10 episodes

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.

This American Life This American Life

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.6 • 82.4K Ratings

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

    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)

    • 1 hr
    791: Math or Magic?

    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)

    • 56 min
    823: The Question Trap

    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)

    • 57 min
    822: The Words to Say It

    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)

    • 58 min
    821: Embrace the Suck

    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)

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

    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)

    • 1 hr 2 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
82.4K Ratings

82.4K Ratings

Murrrrrrry ,

Beware Of This Show!

Oh sure, This American Life almost always begins with some rollicking, humors piece directly related to its theme. You’ll hear Ira interview someone to a backdrop of fun, upbeat or whimsical music….You can’t help but get sucked in.

But know this, and know it well: Ira Glass is an insidious and manipulative genius. Sure you’ll start out the hour laughing (maybe harder than you’ve ever laughed at a public radio show) but inevitably and seamlessly, in a completely unconscious manner your emotions will be turned inside out and you’ll end the hour sobbing in your car, in the Target parking lot you’ve been parked in for the last 40 minutes. And sometimes you won’t even know why you’re crying, all you’ll know is that some sort of emotional release is needed before reintegrating yourself into the outside world.

Remember how the television show The Outer Limits began with the warning, “We have taken control of your TV….” well, Ira Glass and Co. take control of your emotional state with full reign to raise you to dizzying heights of euphoric happiness or plung you down, down into unsettling depths of despair.

So beware. The stories within have the ability cling to you for days, weeks, month, or even a lifetime. That’s why I never miss a show.

Callipygian ,

The Last Remaining Reason to Own a Radio is Gone

The podcast itself is evidence of the producers' dedication to their art. I've purchased this program for the last couple of years from Audible. I held on to an XM Radio subscription only because they added TAL to their lineup. I've streamed it online. I even offered to help my local public radio station raise money to carry the program JUST so they could carry TAL. The fact that it is now available as a free podcast is a great public service. Since Audible will be refunding this year's subscription price, I plan to send the money to my local public radio affiliate. Thanks, Ira and Gang!!

wurdNinja ,

Wish I could give it six stars, because it outshines SO MUCH of radio.

I don't know if it's true for you, but I am SO very tired of listening to ridiculous, air-headed, disingenuous disc jockeys handing me "life trivia" stories of "public interest." Most of the time their false giggles make me want to puke.
This American Life is so very different from any other radio experience I've probably ever had or will have. It captures, as well as it can, in audible form, the human condition, in all its delicious and uncanny glory. Glass may well be suited to manipulate his audience into convulsive laughter or tears, but I have never finished broadcast feeling as though I were duped into feeling anything. Each one of the participating storytellers edits his or her tale brilliantly and with individual flourish. I would be loathe not to admit that it sometimes can be geekily playful, but really, my friends, if you're telling yourself you've never been a geek about anything, you need to check your pulse. You're downloading podcasts for goodness' sake. Regardless, this is an excellent, moving and already blazingly popular radio program, so if you don't listen to it already, you should at least give it a try. I have NEVER heard an unsatisfying show yet from Glass and his crew.

Top Podcasts In Society & Culture

iHeartPodcasts
Vox Media Podcast Network
New York Times Opinion
Chris Williamson
KQED
Nick Viall

You Might Also Like

WNYC Studios
The Moth
NPR
Spotify Studios
The New York Times
Hidden Brain, Shankar Vedantam

More by WBEZ

Serial Productions & The New York Times
Serial Productions
Sound Opinions
WBEZ Chicago
WBEZ Chicago
WBEZ Chicago