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Each week we choose a theme. Then anything can happen. This American Life is true stories that unfold like little movies for radio. Personal stories with funny moments, big feelings, and surprising plot twists. Newsy stories that try to capture what it’s like to be alive right now. It’s the most popular weekly podcast in the world, and winner of the first ever Pulitzer Prize for a radio show or podcast. Hosted by Ira Glass and produced in collaboration with WBEZ Chicago.
220 Episodes
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828: Minor Crimes Division

828: Minor Crimes Division

2024-04-0701:00:417

People taking it upon themselves to solve the tiny, overlooked crimes of the world. Prologue: Host Ira Glass bikes around Manhattan with Gersh Kuntzman, in search of illegal license plates. (11 minutes)Act One: Writer Michael Harriot reexamines the DIY criminal justice system his mom invented to deal with his bad behavior as a child. (20 minutes)Act Two: Producer Aviva DeKornfeld talks to Caveh Zahedi about a crime he may or may not have committed, depending on who you ask. (7 minutes)Act Three: Micaela Blei accidentally solves a crime that had been going on for a long time, right under her nose, and has to decide what to do next. She told this story onstage at The Moth. (7 minutes)Act Four: Editor Bethel Habte examines video evidence of two parents trying to get to the bottom of a minor crime committed in their own home. (7 minutes)Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org
587: The Perils of Intimacy

587: The Perils of Intimacy

2024-03-3101:06:3412

Mysteries that exist in relationships we thought couldn't possibly surprise us. Prologue: Ira talks to Rachel Rosenthal, who spent years trying to figure out who had stolen her identity. She was closing bank account after bank account, getting more and more paranoid, until she realized she knew exactly who the thief was. (5 minutes)Act One: Ira’s conversation with Rachel Rosenthal continues. She tells the story of why it took her so long to break up with her boyfriend, even after she figured out that he had stolen from her. We heard about Rachel's story via the podcast Risk! (9 minutes)Act Two: Producer Neil Drumming conducts an experiment to find out: can two adults, both new in town, become friends, with the right help? (16 minutes)Act Three: Comedian Kyle Mizono, in a live performance, tells about the time she met her hero, spent a week working with him every day, and it went really well. And then, she emailed him. (10 minutes)Act Four: A short story by Lydia Davis about trying to calculate the cost of a love affair. The story is read by actor Matt Malloy. (12 minutes)Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org
827: All the King's Horses

827: All the King's Horses

2024-03-2401:01:0211

The things we break and the ones we can't fix. Prologue: Ira tells the stories of three things that broke–two of them in his own family. (8 minutes)Act One: A teenage whiz kid invents a new toy for Milton Bradley. Then the trouble starts. (28 minutes)Act Two: Reporter Dana Ballout sifts through a very long list—the list of journalists killed in the Israel-Hamas War—and comes back with five small fragments of the lives of the people on it. (10 minutes)Act Three: A skateboarding legend makes a final attempt at a high-flying trick. (6 minutes)Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org
People waking up to the fact that the world has suddenly changed. Prologue: Jackson Landers tells the story of a very strange decision he made one summer day. (6 minutes)Act One: Elena Kostyuchenko tells the story of how she was probably poisoned after reporting on Russian’s invasion of Ukraine, and how she kept not believing it was happening. Bela Shayevich translated this story from Russian and reads it for us. (21 minutes)Act Two: A recording of comedian Tig Notaro in the process of trying to catch up to the present and absolutely not being able to. (8 minutes)Act Three: Producer Zoe Chace with a political fable that she noticed playing out last week in North Carolina. (11 minutes)Act Four: Producer Tobin Low finds a group of people with a special relationship with the idea of catching up. (10 minutes)Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org
825: Yousef

825: Yousef

2024-03-0301:05:5313

A series of phone calls to a man in Gaza named Yousef Hammash, between early December and now. He talks about what he and his family are experiencing, sometimes as they are experiencing it. Act One: Over the course of one week in December, Yousef tries to get his sisters to safety, in Rafah. (29 minutes)Act Two: Yousef is managing a camp of 60 people in Rafah, including his youngest sister, who is 8 months pregnant.  Every day there’s talk that Israel will launch a ground assault in Rafah.  Yousef and his sister make a plan for her to give birth safely, but it doesn’t go according to plan. And all 60 people in the family are looking to Yousef to tell them where they should go next and how to stay safe. (27 minutes)Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org
824: Family Meeting

