This American Life is hosted by Ira Glass, who was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1959, and got into radio, he says, “totally by accident.”

He had just finished his freshman year of college, was looking for a summer job with an ad agency or a TV station. and managed to talk his way into an internship with NPR – despite the fact he’d never listened to public radio. He graduated from Brown University, and continued working for public radio as newscast writer, editor, producer of All Things Considered, reporter, and substitute host.

He launched This American Life which features several “acts” in playing out an in-depth play that looks at the lives of ordinary people that are sometimes sad, sometimes ironic, sometimes funny. Though I have a big backlog of episodes to still listen to, I try to listen to a show each week.

From the show’s website

This American Life is a weekly public radio show broadcast on more than 500 stations to about 1.8 million listeners. It is produced by Chicago Public Media, distributed by Public Radio International, and has won all of the major broadcasting awards. It is also often the most popular podcast in the country, with around 700,000 people downloading each week.

From 2006-2008, we produced a television version of This American Life on the Showtime network, which won three Emmys. We’re also the co-producers, with NPR News, of the economics podcast and blog Planet Money. And a half dozen stories from the radio show are being developed into films.

The radio show and TV show follow the same format. There’s a theme to each episode, and a variety of stories on that theme. It’s mostly true stories of everyday people, though not always. There’s lots more to the show, but it’s sort of hard to describe. Probably the best way to understand the show is to start at our favorites page, though we do have longer guides to our radio show and our TV show. If you want to dive into the hundreds of episodes we’ve done over the years, there’s an archive of all our old radio shows and listings for all our TV episodes, too.

A few sample episodes:

Held Hostage A kidnapping victim in Colombia spends his nights listening to a radio station that plays messages from the families of the kidnapped. That and other stories of people held captive—by criminals, by paperwork…

Play the Part  Stories of people who decide to flip their personalities and do the exact opposite of what they normally do.

What I Did For Love Love makes us do crazy things. But not this crazy. Stories of people going to extremes as they fall in love, chase love down, and try to make sense of it—including a teenager who falls for…

Ira Glass is also the editor of an anthology called The New Kings of Nonfiction.