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List of 1996 This American Life episodes: Wikis


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In 1996, there were forty original This American Life episodes; the first nine were broadcast under the original name of the program Your Radio Playhouse.

Stories that reflect back on 1995 - 1996-01-03
When comedienne Julia Sweeney and her brother both got cancer, she decided to tell the story the best way she knew how: in a comedy club. It might seem like a strange choice, but what resulted is halfway between standup comedy and true-life diary entries. - 1996-01-10
Susan Bergman's father was a family man, head of the church choir, and, secretly, having sex with men. He died before his children had a chance to really talk to him about what they should make of his hidden life. When Bergman wrote a book about her family's experience, other gay men tried to explain her father's actions to her. That, and other stories of parents deceiving their children. - 1996-01-17
A story of a friendship between two adolescent boys that was destroyed through the manipulative acts of one of them. - 1996-01-24
    • Act 1: Dave's Love
    • Act 2: Dave's Hate
    • Act 3: Dave Today
    • Act 4: Another Dave - David Sedaris
  • Episode 12Animals
Stories about the animalness of animals, the irreducible ways in which they are not human. - 1996-01-31
Explorations of the dream of true love ... and the difficulties with achieving and maintaining that dream. - 1996-02-07
    • Prologue
    • Al Green, Love and Happiness
    • Act 1: Yearning
    • Act 2: Sex
    • Madonna, Forbidden Love
    • Act 3: A Wedding
    • Ready, an original song performed by kids at Daniel J. Nellum Youth Services in Chicago
  • Episode 14Accidental Documentaries
Stories made from old tapes found in various places, including a "letter on tape" found in a Salvation Army thrift store. Host Ira Glass with tapes of his father on the radio, circa 1956. And radio producer Nora Moreno with tapes of her father, a Spanish broadcasting pioneer in America. Her mother fell in love with him over the radio, with tragic results. - 1995-02-21
    • Prologue
    • Act 1: Berrian Springs Michigan, Circa 1967 - Davis family tapes
    • James Brown, It's a Man's World
    • Act 2: Baltimore, Circa 1956 - Ira Glass plays tapes of his father, Barry Glass, as a radio deejay in the 1950s
    • Nat King Cole, Personal Possession
    • Act 3: Chicago, in the 1960s - Nora Moreno
    • Jose Alfredo Jimenez, El Rey
  • Episode 15Dawn
Writer Jack Hitt goes on a search for a mysterious neighbor from his childhood in Charleston, South Carolina, and stumbles onto an epic story of the Old South, the New South, gender confusion, Chihuahuas, and changing values in American journalism. 1996-02-28
    • Prologue
    • Digital Underground, ?
    • Act 1: Dawn - Jack Hitt tells the story of Gordon Langley Hall, a.k.a. Dawn Langley Hall Simmons
    • Marlene Dietrich, ?
    • Act 2 - from the 1998 rebroadcast of this episode, Jack Hitt discusses his new conclusions two-and-a-half years after his first report of the story
  • Episode 16Economy
Stories of politics, the economy, and the big picture. 1996-03-14]]
First show as This American Life. 1996-03-21
April first is the one day of the year when we're allowed to enjoy deceiving others. But April Fools' Day is for amateur deceivers. The real pros are the people who can't control their lying, who lie without even knowing what the truth is. Everyone's known someone like this, but it's a topic that's only rarely studied or discussed publicly. Journalist and TALcontributing editor Margy Rochlin co-hosts. 1996-03-28
Men who had comfortable decent lives, yet decided to do something wild and eccentric with their lives instead. 1996-04-12
Stories of hero worship, of people admiring someone from afar, and trying to get closer to them. 1996-04-19
A show about something most people have gone through. Friends get together to start a business, start a church, do political action together. And after a while, they start fighting and split up. We hear three true stories. 1996-04-26
Stories of the difficult relationships between parents and their grown children, including two long stories from Sandra Tsing Loh about her father. 1996-05-03
Stories of the people who fall for a life in the theater. 1996-05-10
Stories of girls who have to figure out how they're going to act when the ground rules are constantly shifting. 1996-05-24
