#529 : June 27, 2014

Human Spectacle

Gladiators in the Colosseum. Sideshow performers. Reality television. We've always loved to gawk at the misery or majesty of others. But this week, we ask the question: What's it like when the tables are turned and all eyes are on you?

#528 : June 20, 2014

The Radio Drama Episode

Our most ambitious live show ever! (get the video!) We pulled together a massive team of theater pros at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Opera House – nearly 50 singers, actors, dancers and musicians. The result? Journalism turned into a Broadway musical (the cast album is here), into opera. Mike Birbiglia, Sasheer Zamata, Stephin Merritt, Josh Hamilton, Lindsay Mendez, Lin-Manuel Miranda and others.

#527 : June 13, 2014

180 Degrees

Flipflops, u-turns, changes of heart, about faces. Completely changing our position — sometimes it can be our best move, sometimes it can be our worst. Either way, it's usually complicated. This week we bring you stories of people who go one way, and then, for what ever reason, turn around and go the exact opposite direction.

#526 : May 23, 2014

Is That What I Look Like?

You've been seeing yourself, getting to know what you look like, your whole life. So why is does it often take an outsider to see things about you that are obvious, and set you straight?

#525 : May 9, 2014

Call For Help

Stories of people coming to terms with being in serious trouble. They need help. Figuring out how to get it, that's another problem.

#524 : May 2, 2014

I Was So High

Your waitress. Your colleagues at work. Your doctor. Maybe even your parents. They’re all high. All the time. That’s what it feels like anyway. This week, stories in which drug use and daily life intersect – and in which people get high in secret and then do their best to function in the non-high world. Also, we hear some “I Was So High” stories from our very own listeners.

#523 : April 25, 2014

Death and Taxes

It is a peculiar feeling to know with certainty that something big is about to happen to you. This week we watch people go right up to the edge of inevitable change. We hear from preteens about the terrifying knowledge that puberty is about to happen...any minute now. And true to the death and taxes saying, we found it unavoidable to include a story about each one of those things.

#522 : April 11, 2014

Tarred and Feathered

This week, stories of people being threatened and punished with public shame. Including the story of someone who was literally tarred and feathered. It happened a lot more recently than you'd guess.

#521 : March 28, 2014

Bad Baby

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

No Place Like Home

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

Dead Men Tell No Tales

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

Except For That One Thing

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

Day At The Beach

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

Stuck In The Middle

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

Good Guys

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

Thought That Counts

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

129 Cars

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

House Rules

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

The Seven Things You're Not Supposed to Talk About

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

Fiasco!

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

It Says So Right Here

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

Superpowers 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

Confessions

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

Secret Identity

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

Use Only as Directed

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

How I Got Into College

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

I Was Just Trying To Help

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

This Call May Be Recorded... To Save Your Life

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

The View From In Here

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

500!

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.

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