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Nancy Updike

Nancy's one of the original producers of our show and has done some amazing stories for the show, most notably in episodes 46, 164, and 266. Her writing in the third episode of our TV show is mindblowingly good.

Act Four: A Night In Drug Court

Before this show ended we wanted to know—how typical are the horror stories? What happens in a typical drug case? To find out, reporter Nancy Updike spent nine hours in Night Narcotics Court in Chicago. What she discovers is that the system is working as fairly as one could hope or expect, with one caveat: Nearly all the defendants are African-American, even though the jurisdiction contains an equal number of white drug users.

Act Four

Producer Nancy Updike tells the story of scientists who simply made up an invisible, weightless subatomic particle called the neutrino. Then they set out on the task of finding it, using tools that sound positively crude: A mineshaft and 100,000 gallons of dry cleaning fluid.

Act Three: Smell

A story about a device that charts the world through smell — and only smell. TAL producer Nancy Updike visits Cyrano Sciences in Pasadena, California, where researchers are creating an electronic nose.

Act Three: Reverb

Ellery Eskelin never met his father but always heard he was a musical genius. Years after his father's death, Ellery started finding recordings of his musical output: he was the king of "song-poems." These are the songs that result when people answer those ads in the backs of magazines that say, "Send us your lyrics, and we'll write and record your song." Ellery's father's musical output was prodigious — and very odd.

Act One: Anti-Oedipus

This American Life producer Nancy Updike on a family where the father was one kind of sissy and the son was another kind, and how the family was destroyed despite the fact that no one wanted it to be.

Act Two: The Economy

Temporary employment agencies' business has exploded in the last few years as corporations lay off their full-time employees, especially technical workers. This American Life "hired" two temp workers, Lee and Tito, to document their experiences as temps. Ira invites Tito and Lee into the studio to spin some music "appropriate" for temp employees.