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 ... More
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692: The Show of Delights
In these dark, combative times, we attempt the most radical counterprogramming we could imagine: a show made up entirely of stories about delight.
Prologue: Ira Glass talks to Bim Adewunmi about her understanding of delight through American pop culture and the summer she spent in the US as a 19-year-old. Ira then hands the show over to Bim as guest host. (10 minutes)Act One: Bim talks to poet Ross Gay, whose book inspired today’s show, about the discipline and rigor of seeking and holding onto delight. (8 minutes)Act Two: Producer Robyn Semien captures a special morning for her five-year-old son, Cole, who is doing something delightful for the very first time: he’s getting to ride the school bus. (4 minutes)Act Three: Producer Miki Meek speaks to Noriko Meek, her 72-year-old mother, about discovering delight late in life. (8 minutes)Act Four: Producer Dana Chivvis follows the night zookeeper at the Denver Zoo as she doles out snacks and tucks the animals in. (9 minutes)Act Five: What happens when a dealer of delight gets depressed? Podcast host Tracy Clayton talks to Bim Adewunmi about the road back. (17 minutes)Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org
800: Jane Doe
Five years after the #MeToo explosion, what’s happened in the lives of the women who stepped forward and went public with their stories? We tell the story of a teenager who spoke out against one of the most powerful people in her state, and what happened next.
Prologue: Some powerful and well known men lost their jobs after #MeToo. But what about the women at the center of all this who’ve been way less visible after they told what happened to them? We hear about big and small ways the aftermath of coming forward continues to pop up in their daily lives. (10 minutes)Act One: Back in 2021, a 19-year-old intern at the Idaho state legislature reported that a state Representative named Aaron von Ehlinger raped her. She went by the name Jane Doe. There was a public ethics hearing and Ehlinger resigned. State legislators talked about how proud they were of their ability to do the right thing so quickly. But the story that the public knows is very different from what actually happened to Jane. She talks about it in-depth for the first time. (25 minutes)Act Two: Jane Doe walks into a public ethics hearing at the Idaho state capitol and navigates the aftermath. (23 minutes)Act Three: Jane Doe sent some questions for us to ask Chanel Miller. For years, Chanel was known as Emily Doe. She wrote a victim impact statement that millions of people read. (A swimmer at Stanford University named Brock Turner sexually assaulted her while she was unconscious.) She talks about how she decided to come out with her real name and who Emily Doe is to her now. (9 minutes)Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org
We answer the following questions about superpowers: Can superheroes be real people? (No.) Can real people become superheroes? (Maybe.) And which is better: flight or invisibility? (Depends who you ask.)
Host Ira Glass talks to comic artist Chris Ware, who thought about superheroes a lot of the time as a kid. He invented his own character and made a superhero costume, which he wore to school under his regular clothes. Everything went fine until he realized he would have to change for gym class. (6 minutes)Act One: John Hodgman conducts an informal survey in which he asks the age-old question: Which is better: The power of flight or the power of invisibility? (14 minutes)Act Two: Kelly McEvers with the story of Zora, a self-made superhero. From the time she was five years old, Zora had recurring dreams in which she was a 6'5" warrior queen, who could fly and shoot lightning from her hands. She made a list, pages and pages long, of all the things she could accomplish to actually become that superhero: martial arts, evasive driving, bomb defusing. By the time she was 30, most of her list had been checked off. She was as close to a superhero as any mortal could hope to come. But her dream had changed. (17 minutes)Act Three: Ira talks with Jonathan Morris, the amazingly funny and charming editor of the website "Gone and Forgotten," an internet archive of failed comic book characters. Jonathan explains what makes a new superhero succeed, and what makes him tank. (9 minutes)Act Four: Of course you can’t be a superhero without a supervillain trying to destroy you. And the most interesting supervillains, of course, are the ones who think that they're the real heroes, not the guys in the capes. Glynn Washington tells the story of Evil D. (9 minutes)Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org
799: The Lives of Others
Looping thoughts about people you barely know, or don't know at all.
Prologue: We get a tip that an entire town is consumed by a huge, elementary-school-style crush on a local veterinarian. Guest host Lilly Sullivan goes to Utah to investigate the mystery of the hot vet. (8 minutes)Act One: We do the thing the people in town would rather die than do – spill the crush to the legendary Dr. Artz himself. Lilly Sullivan reports. (8 minutes)Act Two: Producer Alix Spiegel talks to one of her closest friends, Sarah Blust, about the time Sarah met a stranger who, unbeknownst to her, had already spent years thinking about her. (29 minutes)Act Three: There are certain jobs where thinking about someone else’s life is just built into it. Aviva DeKornfeld has a theory that petsitting is a job like that. She talks to a couple of pet sitters to find out. (14 minutes)Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org
798: Leaving the Fold
A week after Jerry Springer’s death, we go back to a story we first broadcast years ago, about a side of Springer most people don’t know and can’t imagine: his years as an idealistic politician in the mold of Bobby Kennedy. Plus other stories of people who try to leave some moment in their life behind, which can be hard.
Prologue: Ira explains the premise of this week’s show, where most of the stories were first broadcast in 2004. (3 minutes)Act One: Alex Blumberg tells the true story of Jerry Springer's life before he was a talk show host. It's the story of an idealistic and serious Jerry Springer, a progressive politician, and the most popular mayor ever of a certain American city. (31 minutes)Act Two: Ira talks with Shalom Auslander, who was raised as an Orthodox Jew and who made a pivotal break with his faith at a Rangers game. (6 minutes)Act Three: The journalist E. Jean Carroll is in court this week with her rape case against Donald Trump. In 2020 she published a series of stories interviewing women who’ve accused President Trump of sexual assault or harassment. At the time, she felt like these stories had been so widely covered that people had gotten used to them and ignored them. Which seemed sort of incredible to her. Back then she adapted one of the stories for our show and we’re replaying it today, a frank conversation with another one of the president’s accusers, Jessica Leeds, who also testified in Carroll’s case against Trump. (16 minutes)Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org
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.