6 episodes

A podcast about This American Life, hosted by Rob McGinley Myers and Britta Greene, featuring lovingly irreverent deconstructions of the show’s best episodes, as well as occasional interviews with contributors and listeners, all in our attempt to pin down what makes the show great.

Before It Had a Theme Robert McGinley Myers

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.9 • 17 Ratings

A podcast about This American Life, hosted by Rob McGinley Myers and Britta Greene, featuring lovingly irreverent deconstructions of the show’s best episodes, as well as occasional interviews with contributors and listeners, all in our attempt to pin down what makes the show great.

    S1 E5: The Job That Takes Over Your Life (One Long Poetic HIPAA Violation)

    S1 E5: The Job That Takes Over Your Life (One Long Poetic HIPAA Violation)

    Rob and Britta discuss This American Life Episode 37 - The Job that Takes Over Your Life, as well as Britta’s former job fixing scandals for big companies, and Rob’s former job working for Garrison Keillor. Other topics include the great radio reporter Scott Carrier and his masterpiece of a story The Test, and Rob interviews Peter Clowney, one of the original producers of This American Life, about what it was like to work on the show in the early days.
    Links and Show Notes:
    The Job that Takes Over Your Life
    In Particular - Blonde Redhead
    Defect2: Curiosidade - John Mcentire Remix
    Lydia - Tim Story
    Shatter - Liz Phair
    Scott Carrier interview on Tape
    Scott Carrier interview on HowSound
    Hitchhiker episode of Home of the Brave
    Gentle Chase by Podington Bear
    Rob’s Twitter
    Britta’s Twitter
    Before It Had a Theme Twitter
    Review us on Apple Podcasts

    • 55 min
    S1 E4: The Cruelty of Children (Tarantula in a Bowl)

    S1 E4: The Cruelty of Children (Tarantula in a Bowl)

    Rob and Britta discuss whether this episode is TAL’s first real masterpiece, the role of David Sedaris in the show’s early years, why “The Man in the Well” is the rare example of great audio fiction, the bone-chilling music of the Bulgarian State Television Female Choir, and why an effort to keep children from excluding each other makes Rob weirdly emotional.
    And we talk to the amazing Marlo Mack, from the podcast How to Be a Girl, about her own unique perspective on the cruelty of children.
    Links and Show Notes:
    The Cruelty of Children
    David Sedaris on Morning Edition
    Nah Dran by Couch
    Lydia by Tim Story
    Coffaro’s Theme by Bill Frisell
    Santa Land Diaries
    The Writer in the Well
    Pilentze Pee by Bulgarian State Television Female Choir
    How to Be a Girl
    Gentle Chase by Podington Bear
    Rob’s Twitter
    Britta’s Twitter
    Before It Had a Theme Twitter
    Review us on Apple Podcasts
     

    • 51 min
    S1 E3: Accidental Documentaries (Non-humanoid Member of the Family)

    S1 E3: Accidental Documentaries (Non-humanoid Member of the Family)

    Rob and Britta discuss This American Life Episode 14: Accidental Documentaries, including their own experience creating accidental documentaries. The main focus of the discussion is the centerpiece of this episode, a documentary edited out of reel to reel tapes that a family sent back and forth to each other back in 1967. And Rob talks to Joe Silovsky, the man who originally found those tapes and gave them to Ira Glass, and whose work as a performance artist echos the experience he had with those tapes back when he was an art student. And since this is the final episode of the show that originally aired under the name “Your Radio Playhouse,” Rob and Britta talk about some of the worst moments from those early episodes, and their awfulness is inspiring.
    Links and Show Notes:
    The Chase by Portastatic
    Buried at Sea by MC (900 Ft. Jesus)
    Coffero’s Theme by Bill Frisell Quartet
    Pilentze Pee by The Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir
    Episode 2: Small Scale Sin
    Episode 5: Anger and Forgiveness
    Episode 7: Quitting
    Episode 13: Love
    Gentle Chase by Podington Bear
    Joe Silovsky’s website
    Rob’s Twitter
    Britta’s Twitter
    Before It Had a Theme Twitter
    Review us on Apple Podcasts
     
     
     

    • 51 min
    S1 E2: Double Lives (The Birth of This American Life)

    S1 E2: Double Lives (The Birth of This American Life)

