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This American Life

This American Life is a weekly public radio show, heard by 2.2 million people on more than 500 stations. Another 2.5 million people download the weekly podcast. It is hosted by Ira Glass, produced in collaboration with Chicago Public Media, delivered to stations by PRX The Public Radio Exchange, and has won all of the major broadcasting awards.

824: Family Meeting

This American Life

  • 71 views
  • 7 days ago
  • 57:31

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

653: Crime Scene

This American Life

  • 78 views
  • 14 days ago
  • 57:49

Every crime scene hides a story. In this week's show, we hear about crime scenes and the stories they tell. Medical Examiner D.J. Drakovic, in Pontiac Michigan, explains how every crime scene is like a novel. (5 minutes)Act One: Reporter Nancy Updike spends two days with Neal Smither, who cleans up crime scenes for a living, and comes away wanting to open his Los Angeles franchise, despite the gore — or maybe because of it. (12 minutes)Act Two: Actor Matt Malloy reads a short story by Aimee Bender, from her book “The Girl in the Flammable Skirt," about what can be and cannot be recovered from a crime scene, or from anywhere. (12 minutes)Act Three: Sometimes criminals return to the scene of their misdeeds — to try to make things right, to try to undo the past. Katie Davis reports on her neighbor Bobby, who returned to the scene where he robbed people and conned people. This time, he came to coach little league. (22 minutes)Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org

791: Math or Magic?

This American Life

  • 89 views
  • 21 days ago
  • 55:34

When it comes to finding love, there seems to be two schools of thought on the best way to go about it. One says, wait for that lightning-strike magic. The other says, make a calculation and choose the best option available. Who has it right? Prologue: When guest host Tobin Low was looking for a husband, he got opposing advice from two of the most important people in his life, his mom and his best friend. (8 minutes)Act One: Zarna Garg had a clear plan for how she was going to find a husband. Things did not go as she expected.  (17 minutes)Act Two: People who fall in love at first sight often describe it as a kind of magic. One of our producers, Aviva DeKornfeld, is skeptical of these sorts of claims. And also a little envious. (10 minutes)Act Three: Calvin is an 11 year old who is learning what love is all about, the hard way. (7 minutes)Act Four: Writer Marie Phillips believes that magic is not just reserved for the beginning of a relationship. In fact, she says the real magic can be found  in the end, once you decide to finally leave. (8 minutes)Coda: Tobin Low tells us which camp he falls in — math or magic. (2 minutes)Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org

823: The Question Trap

This American Life

  • 120 views
  • 28 days ago
  • 55:37

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 boyfriend 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 his 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

This American Life

  • 200 views
  • about 1 month ago
  • 56:51

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

This American Life

  • 98 views
  • about 1 month ago
  • 56:57

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

567: What’s Going On In There?

This American Life

  • 91 views
  • about 2 months ago
  • 58:03

Often we see someone’s situation from the outside and think we know exactly what’s going on. This week, we get inside and find out just how much more interesting the reality of it is. A mysterious tunnel is found in a forest in Toronto. Public speculation is all over the place and totally wrong. Nick Kohler tells Ira the story behind the tunnel. (10 minutes)Act One: A teenager reports what it is like to be inside an abusive relationship with an older man. (29 minutes)Act Two: Larry speaks English. His dad speaks Chinese. They grew up in the same house but Larry could never speak to his dad. After 20 years, with the help of filmmaker Bianca Giaever, he and his dad have their first conversation. (16 minutes)Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org

241: 20 Acts in 60 Minutes

This American Life

  • 170 views
  • 2 months ago
  • 57:50

Instead of the usual "each week we choose a theme, and bring you 3 or 4 stories on that theme" business, we throw all that away and bring you 20 stories—yes, 20—in 60 minutes. Ira Glass introduces the idea of doing 20 stories in one hour.Act One: Contributor Starlee Kine talks to actor Tate Donovan about the day he felt he was being exactly the kind of celebrity he'd wanted to be: when suddenly, he was approached by a kid with a camera.Act Two: Writer and producer Scott Carrier recognizes a woman he sees in a restaurant.Act Three: Susan Drury talks about "Swap and Shop," a local radio classifieds show that has become a low-tech, personable sort of Ebay.Act Four: From Patty Martin: a one minute, four second vacation on Nantucket Island, involving a lot of waving.Act Five: From Vicki Merrick, Eric Kipp, and Jay Allison at Transom: scallops on Martha's Vineyard.Act Six: From Blunt Youth Radio: a story of a possibly bad "food situation" at the cafeteria in juvenile detention.Act Seven: Jonathan Goldstein, host of Wiretap, brings us this story about The Penguin as a young man.Act Eight: Two brothers, ages 12 and 13, have very different ideas for their dog's name.Act Nine: Elaine Boehm overhears a couple in her pet shop, trying to choose a dog collar.Act Ten: A two minute play called “Title,” written and performed by Greg Allen and Heather Riordan of the Chicago group, The Neo-Futurists. It’s part of their long-running show "Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind: 30 Plays in 60 Minutes."Act Eleven: Author David Sedaris on cell phone usage in restrooms.Act Twelve: Brent Runyon reports from the kids' section at the public library.Act Thirteen: Catherine and John, two college undergrads, do a babysitting gig together. After the kids are asleep and the two of them get hungry, John doesn't think they should eat any of the food in the house; they settle on a compromise.Act Fourteen: Mystery and missing flavor at the hot dog plant.Act Fifteen: Author David Rakoff worked at an advertising agency, and could see exactly where its technology was going.Act Sixteen: Someone sits next to the printer. You see him forty times a day. What's his name? What does he do?Act Seventeen: Richard Kerry has an impressive ability: he can recreate the sound of a whole swamp.Act Eighteen: Author Chuck Klosterman and his friends make a party game out of comparing television shows to rock bands. They call it "Monkees Equals Monkees."Act Nineteen: Every year 1,200 new army cadets arrive at West Point. Once they say a single sentence correctly, they can go to their barracks. But not until then. David Lipsky reports. He's the author of Absolutely American.Act Twenty: Teenage girls from a detention center perform a song for their parents.Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org

820: It Wouldn’t Be Make-Believe If You’d Believe In Me

This American Life

  • 180 views
  • 2 months ago
  • 01:01:34

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

819: Special Bonus Podcast — Yousef’s Week

This American Life

  • 190 views
  • 2 months ago
  • 41:22

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

818: Stand Clear of the Closing Doors

This American Life

  • 200 views
  • 3 months ago
  • 01:17:15

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!

This American Life

  • 200 views
  • 3 months ago
  • 01:04:49

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

817: The Cavalry Is Not Coming

This American Life

  • 210 views
  • 3 months ago
  • 58:28

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

This American Life

  • 330 views
  • 3 months ago
  • 56:42

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

This American Life

  • 240 views
  • 4 months ago
  • 59:07

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

This American Life

  • 250 views
  • 4 months ago
  • 01:03:08

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

814: 814: Parents Are People

This American Life

  • 270 views
  • 4 months ago
  • 01:03:08

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

813: Is That What I Look Like?

This American Life

  • 230 views
  • 4 months ago
  • 54:56

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

319: And the Call Was Coming from the Basement

This American Life

  • 210 views
  • 4 months ago
  • 57:46

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

812: The Bear at the End of the Tunnel

This American Life

  • 230 views
  • 4 months ago
  • 01:04:31

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