#521 : March 28, 2014
They're small. And they're cuddly. But sometimes it feels as though our babies were replaced with demon replicas — controlling, demanding, or just downright awful. This week, stories of infants and children who dominate the adults around them with their baditude, or whom adults have painted with the "bad" brush from early on. We also ask the question: at what age does badness begin?
#520 : March 14, 2014
There's lots of ways we define where we're from. And whether we're proud of it, or ashamed of it, love it, hate it, miss it or are trying desperately to get back to it — where we're from is always a big part of who we are. This week, stories of people who are, in good ways and bad ways, coming to terms with the places they call home.
#519 : March 7, 2014
Last May, a weird story made the news: the FBI killed a guy in Florida who was loosely linked to the Boston Marathon bombings. He was shot seven times in his living room by a federal agent. What really happened? Why was the FBI even in that room with him? A reporter spent six months looking into it, and she found that the FBI was doing a bunch of things that never made the news. Her Boston Magazine story.
#518 : February 14, 2014
Mike Anderson was 36 years old, married, a suburban father of four. He owned a contracting business and built his family’s modest, three-bedroom house in St. Louis from the ground up. He volunteered at church on the weekends and coaches his son’s football team. All pretty normal, right? Except for one thing … which surfaced one day last summer.
#517 : January 31, 2014
It's January, and freezing outside. This week 5 stories from the sunny beach! Including David Sedaris telling us how losing a sister in 2013 prompted a family reunion, and an impulse buy of a lifetime — an oceanfront cottage big enough for all of them.
#516 : January 17, 2014
Jan Brady is not the only one who hated being in the middle. This week we have stories about how it sucks to be in limbo or be the mediator, but we also hear from a man who absolutely loves being in that uncertain and boring middle most of us dread — on hold, listening to hold music.
#515 : January 10, 2014
Lots of men think of themselves as "good guys." But what does it actually take to be one? To be a truly good guy. Stories of valiant men attempting to do good in challenging circumstances: in war zones, department stores, public buses, and at the bottom of a cave 900 feet underground.
#514 : December 20, 2013
It's the thought that counts. So true. Unfortunately, sometimes it's not always so clear what that thought was. And sometimes, when it is clear, we wish it wasn't. This week, during this, the season of giving, we turn our spotlight on the givers and exactly whatever it was they could've possibly been thinking.
#513 : December 13, 2013
We spend a month at a Jeep dealership on Long Island as they try to make their monthly sales goal: 129 cars. If they make it, they'll get a huge bonus from the manufacturer, possibly as high as $85,000 — enough to put them in the black for the month. If they don't make it, it'll be the second month in a row. So they pull out all the stops. Photo gallery here. NOTE: the Internet version of this episode includes un-bleeped curse words. Bleeped version here.
#512 : November 22, 2013
Where you live is important. It can dictate quality of schools and hospitals, as well as things like cancer rates, unemployment, or whether the city repairs roads in your neighborhood. On this week's show, stories about destiny by address. Much of this story is told to Nancy Updike by ProPublica reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones, whose series on the Fair Housing laws — with more stories, research and interviews — is here.
#511 : November 8, 2013
Producer Sarah Koenig's mother lives by a set of rules about conversation. She has an actual list of off-limits topics, including how you slept, your period, your health, your diet and more. You don't talk about these things, she says, because nobody cares. This week we try to find stories on these exact topics that will prove her wrong.
#510 : November 1, 2013
Stories of when things go wrong. Really wrong. When you leave the normal realm of human error, fumble, mishap, and mistake and enter the territory of really huge breakdowns. Fiascos. Things go so awry that normal social order collapses. An updated version of a classic episode, now including one of the most popular stories we've ever aired... about a police officer and a squirrel.
#509 : October 25, 2013
Everyone knows you can't always believe what you read, but sometimes even official documents aren't a path to the truth. This week we have stories of people whose lives are altered when seemingly boring documents like birth certificates and petitions are used against them. And a family wrestles with a medical record that has a very clear, but complicated diagnosis.
#508 : October 18, 2013
This is an updated version of a classic episode, featuring a new story from Snap Judgment. 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.) Chris ware's comic mentioned in the episode is here.
#507 : October 11, 2013
Two crime scenes, two murders. One crime is solved, the other case went cold. Both raise the question: What should a person suspected of murder say?
