The best definition of when a situation turns from mild “mishap” to more serious “disaster” to utter “fiasco” is still This American Life’s episode 61, Fiasco, aired in April 1997. Here Ira Glass and contributing editor Jack Hitt tell the story about a high school Peter Pan production, explaining when the audience turns from a forgiving one to one whose empathy dissipates. And thus, fiasco sets in.
What’s really interesting about a fiasco is that once it starts to tumble down, the audience wants to push it further along. Now, the reason they’re there is to chronicle these embarrassments.
The whole interview is worth listening to for an understanding of what happens when you leave the normal realm of mishap and cross the breakdown boundary.