824: Family Meeting

2024-02-2558:5619

Your mother and I have something we want to talk with you about. Prologue: A family sits down to discuss one thing. But then the true purpose of the meeting emerges. (9 ½ minutes)Act One: For one kibbutz-dwelling family in Israel, the decision of where to land after the October 7th attacks goes back and forth… and back… and forth. (28 minutes)Act One: For one kibbutz-dwelling family in Israel, the decision of where to land after the October 7th attacks goes back and forth… and back… and forth. (28 minutes)Act Two: An excerpt from “Belles Lettres," a short story by Nafissa Thompson-Spires from her book Heads of the Colored People, performed by actors Erika Alexander and Eisa Davis with a cameo from our colleague Alvin Melathe. (14 minutes)Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org
823: The Question Trap

823: The Question Trap

2024-02-0456:3721

An investigation of when and why people ask loaded questions that are a proxy for something else. Prologue: Host Ira Glass talks with producer Tobin Low about the question he got asked after he and his husband moved in together, and what he thinks people were really asking. (4 minutes)Act One: “What do you think about Beyoncé?” and other questions that are asked a lot, raised by people on first dates. (12 minutes)Act Two: When a common, seemingly innocuous question goes wildly off the rails. (13 minutes)Act Three: Why are people asking me if my mother recognizes me, when it’s totally beside the point? (14 minutes)Act Four: Schools ask their students the strangest essay questions sometimes. The experience of tutoring anxious teenagers through how to answer them requires a balladier, singing their lived experience to a crowd as though it were the Middle Ages. (10 minutes)Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org
822: The Words to Say It

822: The Words to Say It

2024-01-2857:4813

What it means to have words—and to lose them. Prologue: Sometimes we don’t want to say what’s going on because putting it into words would make it real. At other times, words don’t seem to capture the weight of what we want to say. Susanna Fogel talks about her friend Margaret Riley, who died earlier this week. (6 minutes)Act One: The story of a woman from Gaza City who ran out of words. Seventy-two days into the war, Youmna stopped talking. (27 minutes)Act Two: For years there was a word that Val’s mother did not want to use. Val sets out to figure out why. (22 minutes)Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org
821: Embrace the Suck

821: Embrace the Suck

2024-01-2159:0116

People finding themselves in situations that are worse than they thought and deciding to really go with it. Prologue: A Boston woman takes her dog for a walk and suddenly finds herself in a terrible situation she never anticipated. The strange thing is, it helps her. (9 minutes)Act One: Two college friends try to stop Donald Trump’s primary season momentum by convincing New Hampshire voters to vote against everything they care about. Producer Zoe Chace follows along. (22 minutes)Act Two: When producer Ike Sriskandarajah tries to sleep-train his baby, a neighbor decides to call the police. Later, Ike thinks, "I can work with that." (9 minutes)Act Three: A story by producer Boen Wang about how to get through a summer of bad days. (9 minutes)Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org
A major political party in a major swing state bets on a new leader: a total political outsider. How does that work out for them? Prologue: In 2022, Michigan Republicans ran anti-establishment candidates who claimed the last presidential election was stolen. And they lost big. Now, the state party regroups and must decide whether to stay the course or moderate. (7 minutes)Act One: The Michigan GOP’s newly elected leader, Kristina Karamo, faces her first big test: Can she organize and pull off the state party’s fabled, expensive Mackinac Island conference as a political outsider – with no fundraising experience or establishment connections? (9 minutes)Act Two: Two young Michigan GOP vice chairs are totally on board with Kristina Karamo’s take on politics and hate the establishment like her. So why do they feel iced out by her? (15 minutes)Act Three: At the start of the year, Warren Carpenter was a Kristina Karamo supporter; helped her get elected. Now he’s plotting her ouster. (13 minutes)Act Four: Kristina Karamo and her camp defend themselves against Warren’s attacks that they’re bad at fundraising and bad at leading the party. (13 minutes)Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org
A series of conversations with a man in Gaza over the course of one week. Act One: One of our producers, Chana Joffe-Walt, had a series of conversations with a man in Gaza over the course of one week. They're so immediate – and particular to this moment in the war in Gaza – that we're bringing them to you now, outside of our regular schedule.Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org
In the last year and a half, New York City has scrambled to try and provide shelter and services to over 150,000 migrants. We take a look at how that’s going. Prologue: In the middle of the night, host Ira Glass meets a woman on a mission at Port Authority bus station. (13 minutes)Act One: Producer Valerie Kipnis follows a group of people who’ve just arrived at their new home, a tent shelter in the middle of nowhere. (11 minutes)Act Two: Producer Diane Wu talks to an asylum seeker trying to hustle his way through bureaucratic limbo. (11 minutes)Act Three: Host Ira Glass meets some of the city’s newest arrivals in every New Yorker’s least favorite place. (9 minutes)Act Four: Three girls, whose families traveled thousands of miles to get to New York, navigate their latest challenge: American middle school. (11 minutes)Act 5: One woman needs to find shelter for 27 young men in a matter of hours. (15 minutes)Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org
786: It's a Game Show!