#506 : October 4, 2013
A bank robber on an undercover mission. A teenage girl with the powers of a tiger. A vigilante seeking vengeance in Ciudad Juarez. All have secret identities. But not all of them chose those identities for themselves. WEB EXTRA: A drawing by Alice Leora Briggs accompanies the text of "Diana, Hunter of Bus Drivers."
#505 : September 20, 2013
One of the country's most popular over-the-counter painkillers — acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol — also kills the most people, according to data from the federal government. Over 150 Americans die each year on average after accidentally taking too much. And it requires a lot less to endanger you than you may know. We reported this alongside ProPublica. Their stories here and here.
#504 : September 6, 2013
Students all over are starting college this month, and some of them still have a nagging question: what, exactly, got me in? An admissions officer tells us the most wrongheaded things applicants try. And Michael Lewis has the incredible story of how a stolen library book got one man — Emir Kamenica — into his dream school. (Photo: Emir as a Harvard undergrad. Credit Terri Wang.)
#503 : August 16, 2013
Stories of people doing the noble thing and stepping up to help, only to find out that others think what they're doing isn't helping at all. Planet Money looks at a charity that's decided to just give people money, and a sheriff in California devises a plan to let farmers grow weed — as long as they register with him.
#502 : August 9, 2013
A journalist named Meron Estefanos gets a disturbing tip. She's given a phone number that supposedly belongs to a group of refugees being held hostage in the Sinai desert. She dials the number, and soon dozens of strangers are begging her to rescue them. How can she ignore them?
#501 : July 26, 2013
It's so easy to lose perspective (or worry you've lost perspective) when you're deep inside some situation. For instance, an American woman who suddenly trades her life for one in a place most people might think twice about: Juarez, Mexico.
#500 : July 12, 2013
To celebrate our 500th episode, Ira asked the producers of This American Life to talk about their very favorite moments on the show. Some chose stories that've been more or less forgotten for years; others chose just one line of script, or a segment that secretly made them cry. So for our 500th, we bring you the best of This American Life — the way we've been hearing it, behind the scenes, all these years.
#499 : June 28, 2013
The truly incredible story of a guy named Kirk Johnson who started a list of hundreds of Iraqis who needed to get out of their country. They were getting death threats, and he was their only hope. Only 26 and living in his aunt's basement, he had no idea what to do. How Kirk kind of succeeded spectacularly and failed spectacularly at the same time. INTERACTIVE: "Emails From a Dead Man"
#498 : June 21, 2013
This week, stories about people who know something's a bad idea, but convince themselves to do that thing anyway. Including the story of a bunch of illegal immigrants who turn themselves in to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, hoping to be sent into detention.
#497 : June 14, 2013
This week we return to one of our favorite themes: This Week! All of the stories in the show are things that have taken place in the last seven days. We've got our own take on the big, national stories of the week but we also turn a searchlight across America and find the smaller, more personal and more spectacular stories that most of us never hear.
#496 : May 31, 2013
Two years ago, we did a program about a mysterious business in Texas that threatens companies with lawsuits for violating its patents. But the world of patent lawsuits is so secretive, there were basic questions we could not answer. Now we can. And we get a glimpse why people say our patent system may be discouraging, not encouraging, innovation.
#495 : May 17, 2013
After years of being stuck, the national conversation on climate change finally started to shift — just a little — last year, the hottest year on record in the U.S., with Hurricane Sandy flooding the New York subway, drought devastating Midwest farms, and California and Colorado on fire. Lots of people were wondering if global warming had finally arrived, here at home. This week, stories about this new reality.
#494 : May 3, 2013
It's spring, so we're opening windows and going places. This week we have stories of people who, for reasons that they can't always explain, feel compelled to get out and go somewhere. Including the story of one man who decides to take a trip from Philadelphia to San Francisco — by foot.
#493 : April 19, 2013
This week, Israeli soldiers take snapshots of Palestinian boys, one house at a time, in the middle of the night. This and other stories where getting the picture gives you the upper hand.
#492 : April 12, 2013
Dr. Benjamin Gilmer (left) gets a job at a rural clinic. He finds out he’s replaced someone — also named Dr. Gilmer (picture) — who went to prison after killing his own father. But the more Benjamin’s patients talk about the other Dr. Gilmer, the more confused he becomes. Everyone loved the old Dr. Gilmer. So Benjamin starts digging around, trying to understand how a good man can seemingly turn bad.