    A discussion of This American Life Episode 10: Double Lives. Topics include Rob and Britta's own experiences leading double lives, Rob's childhood habit of breaking into schools at night, why this episode feels like the birth of This American Life, why parents so often hide secrets from their children, what Britta’s parents have been hiding from her, and how it feels to hear Ira Glass talk about sex.
    This episode also includes an interview with Peter Bresnan, a podcast producer for Gimlet, about what it's like to listen to this old episode of TAL on the topic of closeted gay men.
    Links and Show Notes:
    Cubes by Jon Brion
    Kt by Bexar Bexar
    Coffero’s Theme by Bill Frisell Quartet
    Episode 10: Double Lives
    It Might Get Loud - a documentary about Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack White
    Another Version of You by Chris Zabriskie
    Tell Me I’m Funny - a podcast by Peter Alexander Bresnan
    A Chorus Line
    Maybelle by Ida
    Catalog & Classify by Mark Robinson
    Gentle Chase by Podington Bear
    Peter Bresnan’s Twitter
    Rob’s Twitter
    Britta’s Twitter
    Before It Had a Theme Twitter
    Review us on Apple Podcasts

    • 57 min
    S1 E1: New Beginnings (F*** You, Django Reinhardt!)

    S1 E1: New Beginnings (F*** You, Django Reinhardt!)

    Rob and Britta discuss the very first episode of This American Life, as well as why the show is worth discussing, how they and others became fans of the show, and why they love Ira Glass’s mother.
    Clips from following were used in this episode:
    Coffaro’s Theme by Bill Frisell
    Episode of Tape with Jonathan Menjivar
    Episode of Tape with Ben Calhoun
    Ira’s talk at the Third Coast Audio Festival
    Longform Podcast, Episode 159: Ira Glass
    This American Life, Episode 1: New Beginnings
    Ira’s talk at the Gel Conference
    Rob's Twitter
    Britta's Twitter
    Show Twitter
    Review us on Apple Podcasts

    • 47 min
    S1 E0: American Whatever

    S1 E0: American Whatever

    Episode 0 Show Notes
    Clips from following were used in this episode:
    This American Life, Episode 1: New Beginnings This American Life, Episode 17: Name Change/No Theme Longform Podcast, Episode 159: Ira Glass Coffaro’s Theme by Bill Frisell

    • 6 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
17 Ratings

17 Ratings

DippityDoo ,

More Britta Greene...

A must listen for lovers of radio, storytelling, & of course, This American Life. Hearing these producers talk about editing choices & ‘behind-the-scenes’ of the now-iconic TAL is riveting. BUT: my ears heard Rob ‘leading’ in a way that’s like if Terry Gross’s producer interrupted her or said, “But...” after especially astute observations. Case in point: at approx 15:10 & forward in S1:E1 when Britta comments that Ira is setting up a phone conversation in a way that’s “...preempting your judgement” was EVERYTHING. I wanted to hear more from her. Instead, Rob moves on w/a “Yes, but...”. I think Britta caught a recurring event w/her observation: the verbal ‘shame inoculation.’ I hope in future episodes these two have more balanced time to elaborate on their comments. 4 stars now, hoping for 5 in the future.

Obi-Wan T. ,

Wishing for more

I don’t always agree w/ the hosts but this podcast really provides fascinating background info and commentary that both informs and sparks debate. It also is full of ‘related’ materials in the links which add another whole piece to the experience of each discussed episode. Britta definitely seems a bit more astute in picking out layers of nuance and I’d love to hear a bit more of her each episode. She talks more about how TAL used a particular methodology to unite the show into such a successful and now imitated format or delve a bit deeper into the techniques Ira uses that really enhance each segment of the show even though his intros need
To be brief. That’s expertise that really adds to a meta-podcast format whereas just describing or reviewing content isn’t as appealing to me. A lot of good research seems to have gone into each ep.
I guess they couldn’t find a way to get the podcast noticed/sponsored but I wish they’d been able to get a mention on TAL to drive more listeners to them because I’d love to have seen it develop over 30-40 episodes.
Come back! Let’s try to get an audience for this!

aggimay23 ,

Clever concept

I just recently started listening to podcasts, specifically This American Life and It’s interesting to hear how Rob and Britta interpret these stories offering me an opportunity to view them from another perspective

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