786: It's a Game Show!

2023-12-1001:05:168

Something we’ve never done before: true stories told in the form of a game show. Prologue: Jiayang Fan has this theory that because she's spent so much time thinking about her own accent when she speaks English, she believes that when she hears other Chinese-Americans speak, she can tell how old they were when they immigrated to the U.S. (7 minutes)Act One: We test Jiayang Fan’s self-proclaimed special skill by having her listen to three Chinese-Americans speak, and then guss when they came to the U.S. (20 minutes)Act Two: Is it possible for the U.S. to reach the goals set by the Paris Agreement? What steps would we have to take to cut emissions by 50% by 2030? We challenge climate researcher Melissa Lott to get us to that number. (11 minutes)Act Three: A game of telephone played on the podcast Normal Gossip reveals how gossip spreads, and why stories change from person to person. (15 minutes)Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org
When you realize that help is not on the way, what do you do next? Prologue: Saddam Sayyaleh’s job right now is trying to get trucks filled with aid into Gaza and he knows it’s nowhere close to what’s actually needed. (10 minutes)Act One: Tim Reeves runs a hospital in rural Pennsylvania, and he’s trying to do something that is so hard to do and that he knows is completely up to him. (11 minutes)Act Two: One of our producers, Nadia Reiman, talked to officials who work in the asylum and refugee branches at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. They gave her a window into the immigration system under President Biden that you don’t usually get. (32 minutes)Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org
816: Poultry Slam

816: Poultry Slam

2023-11-2657:558

During the highest turkey consumption period of the year, we bring you a This American Life tradition: stories of turkeys, chickens, geese, ducks, fowl of all kinds—real and imagined—and their mysterious hold over us. Prologue: Ira Glass talks with Scharlette Holdman, who works with defense teams on high profile death row cases, and who has not talked to a reporter in more than 25 years. Why did she suddenly end the moratorium on press? Because her story is about something important: namely, a beautiful chicken. (2 minutes)Act One: Scharlette Holdman's story continues, in which she and the rest of a legal defense team try to save a man on death row by finding a star witness — a chicken with a specific skill. (10 minutes)Act Two: Yet another testimony to the power chickens have over our hearts and minds.  Jack Hitt reports on an opera about Chicken Little.  It's performed with dressed-up styrofoam balls, it's sung in Italian and, no kidding, able to make grown men cry. (14 minutes)Act Three: Ira accompanies photographer Tamara Staples as she attempts to photograph chickens in the style of high fashion photography. The chickens are not very cooperative. (15 minutes)Act Four: Kathie Russo's husband was Spalding Gray,  who was best known for delivering monologues onstage—like "Monster in a Box," and "Swimming to Cambodia." On January 10, 2004, he went missing. Witnesses said they saw him on the Staten Island Ferry that night. Two months later, his body was pulled out of the East River. Kathie tells the story of the night he disappeared, and about how, in the weeks following, she and each of their three children were visited by a bird, who seemed to be delivering a message to them. (9 minutes)Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org
815: How I Learned to Shave

