October 2, 2015

Human Spectacle

Gladiators in the Colosseum. Sideshow performers. Reality television. We've always loved to gawk at the misery or majesty of others. But this week, we ask the question: What's it like when the tables are turned and all eyes are on you?

A man on a TV screen looking at the camera with eyes shut and smiling

Courtesy of Hulu



Ira talks to Joel Gold, a psychologist and author, about a strangely common delusion known as the "Truman Show Delusion," in which patients believe that they are being filmed, 24/7, for a national reality television program. (6 minutes)

Act One

I Am the Eggplant

Producer Stephanie Foo speaks to Nasubi, a Japanese comedian who, in the 90s, just wanted a little bit of fame. So he was thrilled when he won an opportunity to have his own segment on a Japanese reality TV show. Until he found out the premise: he had to sit in an empty apartment with no food, clothes or contact with the outside world, enter sweepstakes from magazines… and hope that he won enough sustenance to survive. (23 minutes)

The Contestant is a new documentary based on this story, coming to Hulu on May 2.


“The Spectacle” by Yam Yam
Act Two

I Always Feel Like Somebody's Watching Me

Writer Ariel Sabar tells the story of Roger Barker, a psychologist who believed humans should be studied outside the lab. So Barker dispatched an army of graduate students to follow the children of Oskaloosa, Kansas, and write down every single thing they did. Sabar wrote a book about Roger Barker called "The Outsider." (8 minutes)

Act Three

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 reports. (17 minutes)