This American Life

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.

  • 1 hour 4 minutes
    833: Come Retribution

    Donald Trump has talked about taking retribution on his enemies since the early days of his 2024 presidential campaign. After his conviction last week in New York, his talk intensified. We try to understand what his retribution might look like by speaking with people who have the most to lose in a second Trump administration: people who believe Trump will be coming for them.

    • Prologue: Donald Trump has talked about taking revenge on his enemies since the early days of his 2024 presidential campaign. Ira Glass talks to reporter Jonathan Karl about how Trump has placed retribution at the center of his run and what we know about how he’s thinking about it. (16 minutes)
    • Act One: Reporter Alix Spiegel talks to two people with good reason to fear a second Trump administration. Former White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham spent six years with the Trumps but resigned after January 6th and wrote a scathing tell-all book about her experience. Fred Wellman worked for The Lincoln Project - a group of high-profile Republicans who pledged to keep Trump out of office during the 2020 campaign. (22 minutes)
    • Act Two: Alex Vindman became the face of the first Trump impeachment after he reported to his superiors that Trump had asked the President of Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden, the son of his political opponent. At the time, Vindman believed that his Congressional testimony would not jeopardize him; now, he and his wife Rachel are having second thoughts. (14 minutes)
    • Act Three: After hearing from people who dread a possible second Trump term, we hear from those who are excited about it. Reporter Zoe Chace checks into whether his supporters are excited for retribution. (7 minutes)

    Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org

    9 June 2024, 10:00 pm
  • 1 hour 4 minutes
    832: That Other Guy

    People tethered to one particular other person, whether they want to be or not.

    • Prologue: Guest host Emmanuel Dzotsi talks to Leroy Smith about how one high school basketball tryout forever changed Leroy’s relationship to a childhood friend. (7 minutes)
    • Act One: A man finds himself sucked into an intense head-to-head running competition against a perfect rival – all for free burritos from Chipotle. (18 minutes)
    • Act Two: Writer Simon Rich grapples with an A.I. chatbot that threatens to make him obsolete. (21 minutes)
    • Act Three: For writer Marie Phillips, moving in with her partner meant finding herself deeply connected to the woman who came before her. (12 minutes)

    Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org

    2 June 2024, 10:00 pm
  • 1 hour 2 minutes
    831: Lists!!!

    How they organize the chaos of the world, for good and for bad.

    • Prologue: Ira interviews David Wallechinsky, who wrote a wildly popular book in the 1970s called The Book of Lists, full of trivia and research, gathered into lists like "18 Brains" and "What They Weighed." The book sold millions of copies and had four sequels and a brief spin-off TV show. The list books were like the internet, before the internet. (12 minutes)
    • Act One: John Fecile talks to his brother, Pat, about a list their other brother made before he died. They each have different ideas about what the list means and how they feel about it. (14 minutes)
    • Act 2: A brief visit with Bobby, who keeps a list in his phone of all the dogs in his neighborhood and their names to save him from the awkwardness of not knowing the name of someone’s dog – because people get upset if you don’t remember their dog’s name. (3 minutes)
    • Act Two: Reporter Masha Gessen talks to Russians living in America and elsewhere, about lists they’ve been put on by the Russian government in the last few years. Masha is also on one of these lists. Each list has its own complex rules and potential consequences, for the people on the lists and for their family members who live in Russia. (28 minutes)

    Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org

    26 May 2024, 10:00 pm
  • 1 hour 2 minutes
    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 May 2024, 10:00 pm
  • 1 hour 4 minutes
    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 May 2024, 10:00 pm
  • 59 minutes 29 seconds
    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

    7 April 2024, 10:00 pm
  • 1 hour 14 seconds
    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 March 2024, 10:00 pm
  • 1 hour 2 minutes
    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 March 2024, 10:00 pm
  • 1 hour 6 minutes
    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

    3 March 2024, 11:00 pm
  • 58 minutes 52 seconds
    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 February 2024, 11:00 pm
  • 1 hour 4 minutes
    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 March 2015, 12:00 am
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