This American Life

This American Life documents and describes contemporary America, but it is, quite literally, a special kind of radio storytelling. Built around the innovative personal vision of host Ira Glass, the program explores a weekly theme — fiascos, conventions, the job that takes over your life — through a playful mix of radio monologues, mini-documentaries, "found tape," short fiction, and unusual music. Usually the program applies the tools of journalism to everyday life. But sometimes it tackles news stories, leading to some of its most distinctive and acclaimed shows. "This American Life" did an hour documenting life on an aircraft carrier that was flying missions over Afghanistan during the war there. It spent another hour with mercenary soldiers fighting in Iraq. One show followed school reform at a Chicago public school over a decade. Another was about the most successful informant in FBI history, and how he double-crossed his employer, Archer Daniels-Midland, and then the FBI. The stories presented are engaging, intimate, surprising, funny, disturbing, bittersweet. Glass and his staff have an unusual knack for finding writers and performers whose work hasn't been heard on radio, and producing their stories alongside his own disarming commentary in a way that listeners praise as "riveting," "mesmerizing." Breakout stars from the show include David Sedaris and Sarah Vowell.

Saturday 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM on WUSF 89.7

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Ira Glass

Ira Glass started working in public radio in 1978, when he was 19, as an intern at NPR's Washington headquarters. Over the course of the next 17 years, he worked on nearly every NPR news show and did nearly every production job they had: he was a tape-cutter, desk assistant, newscast writer, editor, producer, reporter, and substitute host. He spent a year in a high school for NPR, and a year in an elementary school, filing every week or two for All Things Considered. He moved to Chicago in 1989 and put This American Life on the air in November of 1995.

From This American Life

  • 641: The Walls
    Stories from border walls around the world, where one place ends and another begins. And the strange ecosystems that arise.<img src="" height="1" width="1" alt=""/>
  • 241: 20 Acts in 60 Minutes
    Instead of the usual "each week we choose a theme, and bring you 3 or 4 stories on that theme" business, we throw all that away and bring you 20 stories—yes, 20—in 60 minutes.<img src="" height="1" width="1" alt=""/>
  • 640: Five Women
    A different kind of #MeToo story, about several women who worked for the same man. They tell us not only about their troubling encounters with him, but also about their lives beforehand. Who were they when they entered the workplace, and how did their personal histories shape the way they dealt with his harassment?<img src="" height="1" width="1" alt=""/>
  • 639: In Dog We Trust
    Stories of dogs and cats and other animals that live in our homes. Exactly how much are they caught up in everyday family dynamics? We answer this question and others.<img src="" height="1" width="1" alt=""/>
  • 542: Wait—Do You Have The Map?
    Stories about people feeling lost and trying to figure out how to move ahead: two brothers take a doomed road trip through Mexico and a couple from radically different backgrounds draw up a contract for their unlikely romance.<img src="" height="1" width="1" alt=""/>
  • 638: Rom-Com
    The one thing you know for sure when you're watching a romantic comedy is that it's going to turn out okay in the end. When you're living one? Not so much. This week for Valentine's Day, stories that unfold like rom-coms.<img src="" height="1" width="1" alt=""/>
  • 637: Words You Can't Say
    In this politically charged climate, it feels like you have to be super careful with your language, no matter who you are or what side you're on. Stories about people who say the “wrong” thing and suffer the consequences, including a very conservative Republican from Louisiana who's lambasted for being too liberal.<img src="" height="1" width="1" alt=""/>
  • 352: The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar
    In 1912 a four-year-old boy named Bobby Dunbar went missing in a swamp in Louisiana. Eight months later, he was found in the hands of a wandering handyman in Mississippi. In 2004, Bobby Dunbar's granddaughter discovered a secret beneath the legend of her grandfather's kidnapping, a secret whose revelation would divide her own family, bring redemption to another, and become the answer to a third family's century-old prayer. <img src="" height="1" width="1" alt=""/>
  • 636: I Thought It Would Be Easier
    A year into Trump’s presidency, stories chronicling the sometimes hard, often bad, decisions politicians from both parties are making.<img src="" height="1" width="1" alt=""/>
  • 635: Chip in My Brain
    A boy who can’t dribble gets a coach, a new best friend, and something to believe in.<img src="" height="1" width="1" alt=""/>


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