The Best of This American Life – I Have Listened to Them All

You may ask yourself, who in the world has time to listen to all of these podcasts? Well, I do. During my waves of intense artistic production I spend upwards of 16 hours a day in the studio. Much of this work can be tedious and requires a strong amount of focus while creating. Years ago, as a way to help pass the time, I started listening to linear audio in the background such as movies on repeat, tv shows, and podcasts. A little over a year ago, I started going through the This American Life podcast and have finally finished them all. After about 50 or so episodes, I started documenting my favorites so I could remember for future reference. Here is that list:

My top 12:
1 – 513: 129 Cars
2 – 199: House on Loon Lake
3 – 419: Petty Tyrant
4 – 487: Harper High School, Part One
5 – 418: Toxie
6 – 440: Game Changer
7 – 430: Very Tough Love
8 – 479: Little War on the Prairie
9 – 355: The Giant Pool of Money
10 – 534: A Not-So-Simple Majority
11 – 244: MacGyver
12 – 412: Million Dollar Idea

Top 12 Individual Favorite Acts:
1 – 412: Million Dollar Idea – Act Four: Don’t Hate the Player
2 – 244: MacGyver – Act One: Bolt of Lightning, Pro and Con
3 – 306: Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time – Act Three: Bad Morning America
4 – 62: Something for Nothing – Act One: Hands on a Hardbody – pickup truck holding competition
5 – 286: Mind Games – Act Three: Invisible Girl – Super fascinating – about an abducted little girl hiding in plain sight and exploring why no one recognized her.
6 – 163: Can You Fight City Hall.. If You Are City Hall – Act Two: Money Versus Man
7 – 281: My Big Break – Act One: Take My Break Please
8 – 486: Valentine’s Day – Act One: Best Laid Plans
9 – 110: Mapping – Act Two: Hearing
10 – 94: How to – Act Three: How To Increase Your Value As A Person
11 – 88: Act One: Corporate Culture – Couple gathers relationship data for months and put together a relationship report in the form of an annual corporate report.
12 – 54: Sinatra – Act One – The Death of Frank Sinatra – I connected with this one.. I can’t imagine what its like to continue to create knowing I’m past my prime. I hope I don’t have to experience this as it sounds sad.

Over the months of listening to the show, these were the ones I organically favorited immediately after listening:

9: Julia Sweeney 01.10.1996
62: Something for Nothing 05.02.1997
66: Tales from the Net 06.06.1997
70: Other People’s Mail 07.25.1997
88: Numbers 01.02.1998
98: Throwing the First Punch 03.27.1998
111: Adventures in the Simple Life 09.11.1998
143: Sentencing 10.22.1999
162: Moving 06.23.2000
163: Can You Fight City Hall…If You Are City Hall?06.30.2000
168: The Fix Is In 09.15.2000
192: Meet the Pros 08.31.2001
199: House on Loon Lake 11.16.2001
222: Suckers 09.27.2002
244: MacGyver 08.15.2003
281: My Big Break 01.21.2005
307: In the Shadow of the City 02.03.2006
323: The Super 01.05.2007
326: Quiz Show 02.16.2007
329: Nice Work If You Can Get It 04.06.2007
348: Tough Room 02.08.2008
353: The Audacity of Government 03.28.2008
355: The Giant Pool of Money 05.09.2008
371: Scenes From a Mall 12.26.2008
390: Return To The Giant Pool of Money 09.25.2009
412: Million Dollar Idea 07.16.2010

413: Georgia Rambler 07.30.2010
414: Right to Remain Silent 09.10.2010
418: Toxie 11.05.2010
419: Petty Tyrant 11.12.2010
423: The Invention of Money 01.07.2011
430: Very Tough Love 03.25.2011
440: Game Changer 07.08.2011
461: Take the Money and Run for Office 03.30.2012
466: Blackjack 06.08.2012
486: Valentine’s Day 02.08.2013
479: Little War on the Prairie 11.23.2012
487: Harper High School, Part One 02.15.2013
513: 129 Cars 12.13.2013
534: A Not-So-Simple Majority 09.12.2014