815: How I Learned to Shave

2023-11-1901:00:0815

Things our dads taught us, whether they intended to or not. Prologue: Ira talks about the time his dad taught him to shave, and how unusual that was. (5 minutes)Act One: When Jackie read the obits for the man who had invented the famous Trapper Keeper notebook, she was very surprised. As far as she knew, the inventor was very much alive. It was her dad. Not the guy in the obit. (15 minutes)Act Two: A father and son find themselves in a very traditional relationship. Until the end. (21 minutes)Act Three: Simon Rich reads his short story "History Report," in which a father explains the sex robots of the future. And other things as well. (14 minutes)Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org
814: Parents Are People

814: Parents Are People

2023-11-1201:04:0227

What happens when you realize the people in charge don’t have the answers. Prologue: Guest Host Chana Joffe-Walt asks her kids when they first encountered adult fallibility. (8 minutes)Act One: A middle schooler really wants to trust the adults have her best interests in mind. But some of the most powerful people at her school begin to make that very difficult. (27 minutes)Postscript: In Israel and Gaza, children are directly facing the fact that the adults around them cannot protect them. (4 minutes)Act Two: Comedian Gary Gulman on a choice his dad made for him when he was seven years old. (11 minutes)Act Three: There are many kids who do not gradually discover that grown ups don’t have a handle on everything.  These kids already know. Miriam Toews’s novel, “Fight Night,” is about a nine-year-old named Swiv who takes care of her grandma and manages her mom’s mental health struggles. Even simple tasks can become complicated, like taking them both on the bus. (7 minutes)Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org
You've been seeing yourself, getting to know what you look like, your whole life. So why does it often take an outsider to see things about you that are obvious, and set you straight? Prologue: Guest host Nancy Updike talks about learning something new, and unpleasant, about herself in, where else, a makeup store. She also talks with other people about moments where someone made an observation about them that was shocking. (8 minutes)Act One: Writer Domingo Martinez tells a story from his memoir, "The Boy Kings of Texas," about when he was forced to face how he might look in 20 years if he kept doing what he was doing. (12 minutes)Act Two: A man has a very clear vision of how he always stood up to his father, protected his mother and fought hard for the truth. Until one day he discovers actual raw data — secretly recorded conversations — that threaten to change his picture of everything. (12 minutes)Act Three: Ira Glass interviews actress Molly Ringwald about what happened when she watched one of her own movies, "The Breakfast Club" with her daughter. Ringwald talks about how for the first time, she saw the movie from the parents' point of view, not the kids'. (19 minutes)Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org
For the lead up to Halloween, scary stories that are all true. Zombie raccoons, haunted houses—real haunted houses!—and things that go "EEEEK!!!" in the night. Plus, a story by David Sedaris in which he walks among the dead. Ira and Albert Donnay read a true ghost story that appeared in a medical journal in 1921. A "Mrs. H" and her family moved into an old rambling house and strange apparitions started appearing, until her brother-in-law figured out the real cause of the ghostly presences. (6 minutes)Act One: Some of the scariest stories happen when fluffy, innocent creatures turn murderously evil. Producer Alex Blumberg tells one such story, about a raccoon gone bad. (13 minutes)Act Two: Writer Bill Eville and his brother are picked up on the side of the road late at night, and not taken to their destination. (10 minutes)Act Three: We set up a special 800-number for listeners to call with their true-life scary stories. More than 500 people called. The scariest stories we got all had one thing in common. (9 minutes)Act Four: One Halloween, David Sedaris decides to skip all the fake monsters and ghosts and zombies and visit the real thing: dead people, in a morgue. (14 minutes)Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org
People who have a good, long time to think about what they’re doing, look hard at what’s ahead of them, and decide to keep moving forward anyway. Prologue: Brothers Wes and Jeff spent a winter tagging black bears in Bryce Canyon National Park. One of the bears they needed to tag decided to hibernate at the end of an usually long tunnel. Wes and Jeff try to figure out their next move. (5  minutes)Act One: The story of Wes and Jeff venturing into the bear den continues. (11 minutes)Act 2: Miki Meek reports on the situation for pregnant women in Idaho under the state’s new, post-Roe abortion laws, which are some of the most restrictive in the country. OB-GYNs say the state is in a crisis. Miki also talks to Idaho legislators who voted for the laws, some of whom now think there should be some changes to the laws. (42 minutes)Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org
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Comments (3623)

This is my Pride Flag

Remember when Barack Hussein Osama airlifted $400 million in cash to Iran?

