This American Life

This American Life

By This American Life

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.

Episodes

830: The Forever Trial

The trial for the men accused of orchestrating the September 11 terrorist attacks still hasn’t started yet. Family members of those who died that day are still hoping for some kind of accountability, more than 22 years later. This week, the story of how one victim’s sister is navigating this historic and twisted trial. Prologue: Host Ira Glass introduces the new series that Serial is doing about Guantánamo Bay. This is the second of two episodes of theirs that we’re airing. (2 minutes)Act One: We meet Colleen Kelly, a member of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, and learn just how upside down and messed up the trial for the 9/11 accused has been over the past decade. (28 minutes)Act Two: Sarah Koenig explains what’s probably the best possible outcome that everyone can hope for at this point. And why, when it hits the news someday — if it ever happens — it’s sure to be deeply misunderstood by lots of people. Plus a trip to Guantánamo with Colleen. (31 minutes)Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org
19/05/241h 2m

829: Two Ledgers

For years, Majid believed that if he could testify in court about what happened to him when he was held in a CIA black site, a judge and jury would give him a break. Finally, he got a chance to see if he was right. Prologue: Ira talks about the exciting new series that Serial is doing about Guantánamo Bay. We’re airing two of those episodes on the show – one this week and one next. (2 minutes)Act One: Majid Khan struggled with his identity when he was young. And then he realized exactly who he wanted to be – a member of Al Qaeda, carrying out orders for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. He did bad things. But are the things that the U.S. Government did to him worse than his actual crimes?  (38 minutes)Act Two: Majid finally gets his day in court. At his sentencing hearing, he describes to the jury what his interrogators did to him. (20 minutes)Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org
12/05/241h 4m

186: Prom

While the seniors danced at Prom Night 2001 in Hoisington, Kansas—a town of about 3,000—a tornado hit the town, destroying about a third of it. When they emerged from the dance, they discovered what had happened, and in the weeks that followed, they tried to explain to themselves why the tornado hit where it did. Plus other stories that happen on Prom Night. Prologue: A high school boy explains how prom is the culmination of his effort to get in with a cool group of people. (5 minutes)Act One: Susan Burton reports on Prom Night 2001 in Hoisington, Kansas, a town of about 3,000. While the seniors danced, a tornado hit the town, destroying about a third of it. When they emerged from the dance, they discovered what had happened, and in the weeks that followed, they tried to explain to themselves why the tornado hit where it did. (25 minutes)Act Two: Host Ira Glass talks with Francine Pascal, who's written or invented the plot lines for over 700 books for teenagers in the various Sweet Valley High series....Sweet Valley Kids, Sweet Valley Twins, Sweet Valley University, Sweet Valley Senior Year. She explains why a prom story is a must for teen movies and TV shows. (6 minutes)Act Three: For a more typical view of prom night, we hear prom night at Chicago's Taft High School. (9 minutes)Act Four: In this act, we argue that the epicenter of prom genius—the place where America's prom future is being born—is the town of Racine, Wisconsin. In Racine, they've added one ingredient to prom that takes it to a whole new level of intensity. Reported by Wendy Dorr. (10 minutes)Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org
05/05/2459m 40s

568: 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? Prologue: 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: 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)Act Two: 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: 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)Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org
28/04/2459m 46s

828: Minor Crimes Division

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
07/04/2459m 29s

827: All the King's Horses

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
24/03/241h

826: Unprepared for What Has Already Happened

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
17/03/241h 2m

825: Yousef

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
03/03/241h 6m

824: Family Meeting

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
25/02/2458m 52s

823: The Question Trap

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
04/02/2457m 29s

552: Need To Know Basis

Even when you're not trying to get one over on someone, it can be useful to keep the truth to yourself. Or conversely, to not know why people are lying to your face all the time. This week we'll tell you the whole truth about not telling the whole truth. Including the story of a guy who learned to lie for the first time in his life at age 29. Ira talks with a guy in Chicago named Josh who likes to spend time going bird watching. But one day, Josh was out in a park with his binoculars and he discovered something he definitely did not want to know about. (6 minutes)Act One: Michael Leviton was raised in a family who encouraged him and his siblings to tell the truth all the time. They believed it was better to be honest and work things out. Even when it was uncomfortable. But as Michael tells Ira, when he became an adult, he discovered that the world his parents created had its limitations. (19 minutes)Act Two: Producer Zoe Chace tells the story of a community college student named Demetrius who seemed like he was doing exceptionally well in school. But as Zoe followed Demetrius over a semester, she discovered that there were things about his academic past that he had kept a secret. And not just from her. (20 minutes)Act Three: Growing up, producer Stephanie Foo was the favorite child of her family in Malaysia. Particularly of the matriarch of the family who everyone called "Auntie." But as an adult, Stephanie found out the complicated truth about why she was the family favorite. (13 minutes)Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org
28/03/151h 4m
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