My favorites From Top Contributors

ADAM DAVIDSON
190 Act Three: Airel Sharon, Shimon Peres, David Ben Gurion, And Me!
94 Act Three: How to increase your Personal Value – He figures out how much his life is worth.
88 Act Three: When Days are Numbered – His uncles make lists of everything.. super fascinating.
ALEX BLUMBERG
91: Act Two: 33 Million Dollar Box – Millionaire who robbed a bank
329: Act Two: Show Me the Annuity – Lottery Winners – lump sum or yearly?
405: Act One: Eat my Shorts — Hedge Fund Magnetar
ALEX KOTLOWITZ
Harper High School Series
ALIX SPIEGEL
101: Niagra
BEN CALHOUN
414: Act one: The First Rule of the Apple Store: Don’t Talk About the Apple Store
DAN SAVAGE
379: Act Three: Our Man of Perpetual Sorrow: Not very often one brings me to tears, but the moments of Dan’s raw emotion peaking through talking about his mothers death really got me. A great act balancing comedy and sadness.
DAVID RAKOFF
169: Pursuit of Happiness: One Man’s Treasure Is Another Man’s Trash: Elaborate Scavenger Hunting
192: Meet the Pros: Act Three: Martha, My Dear – What if, hobby becomes job, would it be fun?
DAVID SEDARIS
165 American’s in Paris — Prologue — So much great Sedaris, but I think I enjoyed this one the most because it seemed the most revealing into his true personality. His other stuff is generally hilarious but does have this polished scripted feel about it. This was a bit more raw and I enjoyed that.
DAVY ROTHBART
306: Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time – Act Three: Bad Morning America – 136 City Tour on Morning TV shows, this one is short but really hilarious.
184: Neighbors – Act One: Mr. Rothbart’s Neighborhood. Story about hanging out with Mr. Rodgers as a Kid and
ETGAR KERET
468: Swithceroo: Prologue – Cindy Sherman, was it her or was it not?
JACK HITT
110 Act Two – Hearing, Jack Hitt – Mapped Ambient sounds and how those sounds effect ones state of mind.
323 Act One: The Super
JOHN HODGMAN
205: Plan B – Act 1 It’s Another Tequila Sunrise – The Story of Cuervo Man — love this one.
JON RONSON
385: Pro Se: Act 1 Psycho Dabble – Pro Se defendant spent more than a decade trying to defend himself but the more he tried the more crazy they thought he was.
JONATHAN GOLDSTEIN
388: Rest Stop – Act One – Spending a few hours in the rest stop parking lot
JOSH BEARMAN
323: The Super – Act Two – Super Duper. – the 400 lb weightlifting snowman
JULIA SWEENEY
135: Allure of Crime – Act One – Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad – at her job stole 15-20k cash and it made her more religious
JULIE SNYDER
98: Act 4 The Full Time Boxer that is always poor
MIKE BIRBIGLIA
411: First Contact – Act One Error at First Base — Mike is hilarious in this act discussing what it was like to be one of the last one of his friends to ‘make out’ with a girl.
NANCY UPDIKE
86: How to Take Money From Strangers: Act 1- A con man so good he’s thanked.
164 Act Two — Grime Scene. Nancy Updike – guy cleans up crime scenes.
PAUL TOUGH
57: Delivery – Act One – Speed – UPS Driver speeding around recklessly
PLANET MONEY
All of them.
SARAH KOENIG
So many but loved 419 – Petty Tyrant
162: Moving – Act Two – Deal of a Lifetime – Sister buys house from man who stays there until he dies.
440: Game Changer
SARAH VOWELL
107: Trail of Tears
86: Act 2 Map Dealer
58: Small Towns: Act 1 Country Mouse, City Mouse – Talks to mom about sarah losing faith and how it was influenced by a move.
SCOTT CARRIER
286: Mind Games – Act Three – Invisible Girl – Super fascinating – about an abducted little girl hiding in plain side and exploring why no one recognized her.
37: Act 1 “The Test” – quit job, interviewed schizophrenics
SHALOM AUSLANDER
362: Got you Pegged: Act 4 – Paradise Lost – On vacation, the guy next door is an imposter
STARLEE KINE
This one is more IRA & Starlee is not prominent in act but I really enjoy 192: Meet the Pros – Act Two – Know when to Walk Away, Know when to Run – following pro poker players — Phil rock paper scissors Starlee for a drink
277: Apology – Act Three – Two Words You Never Want To Hear From Your Doctor — I’m Sorry – super fascinating

Last but not least here are a few of my favorite Ira moments:

IRA 90: Telephone Prologue, this is the most personal I remember him getting.
His most off the wall quote that had me laughing for minutes: In Episode 85 Ira says: “Laura grabs a hen and waves it at the flaccid cock. The cock does not rise. I can say that on the radio, right?”
Most like me? 58: Small towns at the very end Ira sums it up well.