmas Freud” story. (For more Sedaris holiday goodness, check out “A Very Special Sedaris Christmas”; for more Rakoff, don’t miss the late writer’s lovely tribute episode, “Our Friend David.”)