This American Life Celebrates Its 500th Episode; Take The TAL Quiz!

Jul 12, 2013

Ira Glass and the This American Life producers celebrate their 500th episode this weekend.
Credit Adrianne Mathiowetz

UPDATE: Hear Episode #500 on the TAL website.

If you are a This American Life listener, get ready to celebrate. The popular radio show is reaching a milestone this weekend, broadcasting its 500th episode. To celebrate, Ira asked each of the show’s producers to recall their favorite moment—whether that be a single phrase or an entire story—and talk about that moment during a special, behind-the-scenes, “best-of” episode airing this weekend.

WUNC began airing This American Life early in the show’s history and has broadcast all 499 episodes. You can hear it on WUNC at 7:00 pm on Fridays and 1:00 p.m. on Saturdays. Here’s a sneak preview of Episode #500.

Want to test your This American Life knowledge? Take our This American Life Quiz!

And here's a note from Ira Glass about his favorite shows:

With our 500th show approaching, people keep asking me about my favorite episodes over the years.  Here’s a short list.

Notes on Camp


Harper High School One and Two


The Giant Pool of Money

Somewhere in the Arabian Sea – I love how funny and human-sized everyone is in this show.  It’s a surprisingly funny show about the war on terror.

Switched at Birth – the structure of this show – where the whole episode you wonder how a mom could know for decades she was raising the wrong baby and finally, she answers it in the end – is perfect.


Break-Up – The standout story is Starlee Kine’s essay on breakup songs, which includes an interview with Phil Collins that’s so menschy and real, it changed how I saw him forever.


Babysitting – especially the interview with Myron Jones, which is the best interview I’ve ever done, mainly because he had so much grace and humor talking about his past.  Any question I could think of, he’d come back with an amazing story, which is rare.


My Big Break – David Segal takes a turn in the middle of this story that’s one of my favorite reveals in any radio story ever.


Harold Washington – How can you go wrong when the central figure in your story is funny and cantankerous and bighearted and idealistic and utterly pragmatic and on top of all that, totally charismatic?  If you don’t know who Harold is, be prepared for a treat.

Heretics – Carlton Pearson, like Harold, is someone they should make a movie about, for lots of the same reasons.  An idealistic preacher whose idealism costs him pretty much everything: the church he runs, his reputation, his fortune, nearly his family.