As people, we learn empathy through narratives. It is our gift for storytelling that teaches us how to be humans. With a vibrant history, This American Life has been teaching us about life and how to live it for almost two decades. Each show follows roughly the same format, being made up of several acts. Each act tells its own individual story and they come together to form a larger point. If you are looking for a podcast in which you can get lost, here are Best This American Life Episodes that you should become familiar with.
1. Notes On Camp
The overall story of this episode is that we can have experiences and even though they are really far apart, they can be quite similar. It tells this by recounting how a summer at a camp is like a summer anywhere else. Act one follows a lifelong camper who becomes a camp counselor and struggles with being ‘cool’. In the same episode, the host, Ira Glass investigates different camps and the rituals associated with each.
2. 20 Acts in 60 Minutes
The theme for this episode was inspired by a group who perform 30 plays in 60 minutes, every week. The format is a little different, but it is a supremely ambitious radio show. Ira Glass presides over 20 stories, each of which must be told in less than 60 minutes. These are entertaining clips from shows, but each is able to tell the entirety of its story. These stories run the gamut of coming of age, true love and funny experiences.
3. Fall Guy
we all know the importance of having a ‘fall guy’. Having someone to take the blame when it all goes pear shaped is useful. It is much easier than determining who, specifically, was at fault. This episode analyzes 4 stories about different fall guys. The circumstances may be different in each, but they all take on the same role. From petty office squabbles to outlaw behavior, fall guys can be involved in any industry.
4. How I Read It
The name for this episode refers to a group of people all taking something different away from reading a document. These are stories about information that is not apparent at first glance. From the hidden messages in a fervent letter writing campaign to the importance statistics play on official documents, Ira Glass and company help us look more closely at the world around us.
5. The Seven Things You’re Not Supposed to Talk About
This episode starts with the premise that there are certain topics that are ‘off-limits’ for polite conversation. Ira Glass tries to find stories that deal with them all in an attempt to make us see that there is no such thing as a ‘no-no’. From menstruation to dietary concerns, no topic is too scandalous to be appraised with a judicious eye. Like many of the best This American Life Episodes, this makes you stop and think about the world.