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.
653: Crime Scene
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)
791: Math or Magic?
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)
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)
822: The Words to Say It
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)
821: Embrace the Suck
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)
820: It Wouldn’t Be Make-Believe If You’d Believe In Me
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)
The Ten Sessions episode was very helpful. Thank you.
Thank you! Simple words but the meanings behind them are deeper than the ocean. I am continually moved by This American Life.
Really gets me into thinking something I never deeply thought about before.