Described on its website as “a documentary show for people who normally hate documentaries,” This American Life is devoted to providing what The Wall Street Journal has called “a forum for highly personal yet idiosyncratic stories” that range from the humorous to the heartbreaking.
Host and executive producer Ira Glass launched the program in 1995 on WBEZ/Chicago as Your Radio Playhouse. By the following year, under its current name, it was in syndication via Public Radio International, and in 2006 Glass moved the show to New York City, where a televised version of This American Life was produced concurrently for Showtime for two seasons.
From the beginning, each installment of This American Life has explored a different theme (the very first was “New Beginnings”). Originally intended as a mixture of journalism and art, in recent years the program has focused more on reporting stories that are “funny and sad,” according to its website, while also “personal and sort of epic at the same time.” In the process This American Life has won five George Foster Peabody Awards and givenimportant exposure to a vast array of writers and humorists, including David Sedaris, Sarah Vowell, Russell Banks, Dave Eggers, Anne Lamott, Nick Hornby, Dan Savage, and Mike Birbiglia.
Ira Glass was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2014.