April 25, 1997

Fiasco! (1997)

Stories of when things go wrong. Really wrong. When you leave the normal realm of human error, fumble, mishap, and mistake and enter the territory of really huge breakdowns. Fiascos. Things go so awry that normal social order collapses. This week's show is a philosophical inquiry in the nature of fiascos — perhaps the first ever.

Chris Ware

Act One

Opening Night

Writer Jack Hitt tells the story of a small town production of Peter Pan, in which the flying apparatus smacks the actors into the furniture, and Captain Hook's hook flies off his arm and hits an old woman in the stomach. By the end of the evening, firemen have arrived and all the normal boundaries between audience and actors have completely dissolved. (23 minutes)
Act Two

What We Wanted To Do

A medieval village, a 1900-pound brass kettle, marauding visigoths, and a plan to drench invaders with boiling oil that goes awry. From Ron Carlson's book The Hotel Eden, read by Chicago actor Jeff Dorchen. (10 minutes)


“Journey Begins” by Medieval Times: Dinner and Tournament Original Soundtrack
Act Three

Car Wars

Wisconsin Public Radio wanted to do something simple: start running Car Talk, the most popular single hour on public radio. But to do this, they had to move their local car show, About Cars, from the morning to the afternoon. The host of About Cars was so upset about this — and what he felt was mistreatment in the past — that he not only refused to move, he started a monthly newsletter about it and organized a public rally. Fifteen hundred people wrote angry letters; 126 swore they'd never give to Wisconsin Public Radio again. The State Legislature got involved. They conducted an audit, which took months. There were hearings. One definition of a fiasco is when something simple and small turns horribly large, and this event fits the bill. We hear from all aggrieved parties, including the Car Talk guys — Tom and Ray Maggliozi. (15 minutes)
Act Four

Fiascos As A Force For Good

Journalist Margy Rochlin on her first big assignment to do a celebrity interview. It was 1982. The interviewee was Moon Unit Zappa, who had just released "Valley Girl" with her father, Frank. She'd only been interviewed once. Midway through the interview: fiasco! Margy chokes on some coffee, which pumps out of her nose. Moon's mother administers the Heimlich Maneuver. And after that, everyone's so relaxed that Margy gets an interview that becomes her first syndicated article and a big scoop for her paper. When a fiasco destroys social boundaries, it can bring people together. (7 minutes)