January 21, 2005

My Big Break

Sometimes, getting your big break isn't all it's cracked up to be. A comedy duo lands the gig that can make them famous—the Ed Sullivan Show at the height of Sullivan's popularity—and they bomb. A third-grader gets his big chance to please his mother and push his drunken father out of the picture. And other stories.

CBS Photo Archive / Getty Images


Host Ira Glass tells the story of Marisela and Yadira, who were honors students in high school. They wanted to go to the best colleges, but they couldn't get federally-funded scholarships because they weren't U.S. citizens; they had come from Mexico when they were little. Through a series of fortunate breaks, they manage to scrape together enough money to go to college. Still, because of their illegal status, they have no idea if their education will get them anywhere in America. Helen Thorpe, a reporter in Denver, interviewed the students. (6 minutes)
Act One

Take My Break, Please

Charlie Brill and Mitzi McCall were a comedy duo back in the mid-1960s, playing clubs around Los Angeles, when their agent called to tell them he'd landed them the gig of a lifetime: They were going to be on The Ed Sullivan Show. The only problem was that their performance was a total fiasco, for a bunch of reasons, including one they never saw coming. David Segal of The New York Times reports. (18 minutes)
Act Two

What Happens In Baghdad, Stays In Baghdad

Two young men, Jeff Neumann and Ray Lemoine, decide it'd be interesting to be part of the rebuilding of Iraq. So they take a bus to Baghdad during the war and the bombings and the kidnappings and try to make their mark. Jen Banbury, who wrote for Salon.com from Baghdad, met Jeff and Ray there. She tells the story. (11 minutes)

Act Three

Oedipus Hex

Shalom Auslander reads his true story, "The Blessing Bee." It's about the time when, as a third-grader at an Orthodox Jewish school, Shalom saw his chance to both make his mom proud, and push his drunken father out of the picture. Part of his scheme involved winning the school's bee on the complicated Hebrew blessings you say before eating certain foods. The other part of the scheme: Sinning. Shalom's book of short stories is called Beware of God. "The Blessing Bee" will be published in his upcoming memoir. (19 minutes)