A set of documentary stories, radio essays and monologues about basketball, the Chicago Bulls, and their grip on Chicagoans' hearts and lives during the NBA Playoffs. These are unusual stories about people in the throes of love for basketball, including a story about the dreams about the Bulls Chicagoans have while sleeping. 1996-06-07
Ira's own father Barry Glass co-hosts this special father's day edition of the show. 1996-06-14
Stories about kids being mean to each other. 1996-06-21
Writer David Sedaris recalls the days when his mother and sister played armchair detective—until a very odd crime wave hit within their own home. Plus, host Ira Glass goes out on surveillance with a real-life private eye. 1996-07-12
Unusual perspectives on the presumptive Republican nominee. 1996-07-19
Stories of obsession and compulsion. What happens when a little idea starts to control you. Co-hosted by Paul Tough. 1996-07-26
Stories of people whose lives are transformed by music. 1996-08-09
More campaign diaries from The New Republic's Michael Lewis. 1996-08-16
  • Episode 33A Night at the Wiener's Circle
    • This episode is about the unique culture in a Chicago fast food restaurant.
    • Prologue - New introduction recorded in 2006, saying this show was never broadcast nationally - Ira Glass
    • Ira records various colorful personalities at the Wiener's Circle. 1996-08-23
  • Episode 34Democratic Convention
Unusual stories from the 1996 Democratic Convention in Chicago, with scenes and moments not documented elsewhere. 1996-08-30
Evocative, funny emotional stories collected over the last few months that haven't fit into any of our regular "theme" shows. 1996-09-06
Host Ira Glass and playwright David Hauptschein took out advertisements in Chicago inviting people to come to a small theater with letters they've received, sent or found. People came for two nights and read their letters onstage. Some were funny. Some were poignant. They told a wide range of stories: a heartfelt letter from prison, a hilariously pretentious job letter sent to the New Yorker magazine, a wringingly sincere teenage "should we be more than friends" letter. Four hours of letters were recorded in all. These were edited down to an hour of letters, with a few unusual songs about letters thrown in. 1996-09-20
Simulated worlds, Civil war reenactments, wax museums, simulated coal mines, fake ethnic restaurants, an ersatz Medieval castle and other re-created worlds that thrive all across America. 1996-10-11
This week: A show for Halloween. Stories of things that are supposed to be scary, but aren't. 1996-10-25
Stories from acclaimed storyteller Spalding Gray and others. 1996-11-01
More stories of the election you can't hear anywhere else. 1996-11-08
Three stories of people trying to forget the past and move on. 1996-11-15
Inspired by a spate of new Chicago stage adaptations of the Faust story, This American Life brings you stories of people who made a deal with the devil. 1996-11-22
In the midst of the five biggest poultry-consumption weeks of the year — the five weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when Americans consume one-fourth of all the turkey they eat in a year — This American Life presents stories about turkeys, chickens, ducks and fowl of all kinds. 1996-11-29
Four stories about people struggling at the fringes of our nation's media/music/infotainment industry. 1996-12-06
Though being gay no longer has much of a stigma in some parts of the country, being a sissy still does—even among gay men. In this show we have a number of surprising and unusual stories of sissies, their families, and why people still get so upset about them. 1996-12-13
Stories about the intersection of Christmas and retail, including David Sedaris's story "Santaland Diaries", which was first broadcast on NPR's Morning Edition several years ago in a much shorter version. The diaries are about David's two Christmas seasons working as an elf in Macy's department store on New York's Herald Square. When it was first broadcast, it generated more requests for tapes than any story in Morning Edition's history except the death of Red Barber. Also, David Rakoff on playing Freud in the windows of Barney's department store. And other stories. 1996-12-20

Reruns broadcast in 1996

  • 1996-02-14 - Episode 4: Vacations
  • 1996-03-07 - Episode 7: Quitting
  • 1996-04-05 - Episode 9: Julia Sweeney
  • 1996-05-17 - Episode 10: Double Lives
  • 1996-06-28 - Episode 21: Factions
  • 1996-07-05 - Episode 9: Julia Sweeney
  • 1996-08-02 - Episode 20: From a Distance
  • 1996-09-13 - Episode 22: Adult Children
  • 1996-10-04 - Episode 4: Vacations
  • 1996-10-18 - Episode 15: Dawn
  • 1996-12-27 - Episode 20: From a Distance

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