May 16, 2018
Guest host David Strathairn introduces two tales by master of mystery Agatha Christie, with special comments by crime novelist Megan Abbott and Christie fan Fran Lebowitz. Lois Smith performs “Miss Marple Tells a Story,” in which Christie’s spinster sleuth boasts a little, and Hugh Dancy reads “Accident,” about a woman with a dark past come to light.
April 24, 2018
Guest host Jane Kaczmarek presents three stories that are both sweet and sour. Colin Nissan telescopes a marriage in “Wedding Announcement,” read by John Cameron Mitchell. A jaded housewife gets a new outlook in “The Eyes of the Soul,” by Michel Faber, read by Kirsten Vangsness. A teenage couple grows up too soon in “Lime Pickle,” by James Lasdun, read by David Schwimmer.
April 18, 2018
Guest host Cynthia Nixon presents two stories about strange, and strained, relationships. In James Salter's "Last Night," a dying wife has a last supper. The reader is Amy Ryan. And Padgett Powell imagines what would happen if Janis Joplin met Charles Dickens in the third grade. John Cameron Mitchell reads "Joplin and Dickens."
April 11, 2018
Guest host Andy Borowitz relishes transgression and presents three stories featuring people going off the rails. First, Padgett Powell imagines the post-presidential life of Boris Yeltsin in “Yeltsin Dancing,” read by Arian Moayed. Then, a middle school geography teacher loses her way in Amy Sauber’s “State Facts for the New Age,” read by Amy Ryan. Finally, a classic by Donald Barthelme, “Some of Us Have Been Threatening Our friend Colby,” read by Joe Grifasi.
April 4, 2018
Guest host Jane Curtin presents three stories by the American master Shirley Jackson. In “The Smoking Room,” read by Cristin Milioti, a spunky co-ed confronts the Devil. A distracted husband knows something’s not right in “Company for Dinner” read by Stephen Kunken. And an irritable old lady is in for a bumpy ride on “The Bus,” read by Paul Giamatti.
March 26, 2018
Three unlikely stories for some April foolery by Ryan Boudinot, Susan Sontag, and Miranda July. Readers are Tony Hale, Justin Kirk, and Parker Posey.
March 7, 2018
Guest host Jane Kaczmarek presents four works about love and friendship, In William Goyen's "The Texas Principessa," read by Doris Roberts, a good friend leaves a stunning legacy. Jackie Hoffman reads an excerpt about a jilted lover from David Rakoff's final work, "Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish." A young couple have an idyllic day on the river in Rick Bass's "The Canoeists," read by Neil Patrick Harris. And Bill Irwin and John Lithgow read Edward Lear’s classic poem “The Owl and the Pussycat.”
February 28, 2018
Guest host Dennis O’Hare presents two unorthodox love stories. British writer Jane Gardam twists Hans Christian Andersen’s tale in a saucy reboot of “The Little Mermaid.” Her version, “The Pangs of Love,” is read by Jane Kaczmarek. And Sharon Gless performs “Hat Trick,” by Edith Pearlman, in which four young girls choose husbands by chance.
February 20, 2018
Guest host Robert Sean Leonard presents stories by Joy Williams. In "Charity," a good deed turns into a worst-case scenario. The reader is Patricia Kalember. The late David Rakoff performs Williams' “Baba Iaga and the Pelican Child,” a cautionary tale. And Williams herself reads an excerpt from her story "Escapes," in which a child learns what is magic, and what is not.
February 1, 2018
Guest host Jane Curtin presents two stories featuring unconventional families. A young girl is raised by a group of warm-hearted “Big Mamas” in Shay Youngblood’s touching coming of age story, “They Tell Me, Now I Know,” read by Viola Davis. In Jai Chakrabarti’s “A Small Sacrifice for An Enormous Happiness,” forbidden love affair and a marriage of convenience promise two different futures. The reader is Bhavesh Patel.
September 18, 2017
Bruce Jay Friedman has been hailed by critics as a comic genius, a writer whose vision confronts the malaise of contemporary life with a liberating deadpan humor. Friedman has published several novels, multiple collections of short stories, four plays, and several works of nonfiction. His short story “A Change of Plan” was adapted by Neil Simon and Elaine May into the movie The Heartbreak Kid. He wrote the movie scripts for Doctor Detroit, Stir Crazy, and Splash, for which he received an Oscar nomination and the Steve Martin film The Lonely Guy was based on Friedman’s book. Our reader is celebrated actress Sigourney Weaver.
July 25, 2017
A poignant, funny, melancholy story about a man whose wife leaves him for a ping pong player. It was written by the fiction writer and playwright, Joe Meno, who has contributed several great stories to Shorts over the years. The reader is actor, comedian and writer Michael Ian Black (Wet, Hot, American Summer, and The State). Later in the show, Aparna gets Joe on the phone to talk about this story, writing, and driving a delivery truck.
June 25, 2017
Our story today addresses, or should I say undresses - why snacking on your underwear might not be all that’s promised on the box. In this hilarious story written by Tony Tulathimutte, the narrator, played by actor Maulik Pancholy, is taking on the edible underpants industry. Later host Aparna Nancherla talks to the author about where he got his inspiration from...
November 30, 1999
Guest host Jane Kaczmarek introduces four tales about taking things to extremes. She reads Jack Handey's comic tale of life after "Apocalypse." In “Encounters with Unexpected Animals” by Bret Anthony Johnston, a father worries about his son's girlfriend. Kirsten Vangsness reads. Pablo Schreiber brings an imaginative young boy to life in Roald Dahl's "The Wish.” In “Indianapolis (Highway 74)” by Sam Shepard, a solitary man encounters an old flame.
November 30, 1999
Guest host Robert Sean Leonard presents a tribute to the classic TV series, “The Twilight Zone,” including two stories that were featured on the show: Price Day’s “Four O’Clock,” read by Zachary Quinto, in which a man with awesome powers knows just how to improve the world. And “Perchance to Dream,” by Charles Beaumont, in which the lines between sleeping and waking blur. It’s read by Zach Grenier. Roald Dahl’s “The Landlady,” is the perfect hostess, thinks the unwary young man who comes to her door. It’s read by Sam Underwood.