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.
During the highest turkey consumption period of the year, we bring you a This American Life tradition: stories of turkeys, chickens, geese, ducks, fowl of all kinds—real and imagined—and their mysterious hold over us.
Prologue: Ira Glass talks with Scharlette Holdman, who works with defense teams on high profile death row cases, and who has not talked to a reporter in more than 25 years. Why did she suddenly end the moratorium on press? Because her story is about something important: namely, a beautiful chicken. (2 minutes)Act One: Scharlette Holdman's story continues, in which she and the rest of a legal defense team try to save a man on death row by finding a star witness — a chicken with a specific skill. (10 minutes)Act Two: Yet another testimony to the power chickens have over our hearts and minds. Jack Hitt reports on an opera about Chicken Little. It's performed with dressed-up styrofoam balls, it's sung in Italian and, no kidding, able to make grown men cry. (14 minutes)Act Three: Ira accompanies photographer Tamara Staples as she attempts to photograph chickens in the style of high fashion photography. The chickens are not very cooperative. (15 minutes)Act Four: Kathie Russo's husband was Spalding Gray, who was best known for delivering monologues onstage—like "Monster in a Box," and "Swimming to Cambodia." On January 10, 2004, he went missing. Witnesses said they saw him on the Staten Island Ferry that night. Two months later, his body was pulled out of the East River. Kathie tells the story of the night he disappeared, and about how, in the weeks following, she and each of their three children were visited by a bird, who seemed to be delivering a message to them. (9 minutes)Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org
814: Parents Are People
What happens when you realize the people in charge don’t have the answers.
Prologue: Guest Host Chana Joffe-Walt asks her kids when they first encountered adult fallibility. (8 minutes)Act One: A middle schooler really wants to trust the adults have her best interests in mind. But some of the most powerful people at her school begin to make that very difficult. (27 minutes)Postscript: In Israel and Gaza, children are directly facing the fact that the adults around them cannot protect them. (4 minutes)Act Two: Comedian Gary Gulman on a choice his dad made for him when he was seven years old. (11 minutes)Act Three: There are many kids who do not gradually discover that grown ups don’t have a handle on everything. These kids already know. Miriam Toews’s novel, “Fight Night,” is about a nine-year-old named Swiv who takes care of her grandma and manages her mom’s mental health struggles. Even simple tasks can become complicated, like taking them both on the bus. (7 minutes)Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org
812: The Bear at the End of the Tunnel
People who have a good, long time to think about what they’re doing, look hard at what’s ahead of them, and decide to keep moving forward anyway.
Prologue: Brothers Wes and Jeff spent a winter tagging black bears in Bryce Canyon National Park. One of the bears they needed to tag decided to hibernate at the end of an usually long tunnel. Wes and Jeff try to figure out their next move. (5 minutes)Act One: The story of Wes and Jeff venturing into the bear den continues. (11 minutes)Act 2: Miki Meek reports on the situation for pregnant women in Idaho under the state’s new, post-Roe abortion laws, which are some of the most restrictive in the country. OB-GYNs say the state is in a crisis. Miki also talks to Idaho legislators who voted for the laws, some of whom now think there should be some changes to the laws. (42 minutes)Transcripts are available at thisamericanlife.org