Describing “This American Life” always sounds lame. “Oh, well, it’s like, a weekly talk show. They choose a subject every week and then tell stories about it, or report on it. And it’s on NPR.” Chances are if people like NPR, they’re already aware of the show; and if they don’t like NPR, a talk show on the station is unlikely to excite them. If you’re in the camp that doesn’t know what it is, let me challenge you not to fall into that second category just yet—or at least humor me for the duration of this blog.
The This American Life app is one of my most-used apps. For a one-time cost of $2.99, you can have the whole world of This American Life at your fingertips. Easily stream any episode from the show’s entire history, dating back to 1995, with ease. (It even incorporates the free weekly podcast right into it!) Sure, you can technically do that from their website, but I know that listening to something on my phone is a lot easier than streaming from a website on my computer.
I find myself listening to the program a lot more consistently with the app because, unlike the podcast, the app provides you with info about the episode—a summary of it and the option to view all the different acts as well as noted contributors. You can also skip to a certain act if you want. There’s even an option to favorite any episode and view all your favorites in a list.
Maybe you’d only like to hear episodes that include certain contributors. Expert analyst John Hodgman? Master of snark David Sedaris? Maybe you’ve been waiting for the moment for all your life to hear an episode featuring Phil Collins? This app has it covered. Search by contributor—so simple!
If you care to share a certain episode with friends, fret not. As with many apps, this includes options to email an episode, post an episode to Facebook, or tweet an episode. Social media, am I right?
A fun little bonus that I’ve also enjoyed about the app is the “Extras” menu. These include some very early, pre-TAL sound bytes: early Ira Glass stories, Ira interviewing Terry Gross and vice versa, and my favorite, early stories from David Sedaris (the Santaland story, which was broadcast when David was so unknown that his last name was mispronounced, is particularly hilarious).
For those who are curious or on the fence about this subject, let me recommend the first episode I heard of the program, via Dr. Gregory A. Thornbury, which is also a great introduction to the program: Music Lessons. Get cultured, y’all.
Here are some more screenshots I made for you!