Fill The Serial Hole In Your Life With These Other Sarah Koenig Stories

As Serial gradually became all everyone ever wanted to talk about over the past two months, I turned into one of those gloating hipsters, muttering to myself: "I liked Sarah Koenig's work before she was mainstream."
It's pretentious, but it's true. Because, for years, the Serial mastermind has been producing segments for This American Life that feature the same blend of comfortable conversational style with riveting — if slightly obscure — subject matter. To all my friends who have always bashed TAL for being too "precious," I say, "HA!" And, unlike anyone investigating whether Adnan Syed murdered Hae Min Lee, I offer proof: Here are just five Koenig stories from TAL to fill that Serial-sized hole in your life.

1. "Devil In Angel's Clothing, Or Is It The Other Way Around?" from Episode 213, "Devil on My Shoulder," 2002
Long before her chats with Adnan, Koenig talked to another inmate at a correctional facility who actually did admit to committing a murder when he was 17. He got away with it for 20 years before being arrested on drug charges and confessing. There's no element of mystery here, only the same poignancy that drew us into Serial.

2. "Gossip," Episode 444, 2011
Koenig fills in for Ira Glass as guest host in this episode, which is cute, but then she delivers her own story on gossip with a serious twist that none of us would ever come up with. It's about how talking about who's had sex with whom has actually helped researchers study the AIDS epidemic.

3. "Back to Penn State," Episode 451, 2011
"Here's what it's like to live here right now. 100,000 people are having the same conversation at the same time, everywhere they go. I'm overhearing them in line at the coffee shop, at my son's Taekwondo class, in a neighbor's driveway, as people walk down the sidewalk, talking on their cell phones...And I'm having these conversations myself with everyone I know, and with many people I don't know." No, she's not talking about Serial. That's Koenig, a resident of State College, Pennsylvania, covering the town's reaction to the Joe Paterno controversy. It's a great study of town and gown relations.

4. "Origin Story," Episode 383, 2009
Koenig interviews her own father, legendary ad man Julian Koenig, about all the things he claims to have invented — thumb wrestling, shrimp, calling someone a "character" — as well as the things he really did invent, such as the "Think Small" campaign made famous in Mad Men and other great slogans his ex-partner George Lois took the credit for instead.

5. "The Seven Things You're Not Supposed to Talk About," Episode 511, 2013
OK, this one might fall into the category of "precious," but it's also highly entertaining. It's an entire episode devoted to Koenig's mother's rules of conversation, because sharing about your sleep, menstruation, health, diet, dreams, money, and "route talk" is just boring. She even calls out Robert Redford for boring them to death with his route talk once.

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