July 12, 2013


To celebrate our 500th episode, Ira asked the producers of This American Life to talk about their very favorite moments on the show. Some chose stories that've been more or less forgotten for years; others chose just one line of script, or a segment that secretly made them cry. So for our 500th, we bring you the best of This American Life — the way we've been hearing it, behind the scenes, all these years.

Adrianne Mathiowetz


Ira Glass talks with Senior Producer Julie Snyder about how it feels to get to the 500th episode. And he explains what we're doing on today's show: the producers of the program are picking their favorite moments from the previous 499 shows, which tend to be very different sorts of moments than listeners choose. (2 minutes)
Act One

Act One

Julie Snyder talks about a favorite passage from Sarah Vowell's story in episode 107: Trail of Tears. Then she talks about Alex Blumberg's interview with Griffin Hansbury in episode 220: Testosterone.

Robyn Semien talks about Ira's interview with Denise Moore, who was trapped in the New Orleans Convention Center after Hurricane Katrina. That interview was in episode 296: After the Flood.

Nancy Updike picked John Hodgman's story about trying to write a screenplay for a movie that already existed, from episode 232: The Real Story.

Then Sarah Koenig talks about Nancy's writing in episode 266: I’m from the Private Sector and I’m Here to Help, about military contractors in Iraq. Sarah also talks about Josh Bearman's story about his mom and brother, from episode 334: Duty Calls.

And about Ira's interview with Tami Sagher in episode 314: It’s Never Over.

(29 minutes)

Act Two

Act Two

Several producers talked about the first stories they ever heard on the show, before they worked here. Former producer Jonathan Goldstein, now host of WireTap, remembers the prologue to episode 27: The Cruelty of Children.

Then producer Brian Reed talks about the first time he heard the show, when Ira spoke at his college and played a story by Jack Hitt from episode 188: Kid Logic.

Alex Blumberg talks about an early story by Adam Davidson, Alex's current colleague at Planet Money, from episode 94: How To. The story is about Adam trying to figure out how much his life would be worth, if he died in an accident.

At the end of the show, Ira talks about his own favorite episodes. Some of his favorites are also listener favorites, like Notes on Camp, Somewhere In The Arabian Sea, Harper High School Parts One and Two, Switched at Birth, Dr. Gilmer and Mr. Hyde, Starlee Kine's story from Break-Up, The Giant Pool of Money, and the episode about Harold Washington. But a lot of Ira's favorites are shows he likes for admittedly selfish reasons, when the experience of making the story just meant a lot to him — like the episode we did about David Rakoff after David died, the episode where Ira hung out in Paris with David Sedaris, the one where we tried to recreate the original recipe for Coca-Cola, or when Ira got to go to a Medieval Times restaurant with a noted medieval scholar, or talk with lots and lots of people in Georgia about a small town judge who had been accused of wrongdoing and eventually stepped down. Surprisingly, in the early years the show also helped Ira bond with his mom and dad, who had been skeptical about his choice to go into public radio.

Our 500th episode ends with Julie Snyder talking about the only story that still makes her cry, no matter how many times she hears it, from episode 241: 20 Acts in 60 Minutes:

(27 minutes)


“This American Life” by Matt Poss & The Wild Bunch