Apr 14th
Reply (1)

POTUS 45, 46, & 47

87-0. That's the number of democrats compared to republicans in the NPR newsroom. It's not news, it's propaganda, plain and simple.

Apr 11th
Reply

Social Justice Warrior

Joe Briben' son schtupped his dead brother's widow, cheated on her with a stripper who he got pregnant and refused to pay child support but orange man bad, right?

Apr 11th
Reply

Social Justice Warrior

Since Joe Briben' took office: Gasoline: 47.8% Groceries: +21.1% Eating out: +21.4% Baby food: +30.5% Pet food: +23.7% Rent: +20.9% Electricity: +28.3% Natural gas: +26.9% Used cars: +20.9% Air fare: +32.7% Public transportation: +22.2% Real average weekly earnings: -3.9% ...and last but not least, 15 million illegal aliens But orange man bad, right?

Apr 10th
Reply

ladan

✨❤️

Apr 9th
Reply

Social Justice Warrior

Never forget: it was only three short years ago that you had to show papers to eat in a restaurant but come this November you don't have to show anything to vote. Now you know what the 15 million illegal aliens were for. Thanks, Joe Biden.

Apr 9th
Reply

Max Rivers

When I was a landlord, my first tenant couldn't actually afford the apartment and I realized I had traded something of value with someone who wasn't able to keep that agreement. The next time I rented the apartment, besides first last and security, I asked for an emotional security to speak to exactly the issue in this piece. I asked people to give me something not of financial value but of such sentimental or emotional value that they would never want to leave without it. adding this worked.

Apr 8th
Reply

Social Justice Warrior

Joe Briben' released billions of dollars to Iran just weeks before the October 6tj attacks. Now a senior White House administration official says the US is preparing for an "inevitable" "significant attack" by Iran within the next week, according to CNN.

Apr 6th
Reply

ID435671123

Great news! President Trump is leading Joe Briben' in 6 out of 7 swing states.

Apr 3rd
Reply (1)

ID435671123

Even Robert F. Kennedy Jr. says Joe Briben' is the real threat to democracy.

Apr 3rd
Reply

chris grant

Man theres a lot of russian/republican bots on here.

Apr 2nd
Reply

ID435671123

If you're better off today than you were 4 years ago, you're probably an illegal alien.

Apr 2nd
Reply (4)

Farzaneh Sadegh

what a horrible situation , i pray for yuosef

Apr 2nd
Reply

ID435671123

"Say hello to oyster bunnies" - actual Joe Briben' quote on Easter Sunday. I mean, National Transgender Illumination Day or whatever.

Apr 2nd
Reply (2)

ID435671123

Joe Briben' designates Easter Sunday "transgender day of visibility". Folks, they're not even trying to hide it anymore .

Mar 31st
Reply

ID435671123

Did you see the NYPD tell Governor Kathy Hochul she wasn't welcome at the funeral for the slain hero and to take a walk? Demoncrapp politicians are so hated yet we're expected to believe they win elections fairly.

Mar 30th
Reply

I'm Shawn?

4 presidents in the same city on the same day a few miles from each other. Guess which one went to the wake of a slain hero and which three yucked it up with a Steven Colbert and charged $100,000 for a photo with them.

Mar 30th
Reply

This is my Pride Flag

President Trump attends the wake of a fallen hero while Joe Briben' begs for money at a fundraiser where he and fellow America-haters Bill Clittin and Hussein Osama pose for $100,000 a pop photos in the same city only a few miles away.

Mar 29th
Reply

POTUS 45, 46, & 47

BREAKING: Simon and Schuster withdraws contract for major book about Biden's presidency after lack of market interest

Mar 28th
Reply

Joe Biden is a miserable failure.

President Donald Trump - still wealthy. Womp womp, sorry leftists.

Mar 25th
Reply (6)
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